A new report published by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, reveals the extraordinary social and economic impact volunteers make on communities. From charities supported through the grantmaker in the past three years, almost two million volunteers have contributed an astonishing £4 billion to the UK’s economy.
The report, named Power in Purpose, reveals that the National Lottery Community Fund has awarded 4,200 grants to support volunteering in the past five years, amounting to almost £700 million in National Lottery, government and third-party funding.
1,500 of these grants, totalling £124 million, supported the volunteering response to COVID-19. This provided charities and community groups with vital volunteers to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic and gave individuals the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experiences, improving their employment prospects.
The number of volunteering grants The National Lottery Community Fund awarded between 2013 and 2019 increased by almost two thirds (64%), supporting more and more organisations to provide training, cover volunteer expenses and remove barriers, creating a better volunteering experience accessible for all. 94% of its grant holders involved volunteers in delivering their projects last year, highlighting their impact on communities and in the voluntary and community sector.
Volunteering has huge benefits, from improving people’s confidence and self-esteem to building their resilience and raising aspirations. It can also provide people with a sense of purpose and new friendships, reducing isolation and loneliness.
Jane, aged 44, from Sheffield, is just one of almost 20,000 volunteers who have given 630,000 hours of their time to help reduce loneliness amongst people aged over 50 through the seven-year (2015 – 2022), £87 million Ageing Better programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund.
Last year, Jane began volunteering as a telephone befriender with Age Better in Sheffield and South Yorkshire Housing Association. Jane was matched with Betty, aged 91, and they spoke every day, sharing their experiences of living alone during tough times in lockdown.
Jane (pictured) said: “Considering Betty and I are generations apart, we’ve got the commonality of isolation. So just being able to talk to someone for half an hour every day is beneficial. We talk a lot about her garden, her family and a little bit about the past, and we talk about what we’ve both done with our days – both of us often say ‘nothing!’, so we have a bit of a laugh about that.
“By giving your time to other people, it does have a positive effect on your own mental health. People often say that doing service benefits both parties. Being able to do things for other people gives you a sense of purpose – otherwise, you’d just be sat at home dwelling on stuff. So when you can do something for other people, it does help.”
Volunteering is for people of all ages. Through the #iwill Fund, a joint £50 million investment with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, over half a million young people have taken part in social action and volunteering in their communities across England.
Phoebe, a 20-year-old student at the University of Leeds, is one of these inspiring young people who has stepped up to volunteer. Thanks to the Pears Foundation and the #iwill Fund, Phoebe has supported the Voluntary Services team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust since February 2020, helping to grow youth volunteering opportunities across health and care services in England, Scotland and Wales.
Phoebe (pictured) said: “Supporting the Voluntary Services team has shown me I have a big passion for supporting the NHS and inspired me to potentially pursue a career within the NHS or health sector in the future. It’s also given me a sense of fulfilment and purpose, which has been great over the last year with the pandemic. I love seeing the difference my support has made to the wider community and the fact that I can use my own skills developed through my degree to do this.”
Spirit of 2012, a ten-year charitable trust, is another initiative creating a lasting legacy through volunteering. Set up in 2013, thanks to £47 million of National Lottery funding, it organises sports, arts and cultural events across the UK, building on enthusiasm for big occasions, like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to improve how people feel about themselves and their communities. By mobilising 44,000 volunteers, it has given 2.8 million people an opportunity to participate in 124 community projects, reaching an incredible 5.3 million people across the UK through events and celebrations.
Faiza Khan MBE, Director of Engagement and Insight at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of the voluntary and community sector. Without their dedication, knowledge and skills, much of the vital work by charities and community groups would not be possible. We’re incredibly proud to see the amazing impact money raised by National Lottery players is making to volunteering across the UK, supporting communities to prosper and thrive and build back stronger as we recover from the pandemic.”
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players, who raise £36 million**** each week for good causes throughout the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players last year, it awarded over half a billion pounds (£588.2 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK.
To find out more, visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.