What is it about?

Although it is well established that the voluntary sector is composed of both formal and informal volunteering, public policy has until now largely focused upon nurturing formal volunteering. Developing the voluntary sector and cultivating voluntary groups are generally viewed as synonymous. Recently, however, four separate national surveys by the U.K. government have all shown that cultivating participation in voluntary groups privileges a culture of volunteering characteristic of affluent populations and that less affluent populations possess a different culture of voluntary action oriented more to informal volunteering

Featured Image

Why is it important?

The 2000 General Household Survey, for example, clearly shows that, although affluent populations participate in more formal and informal volunteering than lessaffluent populations, it is the proportion involved in formal volunteering that differs by the widest margin when comparing the least and most deprived areas. More than twice the proportion of the total population engaged in voluntary groups during the past 3 years in the most affluent compared with the most deprived areas (29 percent compared with less than 14 percent). Engagement in informal volunteering, meanwhile, differs by a smaller amount. In the most affluent areas, 78 percent engaged in informal volunteering during the past six months compared with 65 percent in the most deprived areas.


An emphasis upon fostering groups thus cultivates a vehicle in which only a small proportion of the population of deprived neighborhoods engage and a participatory culture relatively unfamiliar to the vast majority of those living in such areas. At the same time, it ignores bolstering the type of engagement in which two-thirds (65 percent) of people in deprived areas are already involved, namely one-to-one aid.

Professor Colin C Williams
University of Sheffield

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Informal volunteering: Some lessons from the United Kingdom, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, January 2004, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/pam.20030.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page