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Income Generation News
Jane Arnott
Published 16 September 2011

Should a charity employ staff or use volunteers to deliver its work? This month,

in partnership with Charities Aid Foundation’s Charity Trends, CharityInsight looks at employee and volunteering numbers.

The biggest employers in the sector provide health, social care and education services and international development. These causes are at the top of the chart because they provide labour-intensive services. However, a number of them are not well known household names.

By contrast, among those organisations with the most volunteers there are noticeably fewer providing health and social care as this type of work needs trained, specialist staff whose time can be guaranteed. It is easier for environmental and conservation charities to utilise volunteers on a fixed-term or ad hoc basis.

Huge differences in scale are also revealed: there are 16 times more volunteers than employees, showing the importance of people who give their time.

Charity Index

The largest charity in terms of volunteer numbers is BTCV, which has more volunteer supporters than the next four charities on the list have combined. Setting aside BTCV and CSV, whose aim is to encourage volunteering, there is strong support for environmental, conservation and wildlife charities.

Young at heart
Youth charities such as the Scout Association and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award are also prominent. UK Giving, the study into giving habits that we produce every year with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, shows that children and young people are consistently one of the top two favourite causes.

During this recession the number of volunteers has increased, with many charities taking on people recently unemployed or graduated.

For some this is a route to permanent work, or even a chance to change career paths; for others it is a way to keep busy in between jobs. Charities that depend heavily on volunteers will need to plan and work out how different economic scenarios are likely to affect their voluntary support base.

A double-dip recession could bring even more, and many are likely to be skilled; during a recovery some of those valuable workers will return to paid employment. However, budget cuts will affect charities' ability to take on unpaid workers, especially where funding for training, equipment and support is required.

Jane Arnott, senior advisory manager, CAF

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Income Generation News

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