Laughing volunteers touch elbows, they are working on an outdoor project together

The experience of ‘global majority’ volunteers

Published : 12/01/24 | Categories: Volunteering |

Recent research by National Council for Voluntary Organisations highlights the motivations and barriers to volunteering for minority ethnic groups across Great Britain.

A recent survey by National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) looked at ‘global majority’ volunteers. The term global majority was used to describe people of all ethnicities except British white and other white minority groups, on the basis that this describes 80% of our global population.

The term reflects a great variety of background, culture and circumstance and this needs to be taken into consideration when examining the findings of the study.


The survey found that satisfaction with their volunteering experience is high amongst global majority volunteers (86%) although not as high as for volunteers overall (92%). Global majority volunteers are more likely to feel excluded and less likely to continue volunteering, compared to volunteers overall.

Age and disability also impact on satisfaction, with younger people and those with disabilities likely to rate lower satisfaction. Other factors such as social and economic deprivations and access to opportunities for volunteering also affect the way in which global majority populations engage with volunteering.

But it is the experience of volunteering which has the most impact, including the culture of an organisation and the support, welcome and recognition given to volunteers.


Following the original Time Well Spent survey carried out by NCVO in 2019, a further survey was conducted in 2023, including a boost sample to explore the experience of global majority volunteers in more depth. This research focussed on formal volunteering – that is, volunteering through groups, clubs and organisations. NCVO also carried out a rapid evidence review and workshops with those with lived experience and expertise.


Compared to the overall volunteer population, global majority volunteers were younger, more likely to be in employment and to have children, to live in an urban area and to have a religious faith.

Global majority volunteers are more than twice as likely to volunteer for a religious cause (21% compared to 10%). Career motivation was also higher (14% compared to 9%), but helping other people was the strongest motivation.

All volunteers highly rated having an organisational culture of trust and respect, but concerns around ‘not fitting in’, feeling excluded or that unreasonable expectations are placed upon them, are all higher amongst global majority volunteers. Tension and conflicts between people in the organisation are cited more often (43% global volunteers, compared to 32% of volunteers overall).

But the appetite for volunteering continues despite the drawbacks and people from the global majority population are more interested in volunteering than the overall population.


In order to improve experience and further attract global majority volunteers we need to be able to address the common barriers and meet expectations.

Organisational culture has already been referred to. Building up a culture of trust and belonging and embedding EDI (Equality Diversity and Inclusion) practice within the organisation are particularly important to global majority volunteers.

We must also consider the impact of intersectionality, that is the combined effect of multiple factors of advantage or disadvantage, such as age, class, gender and ability, on specific population groups.

Global majority volunteers have higher expectations around the speed and ease of onboarding. Keeping recruitment as straightforward and speedy as possible will help. So too will developing opportunities for flexible and one-off involvement.


Motivations need to be taken seriously, which means listening to volunteers from the outset, taking feedback (both informally as well as through more formal means such as surveys) and working together to address issues and co-create developments.

Offering volunteer expenses is a way of recognising volunteers’ worth. It is important for an inclusive culture, since having to ask for expenses when they are needed can be awkward and indeed a barrier to involvement.

We need to build diversity leadership in management and trustee roles. This will affect organisational policy and culture, offer diverse role models and attract a diversity of volunteers.

We also need to focus on building cultures of trust, respect and belonging, to ensure that global majority volunteers have the best experience.


Read the full report: Time Well Spent 2023: Volunteering among the global majority.

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