Policy, campaigns & research, Armed Forces charities research

#CharityFact 2: Armed forces charities are run and supported by volunteers

The second in our new weekly instalment of evidence on the armed forces charity sector, this week’s #CharityFact focuses on volunteers.

There are many myths and misconceptions about charities. Unfortunately, armed forces charities are no exception. At the Directory of Social Change (DSC), we believe you need two things to combat this: you need to know the facts and you need the evidence to back them up.

That’s why we’re bringing together the facts in short, weekly instalments. These facts are based on our new research, funded by Forces in Mind Trust.

In this second instalment, we take a look at #CharityFact number two: Armed forces charities are run and supported by volunteers.

Who are the volunteers in armed forces charities?

Volunteers give up their time to help armed forces charities provide crucial support to their beneficiaries. And they take on a variety of roles in the sector.

To take two contrasting examples from our recent case studies, roles range from volunteer case-workers who help charities deliver financial support, to volunteers who support drama workshops to support armed forces families with their mental health.

Every armed forces charity is also run by trustees – who are, in fact, almost all volunteers. They are are responsible for carrying out several legal duties. These duties include managing their charity’s resources responsibly, complying with the law, and making sure their charity carries out its purposes for the public benefit.

How many volunteers support armed forces charities?

Around 7,000 trustees and 107,000 volunteers support armed forces charities.

Looking back at last week’s charity fact, volunteers vastly outnumber paid employees. For every employee in the sector overall, there are more than 10 volunteers.

Using the interactive chart below, you can break down the 107,000 volunteers in different ways.

Among the different ‘charity types’, welfare charities have more volunteers than every other charity type put together. These charities provide relief in need through services or grants across many areas such as housing, health care and employment.

By clicking on ‘Service affiliation’, you’ll see that Tri-Service charities – which are affiliated with the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy – have the most volunteers, at 82,000.

Breaking the total down by clicking on ‘charity size’, shows that super major charities (they have more than £100 million income per year) have 55,000 volunteers.

But these super major charities are not followed by large or medium charities. In fact, small charities – which are towards the other end of the income spectrum (they have between £10,000 and £100,000 income per year) – have the second-most number of volunteers, at 21,000.

Are volunteers really free?

So, the evidence shows that there are around 114,000 volunteers and trustees giving up their time for free. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, or of Basingstoke in Hampshire.

But it’s imporatant to remember that volunteers aren’t an economically free resource. Among other things, it costs money to recruit and train volunteers and manage the important activities they do.

This means that, for many charities, having volunteers is actually not a cost they can afford.

Find out more

Don’t forget to download the full report for free. You can also share our accessible infographic with those in need of the facts!

Read the sequel to this article: #CharityFact 3: Armed forces charities hold some cash to protect against loss of income.