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Post-lockdown volunteering

Conversations with managers in the UK heritage sector indicated that they found it harder to involve volunteers in the work since 2021. The project will survey people who haven’t returned to volunteering to understand their choices and motivations.

Project Background

Informal conversations with volunteer managers in the heritage sector in the UK indicated that they have been finding it harder to involve volunteers in the work of their organisation since lockdown was eased in 2021, with many volunteers not returning to volunteering after the pandemic. It is not clear why people have chosen not to return.

Trends from the Community Life survey of adults in England indicate that the number of people regularly involved in formal volunteering (in any sector) has been declining steadily between 2013 and 2023. There was an understandable drop in this type of volunteering during the pandemic (and a spike in the number of people volunteering as individuals) but there has been no bounce-back afterwards. Comparable data from the United States indicates similar trends in cultural organisations whilst data from The Netherlands (covering all volunteer-involving sectors) indicates a moderate resurgence post-lockdown. Overall, the data suggests that this is not just a problem for volunteer-involving organisations in the UK.

The best available data about volunteer motivations comes from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) whose post-lockdown survey of volunteer motivations suggests that volunteer motivations have not significantly changed since before the pandemic. There are some changes – volunteers may be more concerned about practical issues and may increasingly want flexibility in how they volunteer – but these do not sufficiently explain the difficulties being expressed by some volunteer managers.

Project Methods

The Post-lockdown Volunteering Project will survey people in the UK who have not returned to volunteering with a heritage organisation since lockdown was eased. In order to recruit participants, the project team are inviting volunteer managers at heritage sites across the UK to collaborate in the project by identifying people who have not returned to volunteering with their organisation and inviting them to complete the survey.


We can speculate about why people haven’t returned to volunteering but the best way to find out is to ask them.  The results from the survey will be shared with heritage volunteer managers. As Matt Hick, Chair of HVG noted, “This study will help us gain this understanding so that we can develop approaches to volunteer engagement that are more suited to the times we are living in and the people we want to engage in volunteering.”

PI: Dr Bruce Davenport (PI) - Schools of Arts and Cultures (

Duration: Autumn 2023 – Spring 2024

Partnership: Heritage Volunteering Group