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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Charities face staff and volunteer crisis 

A third of organisations reported this as one of their top challenges.  

Third Sector organisations in Scotland are increasingly facing shortages of staff and volunteers, a new report has warned.

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker has found that issues relating to staffing and volunteers are one of the top challenges for a third of voluntary sector organisations.  

Data from the tracker observes the emergence of the sector from the Covid-19 pandemic through 2021, followed by the development of the cost-of-living crisis and associated organisational concerns during 2022 and 2023.  

In August 2021, 35% of organisations reported a significant concern about staff and volunteer numbers. Just two years on, that figure has now risen to 65%, with only finances currently proving a bigger challenge for the sector.  

While staff and volunteer support remain a growing concern, third sector groups report an ongoing increase in demand for their core services and activities over the six waves of the tracker. In Wave 1 (Aug 2021), 56% of organisations reported an increased demand, rising to 63% by Wave 6 (Apr 2023). 

These factors, on top of growing financial pressures due to the rising costs crisis and public sector funding cuts, are leading to a perfect storm for charities and voluntary groups, with strain put on already stretched teams.  

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “The Scottish voluntary sector is a significant employer, providing jobs for 5% of the Scottish workforce.  At a time where many organisations are facing recruitment challenges, the funding environment means that many voluntary organisations are struggling to keep pace with salary increases needed to attract and retain staff. 

“Existing staff and volunteers have been working flat out since Covid, helping organisations and communities to weather the cost-of-living crisis.  We can no longer afford to rely on their goodwill to go the extra mile.  The invaluable services and supports provided by Scotland’s voluntary sector need sustainable investment to ensure their survival.” 

Volunteer Scotland are also concerned by the staff and volunteer crisis facing the sector, highlighted by the Third Sector Tracker. The recent release of the 2022 Scottish Household survey results reinforces the volunteer crisis, with formal volunteer participation rates falling by 4 percentage points since 2019 to 22% - this equates to less than one million Scottish adults volunteering.  

In light of the current crisis, the actions that can be undertaken by volunteer involving organisations include ensuring that volunteer expense policies are clear and considering how roles can be made more flexible to fit with the decreased time volunteers have available.  

Alan Stevenson, CEO of Volunteer Scotland said: “The many impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on volunteering has meant that we can no longer take for granted the contribution of our volunteers. While recruitment and retention issues are being felt more acutely by some, the first step for all must be the focus on good volunteering practice, appropriately supported.” 

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker is a growing research community made up of representatives from third sector organisations based across the whole of Scotland, who are willing to share their experiences, views and concerns as the sector faces both new and ongoing challenges. 

The Tracker is run by an independent research company called DJS Research on behalf of SCVO, the Scottish Government, the William Grant Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund. 

Those involved in the running of a third sector organisation operating in Scotland are invited to represent their organisation as a member of the Scottish Third Sector Tracker. 


Notes for editors:  

An Executive Summary of the Scottish Third Sector Tracker’s First Phase of research can be found here: 

The Tracker is entering its second phase. As a direct result of its first phase, which ran from summer 2021 to spring 2023, SCVO was able to make informed decisions on its influencing and media work, and the Scottish Government gained invaluable insight which shaped internal decision-making and prioritisation.  

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national membership organisation for the voluntary sector. Our mission is to champion the role of voluntary organisations in building a flourishing society and support them to do work that has a positive impact. 

Volunteer Scotland is the national centre for volunteering. We exist to help others make a difference through volunteering. 

Volunteer Scotland has renewed calls for the ‘Top ten’ areas for action, first published in Testing our Resilience The impact of the cost of living crisis on volunteering and volunteers (Sept 2022). This report can be found here: 

For more information, contact:  

Niall Christie, SCVO Communications Officer,, 07527 236 088.  

Last modified on 4 March 2024