Changing the face of volunteering

We’re investing £4.4 million of National Lottery money to build a new, diverse generation of volunteers

Volunteers are precious. They enable others to play sport and do physical activity, and in doing so enrich their own lives. Friendships blossom. Wellbeing improves. Communities thrive. 

That said, the 6.7 million volunteers in sport don’t represent the make-up of society. They’re more likely to be white, male, middle class and non-disabled. Our investment will not only mobilise a new generation of volunteers, it will target groups that are currently under-represented – disabled people, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, women and older people.  

Only 10% of volunteers are from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Our research tells us that the demand is there – with a diverse group of people wanting to get involved in volunteering. Especially young people where social action is a top priority. Our investment will tap into that potential, and persuade others to get involved too.  

We’ve selected 32 projects that will help deliver that goal. Either through our Potentials Fund, which targets young people ages 10 to 20 who want to give their time – or our Opportunity Fund, designed to attract those 20+ from disadvantaged communities. 

“Volunteering and taking part in social action can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends,” says our director of sport, Phil Smith. 

“We’re delighted to be enabling more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhoods. These projects will test different approaches.” 

Take a look at examples of the kinds of projects we’re funding.

 The new projects

A group of women at an exercise class

She's Ready

Location: South East
Grant: £147,374

Active Life for a Healthier You helps people of all ages and abilities get active and stay active. Their newly-funded She's Ready project will help women who are experiencing life-changing circumstances and challenges, including disabled women, mothers with small children, those who have suffered domestic violence, and retirees.

Two hundred women will be empowered through different levels of volunteer engagement – from occasional volunteering through to running classes and events to increase physical activity in their community. Women will be empowered by designing, delivering, and shaping the development of the events, often with the opportunity to train to become fitness instructors themselves.

A group of teenage girls

YMCA Sutton Coldfield

Location: Sutton Coldfield
Grant: £147,510

This project will work with black, Asian and minority ethnic girls from disadvantaged areas in north Birmingham. The girls will be trained and mentored to deliver ‘non-traditional’ exercise sessions in local parks and facilities.

Not only will the girls get more active, the YMCA aims to foster their confidence and lower the risk of social problems and poor mental health.

But the sessions will also benefit the health and wellbeing of those around them – increasing physical activity within the girls’ own peer groups as well as younger children and the wider community.

Young people playing in a park

My Park

Location: Gloucestershire
Grant: £129,512

Young people just want to have fun. That’s partly the mantra of Play Gloucestershire, which is striving to get kids active and form friendships while they’re at it. The project aims to reach hundreds of local young people living in challenging circumstances in isolated rural areas.

My Park is a three-year ‘social action’ project – meaning it will be powered by the energy and determination of 10-14-year olds who, with guidance and support from Play Gloucestershire, will find ways to make their local green spaces great places for sport and physical activity.

At the same time these young people will learn about the power of volunteering, campaigning and fundraising.

Three male runners

Investing in People and Culture

Location: North East
Grant: £149,976

Investing in People and Culture use community projects to help marginalised groups integrate into local life and reduce their risk of becoming socially isolated.

We have funded a three-year project which will recruit refugees as volunteers in deprived areas of Middlesbrough and Newcastle. The project will work with a range of partners including Refugee Community Organisations, Middlesbrough FC Foundation, Parkrun and Max Training Academy to develop volunteering opportunities suited to the needs of the refugees.

Volunteers will also be provided with training opportunities to improve their employability skills.

A female coach works with a woman BMX rider


Location: Bristol and London
Grant: £147,350

Access-Sport has an award-winning track-record in engaging volunteers from under-represented groups in disadvantaged areas. Over three years its Team100 project will engage with 300 new volunteers aged 20+ from three deprived sites in Bristol and London. The aim of each 100-strong team (Team100) will be to empower local people to come together, be more active, and maximise their individual and community’s potential.

Volunteers will benefit by developing valuable skills and experience and also help to support local clubs and other community services. Roles could include leading a walking or cycling group to school, helping with transport, being a mentor, helping to organise sports clubs’ away trips, administration or coaching.

Volunteers and young people from British Blind Sport

See My Voice

Location: England, Nationwide
Grant: £122,480

Imagine feeling that because you’re visually impaired, you aren’t being recognised or heard by those around you – especially those in authority.These are exactly the frustrations that many young visually impaired people were expressing to British Blind Sport, and are what drove them to start the See My Voice project.

Through a mentoring, volunteering and leadership programme, a group of 'young leaders' will develop the confidence and skills to enable them to voice their opinions and share their experiences – ultimately with the aim of improving the sport opportunities available to visually impaired people.

You can read up on the full list of 32 projects here. Each is being backed by one of the two volunteering funds that we opened earlier this year.

We’re also going to make sure that we reach as many young people as possible by partnering up with the #iwill fund. Created thanks both to government support and money raised by National Lottery players, #iwill promotes social action such as campaigning, volunteering and fundraising among 10-20 year-olds.

We’ll be investing up to £30million into volunteering by 2021. The 32 pioneering projects announced today will be vital to testing and learning what works best to bring marginalised groups into volunteering – helping us to reach many more potential volunteers in the future.

Find out more