Volunteering in The Netherlands 2023: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

In this new report, we outline how to attract and retain more volunteers and make them valuable assets, using the latest trends and figures.

Volunteering in The Netherlands 2023: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

Last Friday, the inspiring report "Volunteering in The Netherlands 2023" was published, a valuable collaboration between Motivaction and NOV. It offers essential insights into the voluntary sector, both for the present and for the future. The report reveals that only 30% of Dutch people currently volunteer, compared to 37% in 2016. It provides a detailed picture of the current landscape of volunteering in the Netherlands in 2023, including preferences, reasons and activities.

This instructive report raises awareness of the current state of affairs and shows that there is work to be done. As Deedmob, we support the flourishing of volunteering and want to give organisations concrete tips on how to get started. This is because we also see the other side of the story. The nature of volunteering is changing, and this is necessary if today's volunteer energy is to thrive in the future.

In this article, you will discover how to better attract, retain and give volunteers a valuable place within your organisation. In doing so, you will set up your organisation to become future-proof.

We recommend everyone to take a good look at the study. It is a valuable source of knowledge and insight that will enable us all to work together to create a thriving voluntary sector. You can find some insights, among many other useful reports and latest insights, on the website of NOV, the branch network of voluntary organisations in the Netherlands, and on the website of Motivaction B.V. For questions about the figures or access to the report, please contact author Giovanni Giaquinto of Motivaction.

Recruiting Volunteers

Okay, there are fewer volunteers than in 2016, but fortunately there is also good news! In fact, there is great potential for the future. A whopping 56% of those surveyed say they would like to volunteer in the future, compared to only 24% who absolutely do not want to and 20% who do not know yet. This shows that there is definitely potential in the voluntary sector and confirms what Prof Lucas Meijs wrote earlier: there is no shortage of volunteers at all, but more knowledge is needed about what volunteers are looking for to attract them.

The report offers us a wealth of interesting insights in this regard. For instance, it shows that most volunteers (54%) prefer to be active in their own hometown or neighbourhood, and even more specifically in their own area, together with a regular group of volunteers or acquaintances. In terms of activities, volunteers prefer the company of others, providing transport, information and advice.

The report also gives a clear description of the different types of volunteers and their current distribution in society:

A screenshot of a graphDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Source: Volunteering in the Netherlands 2023 - Motivaction & NOV*

  • Duty-bound: strongly normative citizens who are loyal to the (local) community, struggle with modernisation and complexity, and value a strict and protective government. This group consists mainly of older people. Traditional values such as loyalty, security and solidarity are important.
  • Structure seekers: consumers who are strongly focused on their own lives and families, seeking recognition for their feelings and interests, and longing for a government that creates clarity by setting and enforcing boundaries.
  • Pragmatists: individualistic networkers who see the world, including government and politics, in terms of opportunities to gain experiences and achieve their personal goals.
  • Responsible citizens: self-reliant and socially engaged citizens with a cooperative-critical attitude towards government, who see politics as a tool to serve the common good and achieve their personal ideals.

Young people (aged 18-24) can be part of all the above groups.

If we look at the distribution in the report and those who want to volunteer in the future, we see that the willingness among responsible, pragmatists and young people is significantly higher than that of dutiful and structure-seekers (see figure below). This poses a major challenge.

Currently, the voluntary sector is still mainly focused on dutiful and responsible values as drivers. However, since both the group of dutiful and responsible people is largely made up of older people, due to ageing, the size of this group is gradually decreasing. With this, therefore, an important group of volunteers is also declining, with values that the voluntary sector has currently embraced as guiding principles. To future-proof volunteering, it is essential that voluntary organisations focus more on the values of individualism. Indeed, volunteers' motivation is increasingly influenced by freedom of choice, self-development and personal growth, rather than solidarity with others. As a volunteer organisation, how can you best respond to this development?

A screenshot of a graphDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Source: Volunteering in the Netherlands 2023 - Motivaction & NOV*

Let’s get to work!


We have said it before: microvolunteering is becoming increasingly important for volunteers. Microvolunteering responds to individualistic values by offering tasks where volunteers can still contribute, but with satisfying activities that can be completed in a short time. This poses a challenge for many organisations, but we are happy to help you get started.

  • Take stock of your current volunteer needs. How many hours do we need people, what do we need, and what is already being done?
  • Look at your tasks in a different way. Instead of looking at which person you need, look at what tasks need to be done. Then divide these tasks. Define the activity and make it specific: this way, you consider the person rather than just your own organisation. For example, instead of looking for a marketing manager, find a person or team that wants to run a specific campaign.
  • Offer good guidance to your volunteers. Self-development and development are important individualistic values. Development comes from good supervision and it is also in the interest of the organisation itself. So respond to the changing needs of volunteers and in doing so, directly help your own organisation.

We have covered all this in detail in an earlier article, which will help you get started right away: three steps to an appropriate offer for flex volunteers.

Volunteering advertisements

What drives people to volunteer? How do you attract the right people with recruitment ads?

This is what Erasmus University graduate Bregje Walraven researched in her thesis. Following her thesis, we conducted a short interview in Dutch, in which Bregje gives some practical tips for your organisation. Some tips include:

  1. Be specific in your job posting. Indicate where the activity takes place, how much time it takes, what kind of person exactly you are looking for and what value volunteers can add.
  2. Focus your ad on your own organisation rather than a specific volunteer profile you are looking for. You are much better off describing what your organisation does than trying to fill in what the volunteer wants. After all, that varies from volunteer to volunteer. This is also why volunteers keep coming back: because the organisation suits them so well.
  3. Consider the balance between impact and time. Volunteers want to do impactful work, but do not want to spend too much time on it.
  4. The social aspect is the main reason for volunteering. This is about the sense of belonging and the fun you get out of it.

If you want to know more, you can watch the whole interview (10 minutes) via this link. Also, be sure to read the article published by NOV on the subject.

Want to know more?

Want to know more? Then take a look at all the articles we have written on volunteer recruitment.

Retaining Volunteers

OK, attracting volunteers is one aspect of future-proofing your organisation, but retaining volunteers is at least as important. Fortunately, the figures are positive: 74% of people who volunteer want to stay active. Moreover, people who currently volunteer want to continue doing so more often in the future. But how do you retain volunteers for your organisation and how do you involve them even more?

The report offers interesting insights, especially focusing on the importance of organising volunteering well. Volunteers highly value recognition and appreciation to keep coming back (38%), and professionalisation of the work is also considered very important. Examples include clear job descriptions (14%), discussing performance (13%), learning new skills (10%) and personal growth (8%). Finally, the importance of contact between volunteers is mentioned as an area for improvement at the social level.

Here again, we see the strong emphasis on individualistic values, such as freedom (clearly defined job description), self-development (performance reviews, skills, growth) and experience (recognition, appreciation, social contact). It is therefore essential to integrate these values into your organisation to retain volunteers.

It is also indicated that volunteers prefer to work with acquaintances, friends and family, or with a regular group of volunteers. The main drivers mentioned are that volunteers want to help people they know, that volunteering makes them feel good, and that they are looking for conviviality and social contacts. But how do you get started with this information?

Let’s get to work!

Building community

The report clearly indicates that volunteers prefer to work with acquaintances, friends and family, or with a regular group of volunteers. This ties in with what we discussed earlier: building a close-knit volunteer community is essential, as it ensures they keep coming back! We have 4 tips for building a community and make the link to the recently published report.

  1. Make the impact of volunteers clear. Volunteers feel more valued and motivated to stay involved if they can see the impact of their contributions. Try to quantify their impact with concrete numbers, show the bigger picture and demonstrate the progress they have made. By showing how important they are and what they bring about, volunteers will feel more valued and are more likely to stay involved. Communicating the impact volunteers make is also directly related to discussing their performance, which the report highlights as an essential part of professionalising your organisation.
  2. Encourage friendships within the team. Friendships are essential for a sense of community. Encourage bonding between volunteers by facilitating group activities, group chats or Facebook groups. Also, ask volunteers to bring their friends on one occasion. When volunteers become friends, work becomes much more enjoyable and they feel more at home with your organisation. According to the report, this is the main motivation for volunteers to start working initially.
  3. Offer internal growth opportunities. Show volunteers that there are opportunities to grow within your organisation. Find new ways they can stay involved or activities that help them achieve their personal goals. Think workshops, leadership positions or even a permanent position within your organisation. Be creative! When you invest in their personal development and growth, volunteers stay engaged and become valuable members of the community. This ties in directly with what the report describes about the importance of personal growth and learning new skills to stay engaged.
  4. Value your volunteers. Volunteers should feel like priority number one and be a valued part of your organisation. Show your gratitude by organising events, giving shout-outs on social media, sending thank-you notes or giving small gifts. Let them know how important they are and how much you appreciate them. This will encourage them to make a lasting commitment to your organisation. The report shows that this is by far the most important aspect.

Volunteer appreciation and recognition

The report highlights that appreciation and recognition are the most important aspects for 38% of respondents to stay involved in an organisation. In a previous article, we discussed 4 ways to show recognition and appreciation. Here is a short summary:

  1. Send personalised thank-you notes. Super nice to receive, right? Use the name and pronouns the volunteer wants to be addressed with, always name the individual contribution specifically, send another small gift if possible and write your thank-you note by hand. That way, you get the most out of a small gesture.
  2. Share your enthusiasm for your top volunteers with the world. Share your enthusiasm not only with the volunteer himself, but also with the rest of the world. Mention the volunteer in your organisation's annual report, express your appreciation on social media, or make a series of videos highlighting your volunteers. Shout it from the rooftops! 
  3. Give extensive attention to your successes. Few things motivate more than success, and successes should be celebrated. So celebrate your successes publicly. This also has the advantage that you immediately advertise your organisation. Win-win, right?
  4. Build a community. Of course, we talked about this at length in the previous heading. A community is essential for returning and recognising yourself in your organisation.

Closing tips

We have written several articles that will get you started on how to keep volunteers engaged. We could repeat this at length now, but prefer to refer you to the article itself. In a previous article, we gave 5 tips for retaining your volunteers:

  1. Encourage the right culture. The report does not mention experience as one of the values that are important for the new volunteer for nothing. A good culture creates a good experience, and that's how volunteers keep coming back!
  2. Be flexible and provide tailor-made opportunities. Micro volunteering, remember? In an individualistic society, we respond to the needs of the individual rather than the group feeling. 
  3. Offer training, tools and support. That bit of professionalisation and guidance is essential.
  4. Provide lots of communication and feedback to encourage volunteer involvement. 13% call this the most important thing of all!
  5. Give your volunteers the appreciation they deserve. Do we need to repeat it? Of course the most important thing of all!

Okay, we're feeling generous. Here's another 4 tips to get you along the way:

  1. Provide a comprehensive training process. Make the job description and expectations clear so volunteers know where they stand. Make sure they have hands-on learning on site and compile a volunteer handbook. If you provide clarity, volunteers will come back, the report also shows.
  2. Connect volunteers to the right roles. If volunteers enjoy themselves, they will stay involved. So ask preferences and interests, and more importantly, allow volunteers to switch roles if they are no longer comfortable with their current role. Those individual values and personal growth are key, so respond well to this.
  3. Engage volunteers in different ways. Volunteers are no longer looking for a fixed role, but for flexible roles. Consider using volunteers in different ways for variety, such as advocacy, corporate volunteer or micro-volunteer.
  4. Create a positive (working) environment. Recognise volunteers when they do well, add a social component to your activities (such as a get-together), and provide advancement opportunities, such as a managerial position or a permanent position.

Want to know more?

Want to know more? Then check out all the articles we have written on volunteer retention.

In conclusion

The published report provides us with valuable insight into today's volunteers, what motivates them and what the future of volunteering looks like. Although there are challenges, according to Deedmob, the changing society also offers many opportunities. It is about how you as an organisation adapt to this. If you manage to reach the new volunteer, your organisation will automatically become more future-proof. This article prepares your organisation for the future. So we look to the future with confidence, do you?

* Report is not public. For questions about the figures, content or access to the report, please contact author Giovanni Giaquinto of Motivaction.

Some highlights of 5 years at Deedmob

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Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

Gerbrand Holland is Growth Manager at Deedmob