Looking up at an oak on Loch Lomondside in spring
Mar 01 2019

Thank you, thank you, thank you

Hello, I am Maggie McCallum and I volunteer as part of the woodland engagement and events teams at beautiful Glen Finglas in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. I began working towards an MSc in Countryside Management by distance learning in 2015, completing it in 2018 through the wonderful SRUC (https://www.sruc.ac.uk/courses/51/countryside_management_msc)  – which I highly recommend!  In the dissertation year of the course I undertook a study of conservation volunteering which included obtaining and analysing the responses of conservation volunteers to a questionnaire.

A big thank you for your sterling support to all the WT volunteers who filled in the on-line questionnaire for me a year ago, in Spring 2018!   There was a great response to my questions covering the experience of conservation volunteering, environmental attitudes and behaviours, and nature connectedness. I wanted to share some of the highlights of the findings with those who kindly gave their views (anonymously) and with Whittle readers in general.


Not everyone immediately welcomes a questionnaire in their inbox, but I really believe they are important – someone somewhere really wants to know what you think, and for a good reason. The challenge of completing my course and writing up the dissertation took up a lot of headspace and delayed me offering feedback to those whose contributions had supported me. This was maybe because it had been a while (ahem!) since I had previously been a student.


Some highlights of the findings

  • 31% of my 300+ respondents volunteered for more than one organisation
  • 66% were longer term volunteers of one year or more
  • 70% volunteered at least once a month
  • Both age and qualifications of respondents differed significantly from the Scottish adult population – the respondents were bunched in the 45-74 age range and 70% were qualified to degree level or above
  • 88 respondents were WT volunteers, the biggest single group within my responses, 63 of whom noted WT as their main volunteering organisation.


Why do people volunteer?

The main reasons for volunteering include having fun, being useful and support for organisation

Answers are shown above and additional reasons offered included ‘spreading awareness of conservation’ and ‘giving something back’.


Environmental attitudes and behaviours, and nature connectedness

I used scales to find out about attitudes to the environment (eg, maintaining biodiversity is a major environmental challenge – agree?), pro-environment behaviour (eg use energy efficiency measures – always?) and connectedness to nature (eg I take notice of wildlife wherever I am – agree?)


The gender of respondents did not differ significantly from that of the Scottish adult population.   Responses to the environmental scales, however,  showed significant difference with females consistently scoring higher than males as you can see in the graphs below.  The coloured vertical lines show the range of scores, and again the pattern for women is different with scores bunched closer together especially for nature connectedness.


Females have higher nature connectedness scores

Females have higher environmental awareness scores

Females have higher pro-environment behaviour scores

Volunteers on volunteering

Additional comments entered by volunteers were positive with a few words of advice for the organisations as well. Some examples:

  • …life enhancing experience…
  • …hugely rewarding…
  • …overwhelmingly worthwhile…
  • Ageing changes the physical level of tasks that can be undertaken so they change with time but can still contribute to the bigger picture
  • The tasks need to be well planned, thought out and have a conclusion
  • …important to encourage young people to take part in volunteering


The study sample were well qualified, committed, environmentally conscious volunteers returning relatively high scores showing relatively little variation. The volunteers generally enjoyed their activity and wished in some cases to be involved in developing it.


Just ask if you want to know more!

Completing the study reinforced some things for me: volunteering is important to how we live our lives and conservation volunteers are a pretty special bunch of people.


Maggie McCallum

Woodland Engagement and Events Volunteer, Glen Finglas

  • Gustav Clark

    That was really interesting. Very often volunteering is promoted as a way to get fit and meet people, but your results indicate that these are not primary motivators for most people. We are a more altruistic and laid back bunch than theory predicts.
    The proportion of people educated to degree level tallies with my anecdotal experience. The proportion of people with degrees in the volunteering age range is of course lower than for the whole population, making 70% even more significant.

    March 2, 2019 at 8:49 pm

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