Research on Volunteering

Reports and studies on volunteering that can be found online. Can be academic research or studies done by government agencies, large nonprofits, or corporations.

Challenges in the Contemporary Volunteering Environment, Jeni Warburton, pp. 27-29, Volunteering SA&NT
The "global associational revolution", Lester M. Salamon, et. al., Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector, Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies
Research on Volunteerism...What Needs to Be Done, Susan J. Ellis, From Journal of Voluntary Action Research, Volume 14, Number 2-3, April-September 1985, pages 11-14. Originally presented at the Symposium at the 1984 AVAS Conference
The Socioeconomic Resource Statement, Jack Quarter, Laurie Mook , Betty Jane Richmond, pp. 97-98, Pearson Education
Voluntary Sector Evaluation Research Project, Canadian initiative to improve the capacity of voluntary organizations to assess their performance and communicate their effectiveness to their funders, stakeholders and the public. , 2003, pp. 66

Results of the Abila Donor Engagement Study: "we decided to dig even deeper into donor behavior, to go beyond just engagement, and see what drives donor loyalty, what types of content donors really like to consume, what actions by an organization annoy donors, what role events and volunteering play, and how donors really feel when it comes to an organization spending money on overhead." Lots about Gen X and the connection of volunteering to giving money. 

, 2016, pp. 22

A "State of Volunteering Report" for 2014, produced by the Institute of Project Management for Volunteering Tasmania, Australia. Looks at the "value" of volunteers beyond financial.

, 2014, pp. 125

Produced by the Institute of Project Management for Volunteering WA. Comprehensive look at the "value"--beyond financial--of volunteer services. Report has nice infographics at the start and an executive summary.

, 2015, pp. 164
Volunteer Canada describes how and why families engage in service, examines strategies and barriers to implement family projects, and includes an extensive bibliography. , 2002, pp. 22

Join In (UK)'s innovative research into "the hidden value of sport volunteers, going beyond cost to measure the true value they create – through participation, wellbeing, trust and community."  The report has been published on 

, 2014, pp. 32

Report from BoardSource  on its survey of more than 1700 board chairs and executives of nonprofit organizations sharing data and insights about their boards’ composition, practices, performance, and culture. Of special interest for its data on lack of diversity. See a review of the study published in Nonprofit Quarterly on 9/6/17.

, 2017, pp. 64
From the New Zealand Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector , 2008, pp. 61
Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector, New Zealand , 2007, pp. 60

Prof Anne-Marie Greene and Dr Jenna Ward of DeMontfort University (Leicester, UK) were commissioned to provide the National Trust with a detailed, evidenced-based understanding of: (1) what it means to manage volunteers in the National Trust (2) the nature of similarities or differences between the management of volunteers and paid staff (3) the implications of these similarities or differences for policy, resourcing and strategic planning around volunteer management within the National Trust. This report is based on empirical evidence from in-depth qualitative case studies carried out at two National Trust properties between 2013 and 2015. 

The researchers concluded that, "in practice, the management of volunteers within the National Trust is, and should be, significantly different to the management of paid staff. These differences can be classified around five broad, yet interconnected, themes: Performance Management, Communication, Task Differentiation, Trust and Fear vs Autonomy and Creativity, Emotional Labour."


, 2016, pp. 44

Report of a nationwide survey of volunteer managers in New Zealand between December 2009 and February 2010, by Karen A. Smith, PhD, Carolyn Cordery, PhD, and Nicholas Dutton at Victoria University of Wellington in partnership with Volunteering New Zealand.  The online survey was open to anyone involved in the management of volunteers; over 800 individuals participated from a diverse range of sectors and positions across New Zealand and gives insight into who they are. 

, 2010, pp. 52

Researched by UK consulting firm nfpSynergy, this free, 7-part research report covers: the political and social landscape for volunteering; volunteering trends over the last decade; harnessing volunteer motivations; the changing mechanics of volunteering; engaging the young, the old and the family to volunteer; how do we manage the 21st Century Volunteer? -- with conclusions and recommendations.

, 2015, pp. 91
Harvard School of Public Health-MetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement , 2004, pp. 162

By  Mai Moua, Ph.D. for the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA). Results of a 3-year study of the attitudes of immigrants (especially  the Hmong, Latino, and Somali communities of Minnesota) about volunteering and those of organizations about recruiting these populations. 

, 2010, pp. 40

In 2012 the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) conducted its first study on volunteerism in rural Minnesota. The purpose of the survey was to learn what was changing in rural volunteerism, strategies being used to address the changes and current perspectives on rural volunteerism. The site offers a summary of findings, the report itself, and related articles.

, 2012
Allison Fine for the Case Foundation. Social Citizens BETA addresses the unique characteristics of Millennials, who have grown up in a digital era, and "are equipped with innovative tools and ideas for bringing about change. This is a paper intended to start a "larger conversation with these 'social citizens, to share new ideas and "challenge perceptions about their approaches to being engaged." , 2013, pp. 65

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations-declared "International Year of Volunteers," United Nations Volunteers (UNV) conducted an extensive research project to produce this unique overview of volunteering in 80 countries around the world. Sub-titled "Universal Values for Global Well-being," the report examines the important contributions of volunteers in diverse fields such as sustainable livelihoods, social inclusion, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction. By suggesting how volunteerism can be taken forward, the SWVR also provides an alternative vision of a better society.

Download chapter by chapter or the entire document.

, 2011, pp. 148

By Nora L. Silver, based on work done by The Volunteerism Project on volunteering by diverse ethnic/cultural groups. Seven focus groups provided the basis for the book:

  • A Chorus of Voices, African American focus group facilitated by Vicki Clark in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Self-Determination: Messages for Our Native Youth, two American Indian focus groups conducted by Kouslaa Kessler-Mata in Oakland and San Francisco, California
  • Uno Recibe lo que Uno Da: You Get What You Give, Central American focus group conducted in Spanish, facilitated by Coco Mendoza and translated by Gary Wheelock in San Francisco, California
  • Extending the Family, Chinese American focus group conducted by Mae Chao in San Francisco, California
  • Giving Generously, Japanese American focus group conducted by Mami Ishikawa in Berkeley, California
  • Three Continents, Four States, Ten Cities, Korean American focus group facilitated by Debbie Ng in Oakland, California
  • La Gran Familia, Mexican American focus group facilitated by Ramon del Castillo, with simultaneous translation by Patsy Roybal in Denver, Colorado
, 2011, pp. 131
By Nora McClintock for the Canadian Centre on Philanthropy. The manual "is primarily intended for those who are new to the field of volunteer resource management." , 2004, pp. 42

By Natasha Menon, Amanda Moore and Michael Sherraden, published by Center for Social Development/Global Service Institute.

, 2002, pp. 15

A research study by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management's Governance Affinity Group  surveying 635 nonprofit board chairs across the United States. The study asked: How do individuals (volunteers, of course) prepare for their role as chair of a nonprofit board? and, what do board chairs perceive their leadership roles to be in relationship to the board, the community, and the CEO? The answers are quite revealing.

, 2016, pp. 30

When newspapers in England reported of serious breaches of trust between volunteers and their organisations in 2009, Volunteering England was prompted to set up the Volunteer Rights Inquiry to begin to understand the nature and scope of the problems experienced by volunteers and identify suitable remedies. This Interim Report goes into detail about the findings of the intensive set of hearings held.  In 2014, a Final report of the Call to Action Progress Group following the Volunteer Rights Inquiry was produced by NCVO.

, 2010, pp. 32

Researched and produced by Verified Volunteers, offers essential insights on the practices, challenges and concerns of organizations relying on volunteers, with screening tips to help you compare, measure and improve your organization’s volunteer screening program.

, 2016, pp. 32
By Corporate Citizenship, The City of London, UK. The benefits of corporate volunteering programs in education. , 2010, pp. 114
By Greg Hills and Adeeb Mahmud, FSG Social Impact Advisors. Site also offers a video on this subject. , 2007, pp. 44

There is lots of anecdotal evidence that volunteering has a positive impact on health but a 2008 research review commissioned by Volunteering England seeks to determine what impact it really has. Site has full report and 4 page summary.

, 2008, pp. 101

Study sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation to: 1) deepen understanding of volunteer engagement in rural communities; 2) examine the applicability of the neighboring model to rural communities; and 3) identify practices that document and support volunteering and neighboring by, in and with under-resourced rural communities.

, 2004, pp. 153

By Joanna Machin of the  Institute for Volunteering Research (UK) for the Voluntary Action Media Unit to identify research and information which address issues related to the image of volunteering and volunteers by the public and the media -- specific reference made to the images held by different social groups. 

, 2005, pp. 47
By American University's Center for Social Media about how an online youth civic culture, largely unnoticed by the general public, has taken root on the Internet and is fostering Generation Y's participation in U.S. politics and community affairs. , 2004, pp. 155
by Kathryn Montgomery, Barbara Gottlieb-Robles, and Gary O. Larson, a report from American University's Center for Social Media about how an online youth civic culture, largely unnoticed by the general public, has taken root on the Internet and is fostering Generation Y's participation in U.S. politics and community affairs , 2004, pp. 158

By Emily Hoban Kirby, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, and Surbhi Godsay, from CIRCLE/Civic Youth.

, 2011, pp. 23
African-American Philanthropy: A Bibliography and Resource List

Excellent resources compiled by the Foundation Center.

Brookings Institute

Articles and reports about new directions in international corporate philanthropy, including employee volunteer programs. Search on keywords "corporate philanthropy" and "volunteering" to see complete list of resources.


Research and information on community participation by youth from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Free fact sheets, tools for practice, and more.

Civil Society section of Citizendium

Civil society is the "arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values." This new wiki (2007) is being compiled by academic Roger A. Lohmann.

Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society

London-based independent research institute devoted to deepening public understanding of the legal, institutional and moral framework that makes a free and democratic society possible.

Community Development Policy (New Zealand)

NZ government site offering policy statements, reports,and other materials on volunteering as well as other community development,  including a study of Maori volunteering.

Corporation for National and Community Service Research and Policy Reports

Various reports and studies on volunteering in the US, especially on youth service and AmeriCorps.

Digital Collections of IUPUI University Library

Archival material from the IUPUI University Library's Philanthropy Resources Online collection. Search keywords such as "volunteering," philanthropy," etc. Many journals from the 1960s-1990s have been digitized online here, so anyone looking for older material and historical archives can find treasures.

Diversity Links

The Minnesota Council on Foundations has compiled links to Web sites and resources for philanthropy by diverse communities and cultures, including African-Americans, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Island Americans, Latino/Hispanic Americans,Lesbians & Gays, the Disability Community, and others.

The European Civil Society Student Corner

Site created to make civil society and third sector research easily available to PhD candidates and other students in Europe.

Exploring Volunteering (blog)

By Patrick Daniels, UK-based volunteer and international activist. The blog's tag line: "Notes on thinking and research about the development of volunteering."

Initiatives Opposed to Volunteering

Jayne Cravens has been collecting information for years on initiatives opposed to some or all volunteering (unpaid work), or ALL kinds of volunteering, including unpaid internships at nonprofit organizations/charities. It is also a list of online and print articles about or addressing controversies regarding volunteers replacing paid staff. Most of the links are to initiatives or actions in Europe or the USA. She keeps it updated, too.

This list has been compiled to help researchers regarding volunteerism, as well as for policy makers and volunteerism advocates who want to avoid these kinds of controversies at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. This list is also compiled to refute those who believe that there are no such controversies (believe it or not, those people DO exist).

Institute for Volunteering Research

Internationally-recognized, London-based leader in research truly focused on volunteers. See especially their Research Bulletins.

The Leir Institute Volunteer Management Library

This library in Israel run by the organization Yad Sarah comprises over 2,000 items in print and online that relate to volunteer management, most in English. They have started posting academic articles on volunteerism to CiteULike, linked here.


This UK consulting and research firm provides free -- and well-written -- reports on many aspects of trends in nonprofit management, online charity outreach, and volunteering. You must register your e-mail address to download PDFs.

Nonprofit Management Education: Current Offerings in University Based Programs

Seton Hall University maintains this site of educational opportunities in the US for nonprofit management, including courses in volunteer management.

Nonprofits Canada

Site with research findings and reports on the voluntary sector in Canada, with many items on volunteering.

PACE - Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

A learning community, not a funding community, of grantmakers and donors committed to strengthening democracy by using the power, influence and resources of philanthropy to open pathways to civic, democratic and community participation. PACE does not make grants or serve as a conduit for those seeking grants from PACE members.

Pathways to Participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship?

Pathways through Participation was a two-and-a-half year qualitative research project in the UK led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve that ended in 2011. However, the research reports remain online for free download and with occasional updates. 

Special Collection on Volunteerism

Regis University in Denver, Colorado has been amassing one of the field's largest online depositories " to collect, preserve, promote and encourage research and study in the field of volunteerism." Includes the Ivan Scheier Archive.

Survey Measures of Youth Civic Engagement

CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) and their colleagues have developed and tested various measures of young adults’ “civic engagement” (including their political participation; their community service and local civic work; and their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values). These measures are available for anyone to use. 

Volunteer Now (formerly Volunteer Development Agency - Northern Ireland)

Reasearch studies and reports developed in Northern Ireland, available for free download as PDFs.

Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA)

VOSESA was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa by an Irish initiative to research and publish on the latest developments in service policy and programs, and on the impact of service on democratic values, citizenship and socio-economic development.   Service Enquiry was a series of publications published from 2008 to 2013, when funding ended for the project. Free downloads of past issues remain in English and Spanish on the Web site.

Volunteering in America

Interactive site from the Corporation for National and Community Service, offering six years of data on volunteering, rankings of states and cities, and volunteer trends and demographic information for every state and 162 large and mid-sized cities.

World Volunteer Web - UN Volunteers

As a follow up to the International Year of Volunteers 2001, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) has created a comprehensive Web site offering continuing news of worldwide volunteer efforts, including government actions, research reports, and links to international volunteer resources.

World Volunteer Web -- International Research Studies

Extensive -- and intriguing -- list of studies on volunteerism in dozens of countries around the world, compiled by this site run through United Nations Volunteers.