Volunteering: A family affair?

NCVO research manager, Veronique Jochum, reviews the popularity of family volunteering on Twitter and discusses plans to work with the Third Sector Research Centre to research this area of volunteering.

Family dynamics and volunteering

In collaboration with the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), NCVO has been looking at family volunteering. It is particularly interested in exploring whether family dynamics shape volunteering and how organisations engage with families as volunteers.

A web search identified that family volunteering schemes, and opportunities that specifically target families, are quite common in the US and Canada, but less so in the UK. In Volunteers’ Week I decided to see if family volunteering was mentioned. Searching by family and #volunteersweek was revealing.

Unsurprisingly, there were a number of tweets referring to volunteers who provide support to families.

I also came across tweets that talked about being part of the volunteering family.

And there were several interesting examples of people having the opportunity to volunteer as a family or with family members, which will be the focus of our research.


Blogging about family volunteering

For anybody interested in family volunteering I would highly recommend Rebecca Tully’s fantastic blog Can I bring Ivy? The blog is on her experiences of volunteering with her daughter Ivy. When explaining why she decided to write her blog Rebecca who has often managed volunteers herself says: “As well as wanting to record some great little experiences with my daughter, I’m learning a huge amount every time I volunteer about what’s possible with a child and how we could make things better as volunteers and volunteer managers”.

What a recent survey reveals

NCVO recently conducted a short survey on family volunteering to gauge the interest of members. While the majority of organisations that responded did not currently offer family volunteering opportunities, most were interested in developing these in the future. One respondent from an organisation that offers family volunteering opportunities commented it had explicitly decided to do so, “because we knew that some volunteers were having to choose between time with family and time they may have available to spend volunteering – this stopped them having to make that choice”. This might be one of the key reasons why family volunteering is likely to grow in future years. And it was interesting to see that the examples in the survey of existing family volunteering opportunities often blurred the boundaries between volunteering and leisure activities.

Further research

NCVO and TSRC are hoping to carry out more research that will improve understanding of how families engage with volunteering to help organisations take into account family dynamics when developing opportunities. If you want to find out more, please do get in touch, or comment below, and in the meantime happy Volunteers’ Week!

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Véronique Jochum, head of research, blogs about the latest research from NCVO and other research related topics on civil society.

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