Exploring the links between family and volunteering

We’re delighted that Sport England, Pears #iwill Fund, Greater London Authority and the Scouts Association have agreed to fund a new research project on the links between family and volunteering.

This is an area that we’ve been interested in for a long time, initially triggered by our previous research, Pathways through Participation, that looked at how people’s participation changed over their lives, highlighting the importance of family context, role models and events. Other research suggests that household structure and whether parents volunteer or have volunteered in the past can influence the likelihood of individuals volunteering, but our knowledge about the relationship between family dynamics and volunteering is still relatively limited.

We know even less about how organisations engage with families as volunteers and to what effect. Some organisations provide family volunteering opportunities within specifically designed schemes, while many others involve multiple family members as volunteers by default. The implications for volunteer engagement and management of either approach are unclear.

What we want to achieve

Our new research project, carried out in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the University of Salford, aims to:

  • improve understanding of how families engage with volunteering and how organisations engage with families through volunteering
  • use the evidence to support volunteer-involving organisations that want to develop or enhance volunteering opportunities for family members.

These are some of the questions we would like the research to address:

  • Who volunteers as a family? What motivates people to volunteer with other family members? What volunteering opportunities attract families and in what context? How does volunteering impact upon family life and individual family members?
  • What social trends are transforming the way families volunteer? How are changes in the nature of family and family structures (stepfamilies, older parents etc) having an impact on volunteering?
  • What are the different ways in which organisations engage with families? What are the opportunities and challenges of volunteering schemes targeted at families? How do they relate to other volunteering activities? How can family dynamics be factored into volunteer management?
  • Does engaging with families enable organisations to overcome some of the existing barriers to volunteering and help to include those who are usually less likely to volunteer? Can it contribute to the sustained commitment of individual family members? Conversely, does engaging with families create additional challenges for organisations, or barriers to involvement for others?

What we’re doing

We aim to do this by conducting the following activities:

  • An evidence review to identify any academic literature or practice documents on the family and volunteering.
  • Secondary analysis of the Time Use Survey to explore the relationship between family composition and volunteering and specifically the extent to which different family members volunteer together, separately or not at all.
  • Mapping organisational engagement with family volunteering to understand the different types of activities available and the types of organisations offering them.
  • Case studies of organisations to examine the experience of developing and offering volunteering opportunities to families, the appropriateness and value of these opportunities, the successes and challenges, and the impact on the organisation and volunteers.
  • Case studies of families to explore their experience of volunteering and how volunteering impacts on family life and individual family members.
  • A practice workshop with volunteer-involving organisations to think through the implications of the research findings. This will feed into the final report along with practical resources to help organisations develop and support family volunteering opportunities in the future.

If you’re interested by this project, want to be kept informed of its progress and/or would consider taking part, please let us know by completing our expression of interest form.

For anything else or any questions about what we have planned, please email me at veronique.jochum@ncvo.org.uk.

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

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