Volunteering for All: national framework - research summary

This summary outlines a systematic review of the research literature on volunteering.

1. A picture of volunteering

Place is important for volunteering in Scotland, with much higher levels of participation in rural areas than urban areas. We need to understand the drivers behind this difference, as well as whether there are lessons to be learned from communities with high levels of participation. Scotland is experiencing population ageing, as well as significant health inequalities. Healthier older age may increase participation around retirement, but health inequalities could perpetuate differences in participation. Changing lifecourses will also change participation: e.g. delaying starting families, longer working lives, increased informal care responsibilities. 

Research Evidence Gaps

  • The existing evidence focuses primarily on volunteering amongst younger people and older people. There has been less study of volunteering patterns in between.
  • There is relatively little longitudinal data on volunteering, which means that patterns of participation within the lifecourse are not that well studied at a population level.
  • Few papers explicitly consider the role of place in volunteering participation. Consideration of the impact of place - comparison of location and settings of volunteering would help us to understand the role that place has in participation.
  • The relatively light coverage of informal volunteering in the literature – driven by a lack of data on this form of participation – means that we would benefit from exploring more informal routes into volunteering, and focusing on the more nuanced routes to a wider range of volunteer activities.

Recommendations for the Volunteering Outcomes Framework

Recommendation One: Volunteering is a cultural activity, and the motivations, meaning and factors predicting participation vary across both countries and contexts. Consideration should be given to how both the meaning and context of volunteering may change as the Scottish population changes.

Recommendation Two: Volunteering participation varies through time, and across the lifecourse, although it is often studied as a discrete activity at one point in time. Key transitions from the literature include starting a family, and retirement in older age. Evidence on the significance of other lifecourse transitions is more limited. Consideration should be given to how interventions to encourage participation at one point might also influence participation later in life.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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