Volunteering for All: national framework

Our national outcomes framework for volunteering.

About this Framework

This Framework was developed over 2018 by the Scottish Government jointly with partners from the volunteer and community sector, local government and NHS, with academics and social researchers, and with volunteers.

The objective of the Framework is to:

  • Set out clearly and in one place a coherent and compelling narrative for volunteering; 
  • Define the key outcomes desired for volunteering in Scotland over the next ten years;
  • Identify the key data and evidence that will inform, indicate and drive performance at a national and local level; and 
  • Enable informed debate and decision about the optimal combination of programmes, investments and interventions. 

The Framework development was overseen by an External Reference Group, whose remit was to:

  • Provide leadership and facilitate collaboration across a range of partners and sectors to develop the Volunteering Outcomes Framework in order to influence decision-making on the development of related policies at local and national levels; and
  • Advise Scottish Government on priorities, challenges and actions, championing the role of volunteering in delivering the Scottish Government’s Purpose and National Outcomes.

We are grateful for the support and input of all External Reference Group members:

  • George Thomson, CEO, Volunteer Scotland
  • Matthew Linning, Strategic Performance Manager, Volunteer Scotland
  • David McNeill, Digital Director, SCVO
  • Ilse MacKinnon, Research Officer, SCVO
  • Paul Okroj, Head of Volunteering Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and co-Chair, Scottish Volunteering Forum
  • Sarah Latto, Volunteer Development Manager, Shelter Scotland and co-Chair, Scottish Volunteering Forum
  • Keith Wimbles, CEO, Impact Funding Partners
  • Paul Reddish, CEO, ProjectScotland
  • James Jopling, Executive Director for Scotland, Samaritans
  • Alan Bigham, Programme Manager (Volunteering), Healthcare Improvement Scotland 
  • Kim Atkinson, CEO, Scottish Sports Association
  • Morven MacLean, Head of Volunteering, CHAS
  • Paul Vaughan, Head of Communities and Neighbourhoods, Fife Council, and representing SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives)
  • Selina Ross, CEO, West Dunbartonshire Third Sector Interface (and representing TSIs)

The development process included:

A broad and systematic literature review, completed by Stirling University, including consideration and analysis of evidence on volunteer characteristics, motivations, activities, benefits, outcomes, barriers and policies.[1]

The establishment, in partnership with Young Scot and ProjectScotland, of the National Youth Volunteering Improvement Project, which tasked 25 young volunteers from across Scotland with exploring volunteering practice and experience and making recommendations for action.[2]

A series of roundtables and workshop discussions with key strategic and delivery partners.

Ministerial Foreword

Aileen Campbell, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government
and Communities

Aileen Campbell, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government
and Communities

Volunteering brings enormous benefits and enjoyment, not only to beneficiaries, but to communities, and to volunteers themselves.

I am delighted to present Scotland’s National Outcomes Framework for Volunteering. In doing so, I want to put on record my thanks to all of those people who are giving their time and energy freely to befriend the lonely, enable people to participate in clubs and groups, help their elderly neighbours and to support causes they believe in.

Whether you are raising money, delivering services, or acting as a Charity Trustee, it is this generosity of spirit, this selflessness, that is transforming our communities and enhancing our sense of wellbeing.

Volunteering brings enormous benefits and enjoyment, not only to beneficiaries, but to communities, and to volunteers themselves. We know that – among other things – volunteering increases social and civil participation, empowers communities, and reduces loneliness and isolation. It can also improve mental and physical health, support the development of job and life skills, and foster a greater sense of belonging.

Suffice to say, volunteering is key to us achieving our shared ambition of a fairer and more prosperous country with equality of opportunity for all – a country where everyone has the chance to participate and make a difference. Volunteering is at the heart of everything that we do as a Government, and is the golden thread running through all of our policies and contributing right across the National Outcomes in the National Performance Framework.

But I want us to do more. I want us to create a society where volunteering is the norm – where opportunity and expectation are not limited by upbringing or social circumstances, and where we all celebrate and honour the contributions we make. It is time to change the narrative on volunteering – to celebrate existing activity whilst finding new ways to engage with anyone who wants to participate.

I am grateful to all of those who have collaborated in the production of this important publication. This Framework sets the direction for Scotland’s approach to volunteering over the next decade by focusing first and foremost on the volunteer, rooted in our national values of kindness, dignity and respect. I am excited by the future and look forward to working with you as we take this work forward, together.

"Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy…when you volunteer you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in"
Marjorie Moore

At a Glance

A Case for Change

This section sets out the rationale for doing more to widen participation and improve access to opportunities, in the context of wider societal and demographic change.

51% of people have volunteered in their lifetime;

19% of all volunteers provide 65% of volunteering hours. 

Growth of technology
We need to balance digital volunteering with the value of face-to-face interaction.

who is this framework for?

The changes required demand action across sectors and by multiple

who is this framework for?

No room for complacency
By 2041 there will be 428,000 more adults 65+ but 144,000 fewer working age adults. More people will be living with long term conditions.

The Volunteering spectrum
This section describes what we mean by the term ‘Volunteering’. It is used to describe the wide range of ways in which people help out, get involved, volunteer and participate in their communities (both communities of interest and communities of place).

Volunteering is a choice. A choice to give time or energy, a choice undertaken of one’s own free will and a choice not motivated for financial gain or for a wage or salary.

Neighbourliness, Informal/semi-formal Formal

It is this generosity of spirit, this selfless giving of one’s self, that is transforming our communities.

The Value of Volunteering

This section explores the value and impact of volunteering and looks at the importance of volunteer experience. It also highlights key areas of consideration in assessing benefits and impact, including the importance of place and some variations between formal and informal 


  • £2.26bn to the Scottish economy
  • Physical health
  • Social benefits
  • Mental well-being
  • Instrumental benefits 

Importance of Volunteer Experience

personal experience, how involved and engaged, quality of support provided.

burn out, feeling excluded, feeling undervalued, damaged self-esteem and well-being.

Who Volunteers?

This section summarises the levels of volunteering through a group, club or organisation. It also explores who does and does not volunteer by key demographic group and looks at the context of volunteering: when and how they give their time and who to.

28% of adults volunteer

52% of young people (11-16) volunteer

The volunteering rate for those with a long- term health condition of 12 months+ and/or a disability was only 13% in 2017 compared to anational volunteering rate of 28%

In 2017 those earning + £40,000 have the highest volunteering rate at 39% which is nearly double the rate (20%) for those earning.

In 2016, the volunteering rate for those with degree or professional qualifications was 42% compared to a volunteering rate of only 11% for those with no qualifications.

Volunteers combine different types of activities, causes, organisations and frequency of involvement which reflect their own lifestyles, values and priorities.

Younger adults have tended to work with children and with sporting activities.

Older adults have preferred to volunteer for religious organisations, community groups and groups working specifically with the elderly.

Volunteers in Scotland are most likely to be female.

Why Do People Volunteer Or Not?

This section explores the motivations and barriers to volunteering, recognising that our motivations and capabilities to get involved will change in response to changes in our own health, our family and other responsibilities, our work situations, our financial position and a whole range of factors.

our framework and next steps

This section summarises our key learnings and sets out our Vision, Principles and Outcomes. We identify a number of areas for organisations to think about if they want to support people in having a quality volunteer experience and set out our commitment to develop a Delivery Plan for this Framework.


Values & norms

Personal development & employability




Values & norms
Personal development & employability Practical


Email: helen.webster@gov.scot

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