Research Conference

The Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference – organised by NCVO and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) – provides a unique opportunity for academics, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and further afield to come together to share and discuss research that addresses the issues facing the voluntary sector and volunteering at this time.

Due to the coronavirus, this year’s conference has been postponed until September 2021. Instead NCVO is partnering with VSSN to host a free digital conference Times Like These: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from covid-19 on 7 and 8 September 2020.

Key research areas

Volunteering and covid-19 evidence group

NCVO, TSRC (Third Sector Research Centre), IVR (Institute for Volunteering Research) and VSSN (Voluntary Sector Studies Network) have set up an evidence group on volunteering and covid-19. The group aims to explore existing evidence on volunteering that could help inform the current crisis and collect new evidence. If you would like more information, please visit the IVR website (PDF, 430KB).

Volunteer experience

Time Well Spent is a major report into the volunteering experience published by NCVO in January 2019. It is the result of a national survey carried out through YouGov's panel (10,000+ respondents).

The survey focuses on volunteering through groups, clubs and organisations and includes data on recent volunteers, but also lapsed volunteers and non-volunteers.


We’ve undertaken research looking at the impact of volunteering on volunteers (pdf, 690KB). Our recent Research Briefing summarises current evidence across four areas: mental health and wellbeing, physical health, social connections, and employability and skills.

Trends and new developments

Our publications such as The Road Ahead and the UK Civil Society Almanac help the sector understand what is happening to volunteering and participation. We also undertake projects examining how people’s engagement is changing in response to external pressures, including our Pathways through Participation research and research examining the concept of micro-volunteering .

Health and social care

We have a particular expertise in undertaking research, evaluation and impact assessment work in all parts of the health and social care field, including completing research with people with multiple and entrenched health conditions. Recent research has examined volunteering and volunteer management in palliative care (Marie Curie Dimbleby Cancer Research Fund, and the Cabinet Office), the contribution of volunteering to care homes (pdf, 290KB), the impact of befriending on people with psychosis (NIHR), the role of peer support volunteering for people with diabetes (University of Cambridge), and evaluations of volunteer programmes within organisations such as the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Carer’s Resource. More recently we have completed a project on volunteering by residents in care homes (pdf, 2.3MB, Abbeyfield Society).

Young people

We’ve undertaken multiple pieces of research and evaluations of initiatives promoting young people’s volunteering, participation and social action. This has included evaluations of programmes and organisations including the youth charity v, City Year UK, vInspired’s vCashpoint programme (pdf, 1.1MB, National Citizen Service, and International Citizen Service . We’ve also worked with the Cabinet Office and Generation Change to support the development of a series of metrics to measure outcomes of youth social action, and currently advise Step Up to Serve on their data collection.

Sport and recreation

We have undertaken research into multiple different aspects of sport activity. We have been working with the Join In Trust over several years to improve their understanding of the impact of their work on sports clubs and participants, are evaluating a major youth leadership programme on behalf of Sports Leaders UK (pdf, 2.3MB), recently completed a review of volunteering trends for StreetGames, and worked with Play England to evaluate their Free Time Consortium programme.

Environment, conservation and heritage

Our work in this field has included high profile evaluations, audits and surveys for organisations including the National Trust, English Heritage, and the Wildlife Trusts. We have also undertaken research on behalf of Natural England and the Countryside Recreation Network to better understand opportunities and challenges facing the field. We recently worked with The Conservation Volunteers to help them understand and develop their volunteer offer, and also undertook research for the Heritage Lottery Fund to examine asset transfer of historic buildings and parks.

Practical support

We are committed to supporting, enabling and celebrating volunteering in all its diversity. We do this through:

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