In recent years there has been an increased recognition that philanthropic engagement needs to be understood longitudinally, rather than as a snapshot in time. Much of this work is quantitative, utilising panel data to track groups of individuals over a number of years. In contrast, this article takes a qualitative approach to the study of volunteering over the course of individuals’ and their families’ lives. In doing so, it explores how engagement changes over the lifecourse, and how this impacts volunteer engagement in older age. Understanding this is crucial: volunteering is not an activity that takes place in isolation but rather one that must be situated over time and within a range of other activities. This article uses data from 26 life history interviews conducted in England to develop a heuristic put forward by Davis Smith and Gay (2005), which proposes three categories of older volunteer: constant, serial and trigger volunteers.
The first book of its kind, this volume brings together a range of experts to review key methodological issues in the study of voluntary action, charitable behaviour and participation in voluntary organisations.
Using case studies from around the world – from ethnography to media analysis and surveys to peer research – chapters illustrate the challenges of researching altruistic actions and our conceptualisations of them. Across different fields and methods, authors unpick the methodological innovations and challenges in their own research to help guide future study.
Demystifying research and deepening our ability to understand the role of the third sector, this accessible book is suitable for social researchers at all levels.
In this article we explore the extent and distribution of collective co-production across the single policy area of primary education in England. While much attention has been paid to the virtue of co-production, often drawing on particular, single, case studies, there is less literature exploring the wider impacts. However, ongoing marketisation, fiscal pressures and increased competition in education have led school leaders to turn to co-production as one mechanism for survival, while recognition of some of the potential benefits has led to a surge in efforts to implement co-productive activities. Focusing on collective co-production efforts, this article explores voluntary income data from more than 300 primary schools and their respective Parent Teacher Associations, supported by 70 questionnaires looking at volunteer contributions, which were completed by headteachers, and ten in-depth interviews with headteachers. Our data reveal three significant findings: the extent of collective co-production in primary education is increasing; this activity is driven by fiscal challenges, resulting in schools feeling coerced into co-production, which has wider implications; and this is resulting in increasing inequalities. We conclude with a discussion about what this means for the wider policy agenda.
‘Methodology is destiny’, wrote Rooney, Steinberg and Schervish (2004). As a reflection on their finding that when individuals are given more detailed prompts they better recall their previous charitable giving and volunteering, their three-word phrase sums up a central point about social research: if you ask better questions, you get better answers. Do the methodological groundwork, think through the possibilities, put more in, and you get more out. More impact. More esteem. And, most importantly, more understanding of our social lives and worlds. It seems fascinating therefore, that within the study of voluntary action (more on that term shortly), while the phrase ‘methodology is destiny’ has been applied twice more in our field (Bekkers and Wiepking, 2006; Li, 2017), research into voluntary action rarely seems to engage directly with issues of methodology. Obviously, academic and research debate happens between scholars all the time – discussions around the most appropriate dataset to use, or the best coding software or the right way to phrase a question about giving in a national survey – but methodological debates in the non-profit and voluntary action research networks and published reflection and learning are, in our view, relatively scarce.
This surprising lack of attention was one of the inspirations for putting together this volume on researching voluntary action. While all researchers give focus to methodology when collecting data or conceptualising their studies, considered and detailed methodological reflection and advice is generally lacking in voluntary action research journals (although we note that in the two to three years during which this volume has been in development that landscape has started shifting, with developed Research Note sections and special issues).
As we outlined in the Introduction, this volume is an effort to encourage scholars in the field to focus on methodology rather more than at present. Our hope is that it will start a conversation about how we can best research and understand the myriad different forms of voluntary action across the world. Given the numerous books, journals, articles and reports devoted to exploring new facets of giving, charity and voluntary organisations, it seemed strange to us that methodological debates appear to take place mostly in disciplines rather than the field itself. This book has presented a rich compendium of methodological innovations, and the challenges that different researchers face in gathering, using and explaining their data, in different approaches. By taking the case study approach, we have shone a light on new and modified approaches that leading and emerging scholars are taking in applying different methods to our field. The study and practice of methods is, in our view, very much a lived discipline, as it is much easier to understand and grapple with the use of a methodological approach in practice as opposed to seeing it described as a dry process. Hopefully, the cases presented here will offer inspiration for your work, which in turn abets replication and validity to a new approach, as the twin projects of Dean and Bhati have done.
We have seen calls in the last 10 years, from policy makers and organisations in the voluntary and community sector alike, for particular types of measurement when it comes to the impact of voluntary action.
This practice paper explores the co-production of knowledge in a collaborative PhD studentship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Age UK, which examined the formal volunteering undertaken by older adults in England. Some third sector organisations, especially larger ones such as Age UK, are both producers and users of social science knowledge. In this paper we critically reflect on the co-production of knowledge, and the ways in which both student and supervisors experience the co-creation of knowledge.
Voluntary action has long played a role in state education, with parent–teacher associations being one of the most common forms of charitable organisation in England. However, education policy, driven by a growing free-market discourse and policy initiatives such as localism, is increasingly pushing for greater voluntary action. This article explores the distribution of voluntary action in primary schools in one local authority area in England. Drawing on primary data from 114 questionnaires completed by head teachers and secondary data from the financial records (2013/14) of 380 primary schools, we find evidence of considerable uneven dispersal of voluntary action between schools. These disparities are related to factors including school size, location, leadership ideology and the socioeconomic profile of the school. The consequence of this uneven distribution is that schools catering for more affluent communities are more likely to have additional resources than those with poorer profiles.
This article considers the balance between promoting volunteering in sport by emphasising the personal rewards to prospective volunteers themselves – the dominant management approach – and promoting it by the long-term development of the values of volunteering. We review the motivations and rewards of sports volunteers and how these can be used to promote volunteering as being a transaction between the volunteer and the organisation. This is contrasted with a lifecourse approach to understanding volunteering, and evidence that an understanding of the value of volunteering can be inculcated that underpins continued volunteering. The two approaches regard potential volunteers respectively as ‘consumers’ and as ‘citizens’. We suggest that a shift to treating volunteers as consumers can lead to volunteering being regarded as transactional. The discussion has implications for volunteering in general – in particular, how it can be promoted in a society where narratives of ‘the consumer’ increasingly dominate over those of ‘the citizen’.