Voluntary Sector Review

An international journal of third sector research, policy and practice

Voluntary Sector Studies Network

Voluntary Sector Review is published by Policy Press in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). It publishes accessible, high-quality peer-reviewed papers on all aspects of the voluntary, community, civil society and third sectors.

A unique feature of Voluntary Sector Review is the combination of papers aimed at academic, policy and practice audiences. This is designed to ensure that the results of the latest academic research are made available to the widest possible audience and are grounded in a close engagement with both policy and practical issues. Read more

Frequency: March, July and November

Restricted access

Aims and scope
Abstracting and indexing 
Best Article Prize
Contact us

Aims and scope

Voluntary Sector Review is published by Policy Press in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). It publishes accessible, high-quality peer-reviewed papers on all aspects of the voluntary, community, civil society and third sectors. A unique feature of Voluntary Sector Review is the combination of papers aimed at academic, policy and practice audiences. This is designed to ensure that the results of the latest academic research are made available to the widest possible audience and are grounded in a close engagement with both policy and practical issues. 

Voluntary Sector Review is an explicitly interdisciplinary and international journal  the first to be European based. We welcome contributions from authors from all disciplines and all countries. We are interested in all aspects of voluntary, community, civil society and third-sector activity. 

The scope of submissions includes, but is not limited to, such topics as the origins and nature of volunteering, the experiences of user groups, social activism, social movements, philanthropy, the growth and performance of charitable foundations, community organisations, social enterprises, and the relationship between voluntary organisations and the state. 

Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically grounded, theoretically informed and policy-relevant analyses of the past, present and future of voluntary action.

Abstracting and indexing

Voluntary Sector Review is abstracted in:

  • The Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI)
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS)
  • Scopus
  • Social Care Online
  • The Third Sector Knowledge Portal
  • Proquest bibliographic databases

Best Voluntary Sector Review Article Prize

We are delighted to announce the winners of the inaugural Best Voluntary Sector Review Article Prize.

The prize was awarded to Yongzheng Yang and Pamala Wiepking for their paper ‘Party membership and charitable giving in China: the mediating role of resources, networks, pro social values and making compulsory donations’.

Yang and Wiepking impressed the review committee with their paper's originality, accessibility and contribution to knowledge. 

The winning article was announced at the 2021 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research conference in Birmingham. This award is sponsored by the VSSN and Policy Press. Winners receive a £250 cash prize from VSSN and £250 in book vouchers from Policy Press. 


“As an academic I am forced to be selective when it comes to reading, and I often choose to spend the time I have reading contributions to the Voluntary Sector Review.” 

Adalbert Evers, Senior Fellow, Heidelberg University, Germany

Voluntary Sector Review publishes outstanding research for academic, policy and practice audiences. I especially appreciate VSR’s efforts to publish work from a variety of research paradigms and perspectives.”

Angela M. Eikenberry, Professor of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA

Contact us

Editorial enquiries:
The Voluntary Sector Review office: VSRoffice@vssn.org.uk

Open Access, subscriptions and free trials:
Policy Press: pp-journals@bristol.ac.uk

Read our instructions for authors for guidance on how to prepare your submissions. The instructions include the following: 

What are we looking for?
How to submit
English language editing service
Open Access
Self-archiving and institutional repositories
How to maximise the impact of your article
Contact us

Visit our journal author toolkit for resources and advice to support you through the publication process and beyond.

What are we looking for?

Research articles: Normally no longer than 8,000 words, including abstract (150 words maximum), notes, tables, figures and references.
Articles may cover research and analysis of any part of the voluntary sector or the third sector and civil society more generally and may include scholarly enquiry, research findings and applied analysis of relevance to practitioners and decision makers. Contributions about research methods, especially those aimed at improving third sector research practice, are also welcome. A research article is more likely to be accepted for publication if it:

  • Starts with a clear statement of the issue that it addresses, together with an explanation of why the issue is of interest to and important for readers of Voluntary Sector Review;
  • Embeds the issue it addresses in the relevant literature, reviewing the most important and influential previous work that bears directly on it;
  • As appropriate, sets out the theoretical perspective or policy context or practice environment that informs the article;
  • Where empirical findings are reported, describes the sample design, primary or secondary data collection methods and analysis techniques used in sufficient detail for the reader to be able to understand how to the study might be replicated;
  • Where prior literature rather than, or as well as, empirical study provides the basis for the article, explains how that literature was selected and reviewed;
  • Systematically sets out the key findings relevant to the issue addressed in the article, relating them to previous work covered in the literature review;
  • Identifies to what extent and in what ways the findings and discussion contribute to new empirical knowledge about and/or better theoretical understanding of the voluntary sector;
  • Considers the limitations of the study and the implications these have for the conclusions;
  • Teases out the implications for future research, policy or practice; 
  • Considers whether there are implications for countries beyond that which is the primary focus of the article.

Policy and Practice papers: 3,000–4,000 words, including abstract (75 words maximum), keywords and references.
Policy and practice papers are short contributions from researchers, policy makers and practitioners discussing policy developments, research findings or practical insights that will be of relevance and value for policy makers and practitioners. For more information read our Guide to preparing practice papers.

Research notes: 2,0004,000 words.
Research notes may follow a less strict paper structure than full papers but still need to make a contribution to voluntary sector studies. They must have an abstract, use standard referencing and their formatting must adhere to the style set out below.

Research notes are scientifically valid research outputs that cannot be considered as full research or methodology articles. Research notes can present intriguing initial and/or time-sensitive observations or a novel idea, advance a new idea, theoretical perspective, methodological approach or data or publish a brief summary of a study that is usually difficult to publish (e.g. with non-significant results), or any other scientific contribution in a short format.

The aim of research notes is to encourage debate in voluntary sector studies. Therefore, when writing a research note, it is important that the author(s) are clear on what kind of contribution they want to make to the field of voluntary sector studies, that they present a clear argument and that they bring in a novel view to the attention of the journal’s readers. The role of the research note is thus to serve as a form of incubator for new thinking in the field of voluntary sector studies. Research notes can also be invited by the editorial team.

In general, research notes will be peer reviewed using following criteria: suitability for the VSR, contribution to the field, scientific rigour, strength and clarity of the argument, urgency and international relevance.

Comment and Debate papers: up to 2,000 words (no abstract)
The Comment and Debate section is designed to enable authors from policy, practice and academia to contribute to topical debates in a more responsive way by, for example: commenting on key policy developments affecting the voluntary sector and volunteering; commenting on current debates in practice (including media/social media) associated with the voluntary sector and volunteering; provoking new debates within and between academics, practitioners and policy makers on issues and challenges affecting the voluntary sector and volunteering. Comment and debate pieces should be academically informed but policy and practice relevant and speak directly to the concerns of the sector in a way that is accessible and amenable to public debate.

To facilitate a quick turn around these papers will not be subject to external peer review but will receive rigorous scrutiny and comment from at least two members of the Editorial Team.

Book reviews:
Books for review should be sent to:
Eddy Hogg, Book Reviews Editor, Voluntary Sector Review, Room CNE 110, Cornwallis North East SSPSSR, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF.
Tel: +44 (0) 1227 82 7328. Email: E.Hogg@kent.ac.uk

In all sections, contributions are welcome from the UK, and also from Europe and beyond, especially if they include cross-national comparisons that bear on the UK experience.

All submissions will be subject to normal peer-review processes. The editorial team aim to provide quick decisions and to ensure that submission to publication takes no more than 12 months. 

How to submit

All submissions should be made online at the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Manager website: http://www.editorialmanager.com/vsr/default.aspx.

Editorial Manager

Manuscripts must be in Word or Rich Text Format (not pdf). New users should first create an account, specify their areas of interest and provide full contact details.

Preparing your anonymised manuscript

Your initial submission must consist of the following separate files:

  1. A cover page including: the article title, author name(s) and affiliations (institution affiliation and country only, no department details required), the article abstract (up to 150 words), up to five key words/short phrases and the article word count including references. A cover page template is available to download here.
  2. A fully anonymised manuscript which does not include any of the information included in the cover page. It should not include any acknowledgements, funding details or conflicts of interest that would identify the author(s). References to the author's own work should be anonymised as follows: 'Author's own, [year]'. Please note that submissions that have not been sufficiently anonymised will be returned.
  3. If you have any figures and tables please upload them as separate files at the end of the manuscript. Please indicate where these should be placed in the text by inserting: ‘Figure X here’ and provide numbers, titles and sources where appropriate. 

All authors should comply with the Bristol University Press/Policy Press ethical guidelines.

For help submitting an article via Editorial Manager, please view our online tutorial.

Once a submission has been conditionally accepted, you will be invited to submit a final, non-anonymised version.

Checklist: what to include in your final, accepted non-anonymised manuscript

  1. A cover page including: the article title, author name(s) and affiliations (institution affiliation and country only, no department details required), the article abstract (up to 150 words), up to five key words and the word count.
  2. Funding details: list any funding including the grant numbers you have received for the research covered in your article as follows: 'This work was supported by the [Funding Agency] under Grant [number xxxx].'
  3. Conflict of interest statement: please declare any possible conflicts of interest, or state 'The author(s) declare(s) that there is no conflict of interest' if there are none. Find out more about declaring conflicts of interest in the Bristol University Press/ Policy Press Ethical Guidelines.
  4. Acknowledgements: acknowledge those who have provided you with any substantial assistance or advice with collecting data, developing your ideas, editing or any other comments to develop your argument or text.
  5. Figures and tables: should be included as separate files at the end of the manuscript. Please indicate where these should be placed in the text by inserting: ‘Figure X here’ and provide numbers, titles and sources where appropriate. For advice about less common file formats, please contact dave.j.worth@bristol.ac.uk.
  6. Supplemental data: We recommend that any supplemental data are hosted in a data repository (such as figshare) for maximum exposure, and are cited as a reference in the article.

Copyright and permissions

Articles are considered for publication on the understanding that on acceptance the entire copyright shall pass to Policy Press as publisher of Voluntary Sector Review. Authors will be asked to sign a copyright agreement to this effect. All authors should agree to the copyright assignment. For jointly authored articles the corresponding author may sign on behalf of co-authors provided that s/he has obtained their consent for copyright assignment. When submitting online, the copyright assignment agreement is considered to be signed when the corresponding author checks the relevant box. The copyright assignment agreement can be read here.

Where copyright is not owned by the author(s), the corresponding author is responsible for obtaining the consent of the copyright holder. This includes figures, tables and excerpts. Evidence of this permission should be provided to Policy Press.

General information on rights and permissions can be found here: http://policypress.co.uk/rights-permissions.

To request permission to reproduce any part of articles published in Voluntary Sector Review, please email Policy Press: pp-info@bristol.ac.uk

Please also read our Journals editorial policies and Ethical guidelines.


  • British English spelling and punctuation is preferred.
  • Non-discriminatory language is mandatory.
  • Explanatory notes should be kept to a minimum. If it is necessary to use them, they must be numbered consecutively in the text and listed at the end of the article. Please do not embed notes in the text.
  • Please do not embed bibliographic references in the text, footnotes, live links or macros; the final submitted file should be clear of track changes and ready for print.
  • Tables and charts should be separated from the text and submitted in a Word or Excel file, with their placement in the text clearly indicated by inserting: ‘Table X here’. Please provide numbers, titles and sources (where appropriate).
  • Figures, diagrams and maps should be separated from the text and, ideally, submitted in an Encapsulated PostScript (.eps) file. Figures created in Word or Excel are acceptable in those file formats. If the figures, diagrams and maps are in other formats (i.e. have been pasted into a Word file rather than created in it) please contact dave.j.worth@bristol.ac.uk for advice. Please indicate where figures should be placed in the text, by inserting: ‘Figure X here’ and provide numbers, titles and sources (where appropriate).


Download the Endnote output style for Bristol University Press and Policy Press journals.

Bristol University Press uses a custom version of the Harvard system of referencing:

  • In-text citations: give the author’s surname followed by year of publication in brackets.
  • List all references in full at the end of the article and remove any references not cited in the text.
  • Book and journal titles should be in italics.
  • Website details should be placed at the end of the reference.
  • Spell out all acronyms in the first instance.

Example of book reference:
Dorling, D. (2010) Injustice: Why social inequality persists, Bristol: Policy Press.

Example of journal reference:
Warin, P. (2012) 'Non-demand for Social Rights: A new challenge for social action in France', Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 20(1): 41-53.

Example of chapter within edited / multi-authored publication:
Levitas, R. (2011) 'Utopia Calling: Eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom and beyond', in A. Minujin and S. Nandy (eds), Global Child Poverty and Well-being: Measurement, concepts, policy and action, Bristol, Policy Press. pp. 449-73.

Example of website reference:
Womensaid (2016) What is domestic abuse? https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/.

Editorial Management Board

Daiga Kamerāde, Co-Editor; University of Salford, UK
James Rees, Co-Editor; University of Wolverhampton, UK 
Lili Wang, Co-Editor; Arizona State University, USA

Carl Milofsky, Consulting Editor; Bucknell University, USA

Alison Body, Policy and Practice Editor; University of Kent, UK
Francis Davis, Policy and Practice Editor; Universities of Oxford and Birmingham, UK
Iwona Nowakowska, Policy and Practice Editor; Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education, Poland
Mike Hemmings, York St. John University, UK 
Eddy Hogg, Book Reviews Editor; University of Kent, UK
Feilim O'hAdhmail, Chair of Editorial Boards; University College Cork, Ireland
Georg von Schnurbein, Regional Associate Editor – Europe; Universität Basel, Switzerland
Joanne Vincett, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Julia Mortimer, Publisher; Bristol University Press and Policy Press, UK 

International Editorial Advisory Board

René Bekkers, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Bronwen Dalton, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Angela Eikenberry, University of Nebraska Omaha, USA
Adalbert Evers, Heidelberg University, Germany
Lucas Meijs, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Marthes Nyssens, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Oto Potluka, University of Basel, Switzerland
Steven Rathgeb Smith, American Political Science Association, USA
Annette Zimmer, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany

Open call for practice papers

Do you have lessons to share that would strengthen the work of voluntary sector organisations? If so, publishing a practice paper in the Voluntary Sector Review could be the way for you to make an impact on how these organisations realise their goals.

Voluntary Sector Review is an international peer-reviewed journal published by Policy Press in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). A unique feature of Voluntary Sector Review is the combination of papers aimed at academic, policy and practice audiences.

In order to strengthen the practical impact of academic writing and research, the review actively encourages the submission of specific, focused practice papers.  A practice paper is shorter and less formal than a full academic research paper, and is an opportunity for practitioners and academics to reflect on practice-based learning that could be useful for others working in similar organisations. To find out more about how to write a practice paper, see our instructions for authors.

For further information or to discuss whether your project could be the subject of a practice paper, please contact the Practice Editors at Voluntary Sector Review: Alison Body a.m.body@kent.ac.uk; Francis Davis francistdavis@gmail.com or Iwona Nowakowska insd2@aps.edu.pl

Recommend the journal to your librarian

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2021 Scopus CiteScore: 1.4
Ranking: 173/426 in Social Sciences (miscellaneous) – 59th percentile

2021 Journal Citation Indicator: 0.43
Ranking: 130/263 in Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary