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Volunteer wellbeing: what works and who benefits?

Research & Learning

A comprehensive review of volunteering evidence carried out by What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the Institute for Volunteering Research at the University of East Anglia, and Spirit of 2012.

Most people in Great Britain, around seven in ten, formally volunteer through a group, club or organisation at some point in their lives. Currently, one in five people volunteer at least once a month and most get involved locally in their own neighbourhoods. Many more give their time in more informal ways in communities, for example, shopping or caring for neighbours.

There’s little doubt that volunteers offer invaluable support. But how can volunteering help support the wellbeing of volunteers themselves? There is a growing body of research on the links between volunteering and wellbeing.

This comprehensive review of evidence, published in 2020 was funded by Spirit to bring the most relevant studies together in one place. Carried out by What Works Centre for Wellbeing working with the Institute of volunteering Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the review focused on the experience of adult formal volunteers, and looked at the key factors involved in improving wellbeing through volunteering.

The review, which sifted through over 17,000 reports and papers is ideal for people who are responsible for designing, delivering and managing volunteering services and activities. A detailed Theory of Change shows how and why volunteering can lead to changes in subjective wellbeing and Evidence into Action shows how the learning can be applied to volunteering in practice.