VSSN turns 25! Join us for an informal celebration event.

Friday 5 March, 16:30-17:30, Zoom

Bring your own glass of wine and nibbles!

Emerging from an ESRC-funded seminar series hosted by the Centre for Voluntary Organisations at LSE, the first meeting of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network was held at the University of Manchester on 6 March 1996. With an emphasis on collegiality and discussion, the Network established a pattern of twice yearly day seminars, providing a space for voluntary sector researchers to share insights and reflections, which continues today. As the field of voluntary sector studies has grown and matured, so too has the Network. Today, it is a formally constituted organisation, has over 100 members, hosts an annual 2-day conference, day seminars, roundtable events, a lively early careers group, and works with Policy Press to publish Voluntary Sector Review. Collegiality remains central.

Join us for an informal celebration of the development of the Network over the past 25 years. We will ask some of the key founding members to reflect back on the founding of VSSN, its development over time, and where it might look to go in the future, and to consider the state of the field of voluntary sector research, what we have collectively learnt and what remains unanswered.

Chair: Rob Macmillan, Technical host: Angela Ellis Paine

Panellists: Peter Halfpenny; Pete Alcock; Margaret Harris; Chris Cornforth; Cathy Pharoah; Colin Rochester; Meta Zimmeck; Gareth Morgan; Mike Aiken; Helen Cameron; Marilyn Taylor and Jane Cullingworth

We hope you can join in the celebration! To register, please complete the form below. We will confirm with a Zoom link.

Income Tax Relief on Annual Subscriptions

Members will be pleased to know that they can now claim tax relief on their membership subscriptions as from the 3rd December 2020. VSSN’s name will now appear in the list of approved bodies on Gov.UK. ( Remember to claim it when completing your tax returns.

Lockdown number 3

Just to keep you all up to date – the VSSN office is open and operating as usual to provide support for members. A programme of events is being organised by the Steering Group for 2021 and our research repository is available for members to keep recording the work you’re all producing during this time to be shared with others. Please get in touch if we can help.

IVR hosts free half day on line seminar

IVR hostS free half day online webinar

On 20 November 2020, IVR hosted a free half day online webinar for the Voluntary Sector Studies Network with fabulous speakers from Newman University, Leeds Beckett University, UEA and from volunteer involving organisations in Norwich. Volunteering in Health and Social Care in the context of COVID-19: making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand. We’re delighted to provide the recording from session one and session two of this event.

Please use the links below:

Success of our first on line Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference

Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research e-Conference 2020

For two days over 7th-8th September the annual Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research (VSVR) Conference was held online. For more than 20 years the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has partnered with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) to run this conference and this year the Birmingham Voluntary Sector Centre for Voluntary Action (BVSC) also joined this collaborative effort.

The theme of this first e-conference was ‘‘Times like these’: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from COVID-19’ and we were really pleased at the response from practitioners and academics presenting up-to-date research on the current situation and recovery from the pandemic. The programme comprised two plenaries and two sessions on each of four themes, a session with the Editors of Voluntary Sector Review and two book launches.

Professor Tracey Coule and Associate Professor Chris Dayso launched the conference by considering theoretical frames to consider civil society’s responses to Covid-19. Themes that emerged included the way we frame civil society-government relationships and mutual aid groups, which indeed became recurring themes throughout the conference. These themes, as well as how civil society organisations have reformed and changed their practice, were also carried forward to the plenary on Day 2 with presentations by Karl Wilding (NCVO)   Anna Fowlie (Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations) Brian Carr (BVSC) & Affan Cheema (Islamic Relief Worldwide). Carolyn Cordery who chaired the session ably assisted by Jon Dean.

A focus on volunteer mobilisation to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic brought papers from England, Scotland, Wales and British Columbia. And, while much mobilisation depends on organisations, the pandemic has seen returns to neighbourly volunteering and the geography of voluntary action being disrupted. The second volunteering session focused more on the experience of volunteering during the pandemic, from volunteer and organisational perspectives .

Philanthropy, fundraising and funding issues were the topic of session 1a and to some extent the cross-cutting issues in Session 3b. The research presented in these sessions was very varied, considering issues such as financial vulnerability and good grant making, the effects of furloughing on fundraisers, as well as governance, the role of local infrastructure and how social services data can help researchers understand Covid-19 responses.

As Covid-19 has had such a huge impact on society, it was unsurprising that two sessions discussed research taking ‘micro, meso and macro perspectives’ on voluntary organisations and Covid-19. Again with papers from England and Scotland, these sessions considered responses from local and national organisations working with homelessness, criminal justice, poverty and community businesses, as well as highlighting the lived experience of people.

Picking up the theme of mutual aid, two sessions considered both the conceptual insights and those from the frontline. These focussed on such issues as democratic participation, the influence of international responses on local mutual aid groups, neighbourhoods and umbrella organisations.

While we missed being able to chat to each other and presenters physically, as we would have done in a physical conference, the e-conference was a great experience and opportunity to share cutting edge research with a wider range of people than would otherwise have been possible, both engaging people who are physically distant from the UK and through social media. The sessions were recorded and can be found at: The next VSVR Conference is scheduled for 6th-7th September 2021 in Birmingham. We hope to see you there!






Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) AGM & Online Day Conference, 20th November 2020, 12:15

Volunteering in Health and Social Care in the context of COVID-19: making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand.

VSSN’s next day conference will take place on 20th November 2020, hosted by the Institute for Volunteering Research at University of East Anglia in Norwich. We will explore volunteering in health and social care in the context of COVID-19, considering the opportunities and challenges encountered in a complex landscape of rising demand and the difference volunteering makes.

Pressures are growing on volunteer-involving organisations, locally based community organisations and social enterprises to respond to increasing and diverse demands for volunteers to provide health and social care services in the context of COVID-19. These range from national campaigns to recruit large numbers of new volunteers for a variety of new tasks and settings, to the need for social prescribing and increased community involvement.

This day conference specifically aims to explore:

  • the current context of volunteering in health and social care,
  • the current policy drivers
  • new and innovative approaches now being promoted to deal with demand,
  • what difference volunteering makes to health and social care, volunteers, volunteer involving organisations and wider society.



12:15 – 12:45 Annual General Meeting

Volunteering in Health and Social Care in the context of COVID-19:
making a difference in a complex landscape of rising demand

12:45 – 13:00 Participants log in

13:00 – 13:10 Welcome and Introduction (Ali Body)

13:10 – 14:00 What is it like to volunteer in health and social care under COVID-19?

What is it like to volunteer?
A Phenomenological insight, investigating the relationship between volunteers and their organisations.
Carol Hebden & Dr Paul McDonald, Newman University.

The view from my window.
Practice insights from ‘Come singing’ and ‘Music Mirrors’ of volunteering under COVID-19.
Heather Edwards

14:00 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 15:20 The link between volunteering and health inequalities under COVID-19?

Disconnected discourses about Patient and Public Involvement and Volunteer Involvement in English health and social care.
Professor Fiona Poland, University of East Anglia

Move at the speed of trust:
Mobilisation of volunteering in the context of health inequalities and need.
Professor Jane South, Leeds Beckett University

15:20 – 15:30 Short Break

15:30 – 15:50 Speaker Panel with questions from chat room

15:50 – 16:00 Closing and Thank you. (Jurgen Grotz)

Bookings are still open.

Attending the event

VSSN aims to promote an understanding of the UK voluntary sector through research. The event is aimed at researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations or foundations interested in the UK voluntary sector. We also welcome policymakers and practitioners engaged in relevant fields. We are always pleased to meet and receive contributions from colleagues in similar settings in other countries. The working language is English.



Steering Group elections 2020

Opportunities to become more involved with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network and Voluntary Sector Review 

Would you like to support the work of VSSN more actively? Do you have ideas about how you’d like to see the network develop?

If so, please consider nominating yourself for a place on either or both of:

  • the VSSN Steering Group
  • the Editorial Management Board of Voluntary Sector Review, the journal produced by VSSN with Policy Press.

VSSN is a volunteer-led organisation and its success relies very much on the commitment, time and energy of members of these two groups. 

VSSN Steering Group (SG)

This year there are three vacancies on the Steering Group.

The term of office is normally three years in the first instance. The maximum term allowed by the constitution is six consecutive years. Being a member of the Steering Group means also becoming a trustee of the VSSN.

Specific roles on the Steering Group are allocated by agreement after the election. Roles include Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and leading on, for example, membership and marketing, day seminars and the annual conference.

What are we looking for in a member of the SG? Commitment to VSSN and its continued success is the most important quality, but this year we are also keen to encourage self-nominations from members with skills/experience in accountancy/ numeric analysis, event organization and membership development.    We also want to improve the diversity of the Steering Group and would welcome interest from under represented groups who can bring lived experience which may be of value to our Network.

Details of existing Steering Group members and their roles can be found at VSR Editorial Management Board (EMB)

This year there are two vacancies for the VSR Editorial Management Board (EMB). The term of office is three years in the first instance, with an opportunity to stand for another three-year term.

The role of the EMB is to:

  • support the editorial team (currently Daiga Kamerade, Carl Milofsky and James Rees)
  • ensure that high editorial standards are maintained
  • represent VSSN in working with the publisher, Policy Press
  • ensure the journal is produced in accordance with the Publisher’s Agreement.

Additional roles

If you would like to be more involved but don’t want to join the Steering Group or Editorial Management Board, there are other voluntary roles which are equally valuable and help us develop our networks and activities. For example, we are currently looking for:

  • people to join our ‘small grants committee’
  • people to join a new team we are setting up to help shortlist the best paper award at next year’s Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference
  • a volunteer to moderate the VSSN email discussion list – an important role but not an onerous one which would only take a few minutes of your time each week and full training will be available if required.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these roles please contact Jane Cullingworth on You must be a current member of VSSN.

If you have any questions about the self-nomination process or would like a copy of a nomination form, you can find the forms here (please complete the forms by pasting into a word document and sending by email) or please contact us by email via We look forward to receiving your nomination forms soon. Nominations close on Friday 23rd October.

Agenda for Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work seminar: Thursday, 22nd October.

Emotion and Feelings in Voluntary Sector Work

(supported by a VSSN development grant)

Seminar 1: 10.15am – 3.30pm, 22nd October 2020


Speakers with discussion and questions in each session


Free at the point of delivery! For students, researchers, practitioners, activists


To receive Zoom details please register your interest on:


10.15 Networking and coffee (bring your own!)


10.30 Welcome and Introductions


11.00 Session 1 keynote speaker and Q&A: Emotions in Managing Volunteers

Keynote speaker: ‘Emotions in Managing Volunteers’ and toolkit ‘Working with Volunteers’ developed with the National Trust.

Professor Anne-Marie Greene, University of Leicester School of Business




11.45 Session 2 presentations and Q&A: Leadership and emotions in voluntary sector work

‘Building workplace democracy: leadership as embodied dissent’

Conor Twyford, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation


‘Women Leaders and Philanthropy’  Paper and Panel discussion

Rachel McGrath, Northamptonshire Community Foundation


12.45 Lunch


13.15 Session 3 presentations and Q&A: Volunteering and emotions in the voluntary sector

‘Frustrated by ‘moaning members’: a study of volunteers in associational golf clubs’ Chris Mills, Manchester Metropolitan University


‘Emergency volunteers: how to help those who help us’

Craig Needham, H M Coastguard and Bournemouth University


‘Examining the motivations and emotions linked to the formation of a Voluntary sewing group formed in response to Covid-19’.

Beverley Glibert, University of Worcester


2.15 Break


2.25 Session 4: Stories and place in the voluntary sector

‘Storytelling, Strategies, and Success: The Case of the Reproductive Rights Movement in Ireland’


Dr. Sheila Cannon, Alexandra Lamb and, Dr. Paloma Raggo, Trinity College Dublin, Carleton University, Carleton University


‘What is it like to volunteer? A Phenomenological insight, investigating the relationship between volunteers and their organisations.’

Carol Hebden and Dr Paul McDonald, Newman University




What next?




VSSN’s repository for research on Covid-19 and voluntary action

As part of VSSN’s goal to help maximise the visibility and impact of Voluntary Sector focussed research, we are collating research projects which focus on VCS and volunteering responses to, recovery from and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had a great response, and there are 18 studies to explore on this page.

If you would like your project to be visible on the VSSN website, please fill in the form here. It would be great to hear about projects in development as well as those in progress, as this should help to reduce any risk of duplication and open up possibilities of collaboration.

Read more and submit your research project here.