Skip to content

Sustained volunteering needed to help communities recover from pandemic

A study into the impact of volunteering on community belonging has highlighted the importance of social relationships in sustaining the upswing in volunteering observed during Covid-19 to promote individual well-being and community recovery.

Young woman smiling
Volunteers identified strongly with their communities and reported a greater sense of personal well-being

The research, led by members of Nottingham Trent University’s Groups, Identities and Health Research Group, focuses on the role of community belonging and community relationships in motivating and sustaining volunteering and the impact of volunteering in the community on health and well-being.

The two-study project involved a survey of more than 500 volunteers and non-volunteers and in-depth interviews with 53 volunteers.

Results showed that volunteers identified significantly more strongly with their community, felt more supported within their community, and reported a greater personal sense of well-being.

The findings highlight the ways in which volunteering can provide psychological benefits both directly through the giving of help and support, and indirectly by providing a psychological sense of social support, safety, and collective resilience in the face of potential adversity.

For many participants, the social and community support element of volunteering makes it an essential community resource, with implications for people’s personal and collective well-being.

Dr Mhairi Bowe, senior lecturer in Social Psychology and Mental Health at NTU’s School of Social Sciences and lead researcher, said: “Although we carried out this research before the pandemic, understanding the drivers behind why people volunteer, and what makes that volunteering long-lasting and rewarding, is now even more critical for the recovery of communities. The UK experienced a huge surge in volunteers during the Covid-19 lock down but as we start to return to some sort of normality, circumstances will naturally change and it’s important not to lose this volunteering momentum to the detriment of communities.

“Our data suggest that community relationships and the deep sense of commitment that residents often feel towards their community act as powerful motivators for volunteering.

“Cohesive community relationships not only create the conditions that drive people to help, but they also sustain volunteering over time, making the experience rewarding for volunteers and beneficial for communities. These interconnected communities are vital in ensuring the decisive local responses needed for effective management of the pandemic.

“By appreciating the complex links between social identity and volunteering, we can begin to address crucial issues such as how to ensure that such behaviour remains sustained as communities deal with the long-term effects of the pandemic and look towards recovery.”

The full paper A Social Cure in the Community: A mixed-method exploration of the role of social identity in the experiences and well-being of community volunteers has been published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

More information on the research team’s research, publications, knowledge exchange and service evaluation projects is available on the NTU Social Identity Research Group website.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

    A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2020 National Student Survey, above the sector average of 83%.

Sustained volunteering needed to help communities recover from pandemic

Published on 20 July 2020
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418