Voluntary Sector Review

An international journal of third sector research, policy & practice

  • Editors

    Rob Macmillan (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

    Carl Milofsky (Bucknell University, USA)

    Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland)

  • Frequency

    Three issues per annum: March, July and November

  • ISSN

    2040-8056 (print)

    2040-8064 (online)

VSSN logoVoluntary 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 the 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. 

The 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, the 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.

What people are saying about Voluntary Sector Review

"VSR has shown itself, in only a few brief years, as the premier global journal on  theory in our developing field." Jon Van Til, Executive Secretary, Civil Society Design Network, and Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Community Development, Rutgers University

"The importance attached to the voluntary sector in European welfare states has continued to grow. Voluntary Sector Review's wide scope and European focus is most welcome." Jane Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science 

"In a world where it's heads down, deliver the mission, Voluntary Sector Review provides a much-needed space to reflect. The sector, and the world around it, is changing: the Voluntary Sector Review helps us deal with that change." Karl Wilding, Head of Research, NCVO

"When the research community is expanding rapidly, the sector's role in practice is developing and policy makers are taking an ever closer interest, the launch of this journal is excellent news." Nicholas Deakin, Emeritus Professor, University of Birmingham

"I am impressed by the growing number of researchers in the field, whether it's known as the voluntary sector, the nonprofit sector, the not-for-profit sector or the social economy. It is also striking to see many scholars entering the field through social enterprises and social entrpreneurship routes. Voluntary Sector Review is a major opportunity for many of those researchers to learn about the contribution to the field." Jacques Defourny, Centre for the Social Economy, University of Liege, Belgium, President of the EMES European Research Network


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, and Proquest bibliographic databases.

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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.

The Voluntary Sector Review is an international peer review journal published by Policy Press in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). A unique feature of the 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 guide 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 the Voluntary Sector Review:

Christopher Dayson, Dayson@shu.ac.uk and Anna Visser, anna@annavisser.ie

VSR Management Board January 2018Editorial Management Board
Rob Macmillan (Co-Editor) Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Carl Milofsky (Co-Editor) Bucknell University, USA
Nick Acheson (Co-Editor) University of Ulster, UK

Tracey Coule, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Chris Dayson (Practice Papers Editor), Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Jonathan Dean, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Eddy Hogg (Social Media Editor), University of Kent, UK
Daiga Kamerade, (Chair of Editorial Boards), University of Birmingham, UK
Feilim O'hAdhmaill, University College Cork, Ireland
Cathy Pharaoh (Policy Reviews Editor), Cass Business School, City University, London, UK 
James Rees (Book Review Editor), University of Birmingham, UK 
Anna Visser (Practice Papers Editor)
Georg von Schnurbein (Regional Associate Editor – Europe), Universität Basel, Switzerland
Julia Mortimer (Publisher), Policy Press, UK
International Editorial Advisory Board
Rene Bekkers, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Carlo Borzaga, University of Trento, Italy
Bronwen Dalton, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Jacques Defourny, University of Liege, Belgium
Alnoor Ebrahim, Harvard Business School, USA
Angela Eikenberry, University of Nebraska Omaha, USA
Adalbert Evers, Heidelberg University, Germany
Benjamin Gidron, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Michael Hall, YMCA of Greater Toronto, Canada
Ewa Les, Warsaw University, Poland
Kym Madden, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Lucas Meijs, Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Marthes Nyssens, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Steven Rathgeb Smith, University of Washington, USA
Filip Wijkström, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Annette Zimmer, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany

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 (PDF)
Contact Us


What are looking for?
Research articles: Normally no longer than 8000 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 inquiry, 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.
Practice and Policy papers: 2000–3500 words, including abstract (75 words maximum), keywords and references.

Practice papers are short contributions from practitioners commenting on governance, management, fundraising or operational issues, including case studies or examples of change and development within their own organisations, lessons learned and wider practice implications. Read our Guide to preparing Practice Papers.

Policy review articles should provide information about and comment on recent changes or new initiatives within the UK policy environment or within other comparable national or regional policy contexts, including formal proposals from government or policy ideas emanating from think tanks and voluntary sector agencies. The reviews should set out the context and purposes of the policy, describe its content (making reference to key documents or legislation) and comment both on its strengths and weaknesses and on its implications or significance for the voluntary sector. Where appropriate, reviews should include examples or case studies, and draw briefly on any relevant research, voluntary sector or other literature.
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 twelve months. 

Book reviews: Books for review should be sent to James Rees, Book Review Editor, Voluntary Sector Review, Third Sector Research Centre, School of Social Policy, Muirhead Tower, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2RT, UK, +44 (0)121 414 8975, j.e.rees@bham.ac.uk.
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How to Submit
All submissions should be made online at the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Manager website: http://vsr.edmgr.com, 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.

Submissions must be completely anonymised and uploaded without preliminary details, such as title, author, affiliations, abstract or keywords in the text file. All submissions will be subject to anonymous peer-review processes (unless stated otherwise) by referees currently working in the appropriate field.

The editors aim to provide quick decisions and to ensure that submission to publication takes the minimum possible time. Please note: submissions that, in the opinion of the editors, have not been anonymised for review will be returned to authors. The final decision on publication rests with the managing editors.

For help submitting an article via Editorial Manager, please view our online tutorial.
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Copyright & 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
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  • 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).
  • Further guidance may be found in the Policy Press editorial guidelines
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A custom version of the Harvard system of referencing is used:
  • 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. Do not include dates of access to websites
  • Spell out all acronyms in 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, 449–73
Example of website reference
House of Commons Debates, 2010, Work and pensions (CSR), Hansard, 4 November, col 337WH, 
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English Language Editing Service
Policy Press collaborates with Enago to provide Academic English editing and translation services to help authors get their manuscript submission-ready. A special 20% discount is available for all Policy Press authors. Find out more at: https://www.enago.com/policypress/.
Contact Us
If you have queries regarding the submission process, please email the Voluntary Sector Review office for assistance: VSRoffice@vssn.org.uk.
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