Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Introducing the voluntary sector
Introducing the voluntary sector

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.


Course glossary

Browse the glossary using this index

Special | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | ALL

Page:  1  2  3  4  5  6  (Next)



Required to justify decisions or actions to others, e.g. stakeholders or service users.


The power to enforce rules or to give orders that are likely to be obeyed.


Degree of freedom from control or influence to make own decisions and choices, e.g. organisational autonomy, managerial or employee.



Compares organisational processes and performance against other organisations i.e. best practice. One example is People Count, an annual study conducted into human resource and workforce measures.


Case studies

Studies of particular issues, places or events. Case studies are regularly used in research.

Change and continuity

Change highlights those aspects of society that differ over time; continuity refers to those aspects of society that stay the same over time.


Organisations set up to provide help and raise money for those in need (people, animals, environmental and other causes).

See also registered charity.

Charity Commission

An organisation that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland fulfils the same role in Northern Ireland and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator does so in Scotland.

Civil society

A alternative term for the voluntary sector, although this definition goes beyond the organisations and includes people coming together by various means in order to develop civic values and skills in order to create a better society.


A group of people living in the same place and/or having characteristics or interests in common.

Community cohesion

‘A state of harmony or tolerance between people from different backgrounds living within a community. It is linked to the concept of social capital and the idea that if we know our neighbours and contribute to community activity then we are more likely to look out for each other, increase cohesion and minimise the cost of dependency and institutional care.’ (The Institute of Community Cohesion)

Community sector

An alternative term for the voluntary sector.


A written agreement enforceable by law. In the context of the voluntary sector, it usually relates to a specification for service delivery between a voluntary organisation and local or central government.



Relates to difference. In the context of working with others, diversity relates to recognising, respecting and valuing differences between people.


Employer-supported volunteering

Organisations support their staff to volunteer, perhaps through giving them time off for individual volunteering, by developing programmes within the organisation or through partnerships with voluntary organisations.


Giving power or authority to others but also encouraging them to take power and equipping them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to take the power.


Family foundation

An independent registered charitable trust originally funded through a family’s wealth. Many foundations continue to have the family’s active involvement as managers or trustees. The foundation can be large or small. Examples include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Volant Trust (founded by J.K. Rowling).



Control access to people, information or organisations.


In terms of organisations, this refers to all aspects of controlling, managing and leading organisations. It can also be applied to the national level and includes government and other institutions and authorities that run the country.


A type of subsidy given to a voluntary organisation by funders such as government, other voluntary organisations or private sector organisations. Organisations usually apply for grants through an application process and it is usually for specified activities.

Gross Value Added (GVA)

A measure of economic output for individual parts of a national economy.



Identity can be used at different levels, e.g. personal, group, team or organisational identity. Personal identity refers to a person’s sense of self – who you think you are – and how society perceives you. Group, team and organisational identities are types of collective identity – how these groups develop a sense of shared identity as well as how outsiders perceive them.


To have an effect on or change someone’s behaviour or views. People who influence often have power derived from their position or wealth. Influence in the context of leadership often refers to change without obvious force.


In the context of volunteering, an intern is someone who works, often without pay, to gain work experience or as part of a qualification. Doing an internship is increasingly commonplace amongst graduates in private, public and voluntary organisations.


Labour Force Survey

The largest household survey in the UK, it covers both employment and unemployment. It is carried out by the Office for National Statistics.


Multi-organisational partnerships

Different organisations within the same or different sectors working together to achieve common goals. They may involve short- or long-term projects and involve small or substantial budgets. In some cases, the partnerships become new integrated organisations.



An alternative term for the voluntary sector, which is used to distinguish it from the public/government sector.


An alternative term for the voluntary sector, which highlights that voluntary organisations do not seek to make a profit for shareholders as in the private sector. Profits can be made but they are reinvested within the organisation.


Expected social behaviour within groups or society as a whole.

Not for profit

An alternative term for the voluntary sector.


Organisational culture

 A set of shared assumptions and values within an organisation. A ‘strong’ organisational culture is believed to motivate employees and improve their performance. It refers to how people dress, act or carry out their jobs, and how they relate to each other and the outside world.



Philanthropy literally means a ‘love of humanity’, so philanthropists are generally people who give large sums of money to improve others’ welfare and well-being.


Literally a ‘love of humanity’. It usually refers to people giving large sums of money to improve others’ welfare and well-being.


A complex term used to denote influence, control or domination.


Creating a professional structure for an organisation through new systems, procedures, training and so on in order to improve confidence and the status of the organisation and its staff (and volunteers). The voluntary sector developed a set of National Occupational Standards for its managers.


Qualitative data

Information gathered from research using interviews, photos, film, diaries and so on. The data tends to be visual or written rather than numerical.


Registered charity

This is a charity that meets the legal definition of a charity and then registers with the charity commission for their nation (there are separate charity commissions for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Not all charities are registered and very small ones are not eligible to register.

Research method

A particular way of studying something. Examples of research methods include interviews, surveys, focus groups, analysis of documents and so on. Research methods can be quantitative (involving numbers through surveys) or qualitative (finding out about people’s experiences and how they make sense of the world).


Social capital

The trust, connections, bonds or ties between people in a particular place, as well as the networks or organisations that bring people together. Where social capital is deemed to be low, people are perceived to be alienated and levels of prosperity and economic growth are also low. Voluntary organisations often aim to improve social capital in the areas where they work.

Social cohesion

People in society feel integrated, included, and have a shared sense of belonging.

Social enterprise

A business with social objectives and where surpluses are reinvested to achieve these objectives. Social enterprises aim to generate income from the service they provide. They are also usually eligible to apply for funding in the same way as voluntary organisations.

Social value

This relates to wider benefits to society beyond financial measures and now forms part of many government contracts, i.e. organisations have to demonstrate and calculate their impact on local communities or the environment not just their ‘value for money’.

Social welfare

This refers to services provided for those in need in order to improve quality of life and living conditions. Examples include day centres for elderly people; after school clubs for children with disabilities; general care services; help with drug abuse and so on. Within the UK, much of this help is organised by government through social services departments, although the organisations providing the actual help may be drawn from public, private or voluntary sectors.

Socio-economic position

The position of an individual or a group based on a range of factors, including occupation, income level, education and cultural background.


A person, a group or an organisation that has an interest in an organisation.


Third sector

An alternative term for the voluntary sector.


Organisations being open about what they do, what they spend money on, what they pay their staff, general recruitment and working practices, and so on. Being transparent helps to build trust in an organisation.


People who give their time for free to lead or steer voluntary organisations. Trustees usually specialise in different areas such as finance, fundraising, management, marketing and so on. They set the strategy and overall direction for the organisation and work in conjunction with paid staff and operational volunteers.



Encompasses all elements of supporting and funding voluntary organisations.

Voluntary action

A term sometimes used to refer to the voluntary sector, although it focuses less on the idea of a coherent sector and more on the people, organisations and activities carried out.


Was first coined in the 1970s and refers to the act of volunteering in the local community, voluntary organisations as well as other public or private organisations involving volunteers.


Welfare state

The UK is considered to have a welfare state, i.e. where government takes responsibility for health and social care for all its citizens. It was originally perceived as a system whereby services would be provided free and paid for by national insurance: the concept of free services has been eroded over the decades since it was first conceived in the Beveridge Report of 1942.

Windrush generation

Denotes a defining moment of post-war mass migration of people from the Caribbean to the UK. The term comes from the British ship SS Empire Windrush, which arrived in Essex in 1948 with the first group of Caribbean migrants.

Page:  1  2  3  4  5  6  (Next)