Journal Article

Reframing the practice of volunteering as a collective endeavour through a focal brand community


Purpose: Nonprofit organisations (NPOs) are an increasingly fundamental part of our society. Meeting rising demand requires NPOs to attract enough resources, especially volunteers, to enable service delivery. This paper adopts a novel theoretical lens to reframe this marketing challenge to inform practice and extend theory. Design/method/approach: Practice-based exploration of a volunteer-enabled NPO, parkrun, through depth interviews and secondary source analysis. Findings: The research identified that the brand community connects volunteers through three inter-connected levels. The big idea of parkrun, the focal brand, resonated with people through being ‘on their wavelength’, something they believed in. The local, physical event meant engagement was ‘on their patch’, anchored in place. Finally, the brand community enables people to volunteer ‘on their terms’, with fluid roles and flexible levels of commitment. Practical implications: Clear recommendations for practice include the opportunity to integrate service beneficiary with service delivery enabler (volunteer) to strengthen the implicit social contract, increasing participation to deepen the social identity felt towards the brand, and key practices that reduce barriers to volunteering. Research limitations/implications: Not all NPOs have service beneficiaries who are able to volunteer, services with different volunteering roles, or operate through a local physical presence.  However, taking a focal brand approach, to consider the brand community through which people volunteer for an NPO, the practices that reinforce that community, and how to offer volunteers significantly greater flexibility of both role and commitment presents an opportunity for NPOs to rethink how volunteering works for them in the future.

Attached files


Mitchell, Sarah-Louise

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford Brookes Business School


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-10-25

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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