Volunteering happens when volunteer energy (willingness, capability and availability to volunteer) and volunteer opportunities (possibility to volunteer) are matched. The objective of this study is to create classifications of volunteer energy and volunteer opportunities, providing a qualitative overview of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that volunteering is facing in the EU.
National volunteering rates can be explained by institutional factors (non-profit arrangements, volunteering discourse and religion) influencing volunteer energy and volunteering infrastructure factors (volunteer profiles, volunteer scenarios and third parties) influencing opportunities. The fact of there being abundant opportunities or a lack thereof is more important than a lack of energy. Volunteer energy is available in most countries, as spontaneous volunteering has repeatedly shown.
The most important conclusion of this research is the pan-European development of two components in the volunteering infrastructure: third party involvement and spontaneous volunteering. Third party involvement consists of corporate volunteering (companies), service learning (educational institutes) and days of service (e.g. the "72 hours without compromise" initiative). Spontaneous volunteering is driven by social media enabling individuals to self-organise. Especially in countries lacking a volunteering tradition, these new volunteer profiles and volunteer scenarios are attractive for younger generations. Policy should pay attention to expanding the involvement of third parties and removing the obstacles to spontaneous volunteering.