It is often assumed that the density of third sector organizations provides opportunities that are beneficial for engagement in volunteering, social cohesion, and social capital. By sophisticated multi-level modelling and after controlling for relevant individual and area characteristics in data from the UK, this paper concludes that the “foot-print” of third sector organizations does not add to the explanation of community level variations. This indicates that organizational density at community level is a less important infrastructure than assumed in previous research and in policy orientations.

Authors John Mohan and Matthew R. Bennett conclude that “once we have controlled for the level of deprivation in an area, the statistically significant effect of the distribution of charitable organisations becomes an insignificant explanation of the likelihood of volunteering.” However, the presence of a strong third sector could still have beneficial effects on perceptions of trust, social cohesion, and quality of life, but this requires further research.