Objectives. Conflicting arguments exist in the literature about whether associational involvement can enhance people's social resources (operationalized as the extent to which people have nearby social networks they can rely on). We aim to test these arguments.

Methods. We use two-wave panel data. These are needed, as a causal relationship is presumed: participation as antecedent and social resources as outcome. To test this relationship, we compared two groups: respondents who became members of an association (between the two waves) and respondents who remained uninvolved.

Results. We found no general membership effect. However, starting volunteer work showed a small, positive effect on the growth of social resources. Furthermore, membership effects were found among groups with fewer possibilities of acquiring social resources in other contexts (the elderly, people without a partner, and ethnic minorities).

Conclusions. In line with the more skeptical ideas about voluntary associations, the effects of voluntary association participation seem small. However, people differ in the extent to which they profit from this participation.