The Jan/Feb 2008 issue of the Advancing Philanthropy magazine provided a section entitled "Doing Good—If the Price Is Right." It describes a growing trend where volunteers are expecting to be paid for their help. It is based on the New York Times article For Love and a Little Money.
The article claims that these volunteers feel more valued when they are paid at at least a small amount. Charities believe these volunteers are more dependable. All of this may be true and there is nothing wrong with charities providing payment for needed services. However, I call this a job, not volunteering!
What do you think?
13 thoughts on “Volunteering For A Paycheck?”
I have to agree with you, although it is probably a very poorly paid job, it is not the spirit of volunteering to expect payment in return.
But with the way the world is going it is certainly not surprising that people are desperate to get money for their time.
Thanks for your comment. Maybe it is the sign of the times. Working with a nonprofit for pay is fine. However, I suspect many of the benefits for volunteering are minimized when the work is done with the expectation of money.
I volunteered at a church group, and the person in charge insisted on paying me to cover my gas. Since I lived an hour away, I agreed. But it changed the relationship. This person viewed me as an employee, rather than a volunteer, and I didn’t really want that. Plus I had to turn the income into the IRS and pay taxes on it, so it wound up costing me in the end. If I am going to volunteer, I would prefer NOT to be paid.
I agree. I believe a volunteer should only be paid when he/she volunteers for a long time and the services provided are so valuable that the organization starts to pay the volunteer for what is done.
Some organizations such as Red Cross need to have paid volunteers for disaster emergencies.
The person volunteers for forty hours of training, but is then paid for the work he/she does when a disaster hits.
I’m not sure if any of that made sense, but it’s the first “things” that came to mind when I read your post.
Thanks for sharing your insight. . .
Thank you for sharing from your experience. It helps all of us who are volunteering or who work with volunteers. I hope you have had better volunteer experiences since.
As always, thanks for providing your perspective.
I have volunteered in as many as three different capacities at my church simultaneously. (Currently, I’m involved in two long-term volunteer commitments there: 2-1/2 years.) Being paid for any of this work would change the nature of my position with the church: I would move from volunteer to staff member, which would be an entirely different relationship. Though I’m sure it would still be rewarding to work on staff at my church (and I did once apply for an admin position there), I suspect it wouldn’t have quite the same feeling of fulfillment that volunteering does.
Concerning a volunteer’s being paid for gas or other expenses, I see nothing wrong with that; and in my book, the person is still a bonafide volunteer. Volunteering always costs us our time, energy, effort, and compassion; but it shouldn’t necessarily cost us money, as well. (That said, I should add that there’s certainly nothing wrong with voluntarily giving of our money or absorbing expenses associated with volunteering, provided we can afford it. Yet, if we can’t, we shouldn’t feel any less like a volunteer simply because our expenses are covered by the organization for which we volunteer. Our time, energy, effort, and caring are valuable enough in their own right.)
Being paid for our actual volunteer service is different, though I’m not really sure to what degree. One might consider it a low-paying job; but then again, I think motivation needs to be taken into consideration. Low- (or high-) paying jobs are generally done for the purpose of earning income, whereas volunteering is engaged in for purely altruistic reasons. If the person would have taken the volunteer position whether or not it was paid (and particularly if they were already involved in volunteering before they began receiving a minimal amount of money for their services), then I, personally, would still consider them to be a volunteer. But that’s just MY thinking.
Very thought-provoking post!
Thanks for sharing your opinions. It is great reading the different perspectives you and others have on this topic of paid volunteering. Congratulations on being a committed volunteer.
Hi Roger – great post. I’ll echo some of thoughts here. As a volunteer firefighter/EMT, we were given a “stipend” of $5 per call to offset the cost of fuel/vehicle maintenance. Again, this didn’t begin to cover our actual time on scene. But, that wasn’t the point either.
As mandatory requirements for firefighter/EMTs escalate, more time is required of volunteers just for training. This is in addition to being called out at any time day/night.
Its a lot to ask of a volunteer. Many communities are being forced to pay for more things because of the increased time commitments.
Its a hard to draw a line in the sand. When does volunteer time begin to be “too much”? 5 hours a week? 10? 20?
Thanks for the comment. I believe the line for too much volunteer time is different for each person. However, when an organization cannot get qualified volunteers for the amount of time needed, it is very appropriate to pay for the service. I just have a hard time calling the person a volunteer at that point.
By the way, I don’t consider reimbursing for needed items (such as gas) as payment. Just my opinion…
An Interesting post on volunteers who are paid for their services.
I myself volunteer a few hours each week as an Assistant Scout Leader and would never expect to be paid for it.
It is great you are also a volunteer. Thanks for commenting.I was a Scout leader for about 3 years and enjoyed it tremendously. I hope you are getting satisfaction from it as well.
Let me provide another example of “paid volunteering” which is increasing, and I think is a great trend. Namely, more and more organizations are giving their employees paid time off to do community service work, usually for a 501c3.
There are many reasons that organizations do this — because they want to be good corporate citizens; because the experience their employees gain is valuable to the organization, because in the competition for talent, organizations that provide these types of opportunities do better in recruiting and retaining employees.
In this case, the non-profit is not writing a check, but these volunteers are earning a paycheck while they are volunteering. I say the more power to them, which doesn’t mean that they expect to get paid to be the Scout leader, or serve on a churh board, or the board of any other non-profit.
They are definitely a volunteer because they don’t have to provide any services to any non-profit, they just choose to do so at one that appeals to them.
If a given non-profit has decided that “paying volunteers” is the best way for them to handle their particular labor need, then that is their choice and decision.