“Volunteer” Does Not Mean “No Pay”

Posted on July 28, 2008. Filed under: Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits |

This post was written in response to a post on http://www.philanthromedia.org and elaborates on the non-profit sector’s tendency to waste a lot of time in semantic squabbles, instead of concentrating on addressing the real issues.

“Volunteer” does not necessarily mean – “No Pay”, that fundamental fact is being ignored by huge segments of the non-profit sector, who ought to know better. “To Volunteer” means to take on a task that you are not required to do, and in many cases you will not be paid, (e.g. PTA board member, helping at a soup kitchen, being a an adult scout leader, etc. that lists goes on and on.

There are other times however, especially in the workplace, where one “volunteers” to take on a particular task, which the organization believes important, but it is not a direct responsibility of your job. This is also volunteering, and one huge example of this that does help the non-profit sector, are the men and women who volunteer to run the workplace giving campaigns in their respective organizations,whether for-profit or public. Each year in the Combined Federal Campaign has more than 250,000 volunteers across the country helping to raise $277 million for local, national and international charities.

Other examples of “paid volunteerism” include organizations that allow, and actually encourage their employees to go to local public schools for several hours a month to help there. They are not paid extra, but they are allowed the time away from their normal job duties. They are encouraged to do this for their personal and professional development.

The non-profit sector spends way too much time dickering about terminology issues – e.g. does “non-profit have a hyphen in it or not?” ;To be a “Pure Volunteer” they can’t be Paid – Can they be reimbursed for gas expenses? Or is that being “paid’?

With 1.4 million non-profits, there is no one right answer as to whether or not that non-profit needs volunteers, but the idea that “volunteer is synonymous for “no pay” is wrong.


Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert

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    Fundraising and Leadership Development through workplace giving, CFC = Combined Federal Campaign


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