Volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life, but people also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that could be considered self-serving.
Volunteering takes many forms and is performed by a wide range of people. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work in, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Other volunteers serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster or for a beach-cleanup.
The social capital generated by volunteering plays a key role in economic regeneration. Where poverty is endemic to an area, poor communities lack friends and neighbors able to help. This, voluntary mutual aid or self-help is an important safety net. This model works well within a state because there is a national solidarity in times of adversity and more prosperous groups will usually make sacrifices for the benefit of those in need
Skills-based volunteering refers to volunteering in which the volunteer is specifically trained in the area they are volunteering in. This is in contrast to traditional volunteering, where specific training is not required. The average hour of traditional volunteering is valued by the Independent Sector at between $18–20 an hour. Skills-based volunteerism is valued at $40–500 an hour depending on the market value of the time.
Virtual volunteering, also sometimes called as eVolunteering, online volunteering or micro-volunteering, is a term describing a volunteer who completes tasks, in whole or in part, offsite from the organization being assisted, using the Internet and a home, school, telecenter or work computer or other Internet-connected device, such as a PDAs or smartphone. Virtual volunteering is also known as cyber service, telementoring, and teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering is similar to telecommuting, except that, instead of online employees who are paid, these are online volunteers who are not paid.
Environmental volunteering refers to volunteers who contribute towards environmental management. Volunteers conduct a range of activities including environmental monitoring, ecological restoration such as re-vegetation and weed removal, and educating others about the natural environment.
Volunteering in Schools
Children cart dirt and debris away during a community clean-up day in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
School systems around the world rely heavily on volunteers and donations in order to run effectively. Whenever the economy is down, the need for volunteers and resources increases greatly. There are many opportunities available in the school system for volunteers to take advantage of, especially if you have a special skill or trade. There are not many requirements in order to become a volunteer in the school system. Whether you are a parent, grandparent or just a community member most schools just require a volunteer form be completed. Much like the benefits of any type of volunteerism there are great rewards for the volunteer, student, and school.
These benefits include but are not limited to:
School Benefits- Provided with additional service without having to have added costs, Teachers are given extra time for educational purposes and planning, A positive relationship between the community and the school.
Volunteer Benefits- Parents become involved in their child’s school and education, New talents that one never knew they had are discovered, A sense of personal satisfaction, Ability to meet new people and develop new friendships.
Student Benefits- Students are given a positive role model, Educational success is encouraged and improved.
Corporate Volunteering / Employee Volunteering
A majority of the companies at the Fortune 500 allow their employees to volunteer during work hours. These formalized Employee Volunteering Programs (EVPs), also called Employer Supported Volunteering, is regarded as a part of the companies sustainability efforts and their social responsibility activities. The key drives for companies to do work with EVPs is that it builds brand awareness and affinity, Strengthens trust and loyalty among consumers, enhances corporate image and reputation, improves employee retention, Increases employee productivity and loyalty and provides an effective vehicle to reach strategic goals
Further information: Gift economy
In almost all modern societies, the most basic of all values is people helping people and, in the process, helping themselves. But a tension can arise between volunteerism and the state-provided services, so most countries develop policies and enact legislation to clarify the roles and relationships among stakeholders and identify and allocate the necessary legal, social, administrative, and financial support. This is particularly necessary when some voluntary activities are seen as a challenge to the authority of the state, e.g. on 29 January 2001, President Bush cautioned that volunteer groups should supplement, not replace, the work of government agencies. Volunteerism that benefits the state but challenges paid counterparts raises the ire of labor unions representing the paid counterparts as in the case of volunteer fire departments, particularly in combination departments.
Difficulties in cross-national aid
Volunteers fit new windows at The Sumac Centre in Nottingham, UK.
Difficulties in this model of volunteering can arise when this is applied across national borders. A state sending volunteers to another state can be viewed as a breach of sovereignty and a lack of respect towards the national government of the proposed recipients. Thus, when states negotiate the offer and acceptance of aid, motivations become important, particularly if donors may postpone assistance or stop it altogether. Three types of conditionality have evolved:
1. Financial accountability: Transparency in the management of funding to ensure that what is done by the volunteers is properly targeted.
2. Policy reform: Requesting governments of developing countries adopt certain social, economic, or environmental policies, the most controversial relating to the privatization of services traditionally offered by the state.
3. Development objectives: Asking developing countries to adjust specific time-bound economic objectives
Some international volunteer organisations define their primary mission altruistically as fighting poverty and improving the living standards of people in the developing world, e.g. Voluntary Services Overseas has almost 2,000 skilled professionals working as volunteers to pass on their expertise to local people so that, when they return home, their skills remain. When these organisations work in partnership with governments, the results can be impressive. But when other organisations or individual First World governments support the work of volunteer groups, there can be questions as to whether their real motives are poverty alleviation or wealth creation for some of the poor or policies intended to benefit the donor states. This confusion exists because experience shows[who?] that what is volunteered can distort the foreign and economic policy of the country receiving the aid[clarification needed]. The economies of many low-income countries suffer from "industrialisation without prosperity" and "investment without growth". This arises because "development assistance" guides many Third World governments to pursue "development" policies that have been wasteful, ill-conceived, unproductive or even so positively destructive that they could not have been sustained without outside support.
Indeed, some of the offers of aid have distorted the general spirit of volunteerism, treating local voluntary action as “contributions in kind”, i.e. as conditions requiring local people to earn the right to donor “largesse” by modifying their behaviour. This can be seen as patronising and offensive to the recipients because the aid expressly serves the policy aims of the donors rather than the needs of the recipients.
The track record shows that making any aid conditional on policy reforms is often ineffective. Conditionality only works when there is a strong domestic commitment to reform and the recipient governments are democratic, i.e. they are accountable to their own electorates. Volunteer organizations and their funding donors should respect the governments of the countries they wish to help and build on the deep-rooted traditions of people to help one another, and thereby provide an important ingredient for social and democratic development.
In the 1960s Ivan Illich offered an analysis of the role of American volunteers in Mexico in his speech entitled, "To Hell With Good Intentions". His concerns, along with critics such as Paulo Freire and Edward Said, revolve around the notion of altruism as an extension of Christian missionary ideology and the sense of responsibility/obligation driving the concept of noblesse oblige, first developed by the French aristocracy as a moral duty derived from their wealth. Simply stated, these both propose the extension of power and authority over indigenous cultures around the world.
Recent critiques of volunteerism come from Westmier and Kahn (1996) and bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) (2004).
The field of medical tourism (referring to volunteers traveling overseas to deliver care) has recently attracted negative criticism vis-a-vis the alternative notion of sustainable capacities (working in the context of long-term, locally-run but foreign-supported infrastructures). A preponderance of this criticism has appeared largely in the scientific and peer-reviewed literature. Recently, media outlets with more general readerships have published such criticisms, as well. (Wiki)