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Designing Volunteer Roles: The Ethics of Paid and Unpaid Work

Designing Volunteer Roles: The Ethics of Paid and Unpaid Work

Person looking at paycheck

The sudden withdrawal of many formal volunteering opportunities at the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020 cast a spotlight on the nature of volunteer work. In many cases, important services were suddenly curtailed while still other organizations pivoted volunteer roles into paid positions. As we come to the close of a second, full year of functioning in an ever-changing pandemic environment – when the boundaries around paid work and unpaid volunteer contributions have never been fuzzier – one question has never been clearer: How do ethical considerations impact the ability of the volunteer engagement professional to design and reintroduce volunteer roles? This Ethics article by Lynn Felker explores this intersection of the ethical values of our profession with the design and content of volunteer roles.

To read the full article

Sun, 03/13/2022

Good timing on this article (and thanks for quoting me). As I noted earlier this year in my blog about trends in volunteer engagement, a growing number of people want to know why a position is unpaid - and don't always like the answer:

Especially for positions that require particular skills, like web development, video editing, graphic design, translation, online community management, accounting/financial management or social media management, people want to know why the role is unpaid instead of a paid position – and “we can’t afford to pay someone” is NOT the answer they accept. They are also pushing back against unpaid internships at nonprofits. Also, labor unions, professional associations and people with disabilities are asking why people who are experts in something are being asked to donate their services, without being paid for their time (groups that are experiencing high unemployment are particularly angry).

I find it fascinating that the Art Institute of Chicago has replaced its wildly popular volunteer docent program with paid workers, because they can get a diversity among this staff if they pay them that they have never achieved by involving volunteers. 

There are BIG changes in how people want to volunteer and ethics are driving it. Are you ready?