In work-oriented societies, it can be confusing when people do something for no remuneration when that ‘something’ appears to be neither part of their livelihood nor part of their leisure. In simplest terms, the question asked by the average person in such societies is: Why work if there is no money to be made or, at the very least, nothing to be paid in kind?
In this article, Robert A. Stebbins, a noted author and college professor who specializes in the sociology of work and leisure, argues that volunteers’ activities are leisure, and that volunteers do sometimes receive money, goods or services for their efforts. Granted, these benefits can seem inconsistent with the altruistic, selfless character of volunteering that is widely held to be its very essence. The goal of this article is to examine the subtleties that revolve around being paid in money or in kind to perform a volunteer role, and to examine when this happens, what form it takes and why it occurs.