Volunteer Programs

views updated May 18 2018

Volunteer Programs




According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), 65.4 million Americans reported that they volunteered in 2005 (the latest year for which data are available), almost 30 percent (28.8 percent) of the U.S. population (CNCS 2006). In 2000 the substantial volume of time volunteered by Americans was the equivalent of 9.1 million full-time employees (based on 1,700 hours per year per employee). The total assigned dollar value of volunteer time in that year was 239.2 billion dollars, which grew to an estimated 280 billion dollars in 2005 (Independent Sector 2001).

Volunteering is, of course, not limited to the United States; although variations exist across countries (Salamon and Sokolowski 2001), volunteering has emerged as an international phenomenon (Anheir and Salamon 1999). According to Salamon and Sokolowskis research on volunteering in twenty-four countries (2001), volunteering constitutes 2.5 percent of non-agricultural employment on average. In their study, this percentage ranged from a low of 0.2 percent in Mexico to a high of 8.0 percent in Sweden.

In the past, volunteering was mainly regarded as work or activities contributed to private charitable or religious organizations. However, volunteers have become a crucial resource for various types of organizations not only in the nonprofit sector but also in the public sector. As an example, the 1992, 1990, and 1988 Gallup surveys on volunteering in the United States show that a significant portion of volunteer efforts went to government organizations (Brudney 1999).

Having such a large amount of time directed to volunteer work does not assure that desirable results are attained for host organizations or volunteers, or for the targets of their well-intentioned efforts. Different issues may arise depending on the types of volunteering activities or on the social and organizational context, and even the nation where volunteering occurs. A 2004 survey on volunteering policies and partnerships in the European Union, for example, suggests that volunteer regulations, policies, and laws differ substantially cross-nationally (Van Hal, Meijs, and Steenbergen 2004).

Attaining beneficial outcomes from volunteer involvement for participants, clients, organizations, and the community requires a programmatic structure. Below we explain how to provide this structure for volunteer programs. To do so, we elaborate and extend a model proposed by Young-joo Lee and Jeffrey L. Brudney (2006), based on the essential challenges that all volunteer programs must meet.


A volunteer program is a systematic effort to involve volunteers in the work, outputs, and outcomes of an organization. Several authors have proposed models to guide volunteer programs (Boyce 1971; Dolan 1969; Kwarteng et al 1988; Lenihan and Jackson 1984; Penrod 1991; Vineyard 1984). A review of these models shows that they are quite similar, being grounded in a set of core functions that these programs typically perform, such as selection, orientation, and job design. Rather than considering the activities conducted, the challenge model focuses on the goals that must be met to achieve successful performance with volunteers. Although research on the validity of volunteer program design models is scant, a study based on a heterogeneous sample of government volunteer programs suggests that various elements of the challenge model are related empirically to the perceived effectiveness of these programs (Hager and Brudney 2004; Brudney 1999).

Lee and Brudneys A New Challenge Model of a Volunteer Program (2006), developed originally to guide school volunteer programs, can be extended to the design of volunteer programs in general. These researchers outline six principal challenges that confront volunteer programs:

  1. recruiting citizens for volunteer service;
  2. engaging the community in the volunteer program;
  3. gaining acceptance from organizational members;
  4. maintaining accountability, to ensure that volunteers adhere to the values and goals of the organization;
  5. managing the program effectively through structural design;
  6. evaluating the programs processes and results.

Figure 1 presents the challenge model of a volunteer program. The article discusses, in turn, each challenge a volunteer program must meet.

Recruiting Citizens Perhaps the greatest challenge to an effective volunteer program is attracting people willing and able to donate their time and expertise. Volunteerism expert Susan Ellis (1996b, pp. 5-6) cautions that recruitment is not the first step in a program; a volunteer program must have a clear purpose or goal and meaningful work for volunteers to carry out. Yet, without sufficient volunteers, a program cannot be sustained.

It is important to provide potential volunteers with incentives to participate in the program. A powerful motivation for most volunteers is the idea that their efforts will provide a benefit to the recipients of volunteer service, which in turn will bring them a sense of fulfillment. Most

volunteers say that they volunteer to help other people or do something useful (Brudney 2005, p. 329). Thus, an emphasis on the benefits of a volunteering program would likely prove an effective volunteer recruitment strategy. Another incentive is the benefit to volunteers themselves. Research has shown that there are positive effects of volunteering for volunteers, such as improved health, increased occupational skills, greater networking and social support, and enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem (Wilson and Musick 1999).

The most effective recruitment strategy is to ask people to volunteer. Research findings show that people volunteer far more frequently when they are asked to do so. For instance, the Independent Sector reported that 71.3 percent of the people who volunteered had been asked to volunteer, compared to just 28.7 percent of the non-volunteers (Independent Sector 2002, p. 68). To recruit volunteers, experts recommend targeting groups or organizations with a membership of potential volunteers. For instance, recruitment efforts can be made in work-places, churches, and synagogues, and directed at neighborhood groups, civic associations, and other institutions in the community (Ellis 1996b).

Engaging the Community As more organizations, including nonprofit, government, and even for-profit, have implemented volunteer programs, an evolution has occurred in the traditional population of volunteers (Smith 1994). Volunteers are no longer predominantly middle-aged, middle-class white women. Instead, they embrace a much wider segment of the community, including males, youth, seniors, people of color, and so forth (CNCS 2006).

A significant consequence of the growth in the number of volunteer programs and an increasingly diverse volunteer pool is that host organizations must compete for volunteers with other nonprofit, government, and corporate volunteer programs. In order to attract volunteers, volunteer programs must emphasize the contribution or impact of a program, its uniqueness, and its connection to the community. Competition also requires volunteer programs to network with other organizations to gain resources and support, such as funding, legitimacy, volunteer opportunities, in-kind contributions, and publicity.

Gaining Acceptance As Brudney (1994) points out, satisfying an organizations internal constituencies is a prerequisite to setting up an effective volunteer program. Prior to establishing a program, proponents must gain acceptance from, among others, paid staff, board members, clients, and affiliated organizations, such as labor unions and professional associations (if they exist). Without the commitment and support of these stakeholders, the success of a volunteer program is questionable. The likelihood of gaining acceptance increases with the benefits the program may offer, not only to the clients of the program, but also to internal constituencies, volunteers, and the larger community. These benefits can be substantial and include: more attention to clients, greater opportunity for innovation, higher levels of service, increased fund-raising capability, enhanced cost-effectiveness, more satisfying and professional work opportunities, and greater community knowledge, feedback, and involvement (Brudney 2005).

Maintaining Accountability A host organization must make sure volunteers understand the work to be done and the authorized organizational methods and procedures for carrying it out. Accountability makes it possible to recognize and reinforce superior performance by volunteers and, correspondingly, to identify and make changes where performance is inferior or lacking.

In order to ensure accountability, organizational leadership should appoint or hire a volunteer administrator (or coordinator or director) responsible for the overall management and participation of volunteers (Brudney 1996; Ellis 1996, p. 55). The position is usually part-time or constitutes a portion of the duties of a full-time position. Studies find that organizational support for this position is strongly associated with the success of a program (Urban Institute 2004).

Establishing accountability for the volunteer program also includes having a program structure that organizes and integrates the volunteer effort. The program should have job descriptions for volunteer administrators as well as for the volunteer positions to be filled (Brudney 1996). In the United States, the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (Public Law PL105-119) strongly encourages organizations to have job descriptions for their volunteers. In addition, written policies and procedures should be on file that specify the rules and regulations concerning volunteer involvement, including the rights and responsibilities of volunteers as well as appropriate behavior and norms on the job (for example, confidentiality, reliability, and attire).

Managing the Program As several authors have noted, managing volunteers is not the same as managing employees (Farmer and Fedor 1999; McCurley and Lynch 2006). For example, volunteers are far less dependent on the organization than paid employees and contribute far fewer hours. Given these differences, the volunteer administrator assumes a critical role in the program. Ideally, volunteer administrators should have the following qualifications (Ellis 1996b, p. 60):

  1. background in volunteerism or volunteer administration;
  2. ability and/or experience in management;
  3. proficiency in job design and analysis;
  4. skills in leadership;
  5. understanding of the needs of those to be assisted through volunteer effort;
  6. familiarity with community resources;
  7. interest in outreach to the community.

The volunteer administrators job typically includes recruiting, screening, orienting, training, placing, supervising, evaluating, and recognizing volunteers. This official also has to attend to risk management (Graff 2003). Liability with respect to volunteer programs applies to situations in which a volunteer is harmed while performing his or her duties, as well as when a third party is harmed by a volunteer (Lake 1997). Given the distinctive duties of volunteer administrators, the literature endorses specialized training and preparation for the volunteer administrator position (Ellis 1996b; McCurley and Lynch 2006).

Evaluating the Program Evaluation provides the ultimate justification for a volunteer program. Brudney (1996, p. 201) defines evaluation as collecting systematic information on the processes and results of the volunteer program and applying these data toward program assessment and, hopefully, program improvement. To evaluate the effectiveness of volunteer involvement, Brudney recommends focusing on three target audiences: the clients or intended beneficiaries of the volunteer program, internal constituencies, and the volunteers themselves. A variety of methods exist for evaluation of volunteer programs (Gaskin 2003; Goulborne and Embuldeniya 2002).

Of all the challenges, evaluation apparently receives the lowest priority in volunteer programs (Brudney 1999), perhaps as a consequence of the donated nature of volunteer effort. Organizations may be wary of questioning the involvement or effectiveness of citizen volunteers. Nevertheless, just as with any systematic activity, organizations should assess volunteer programs and learn from the results. As Figure 1 shows, the information gained from evaluation should be fed back to the organization and used to improve the volunteer program.


A volunteer program requires an investment on the part of an organization, internal constituencies, and volunteers. Some may ask whether this investment is worth the effort. Indeed it is: Volunteerism benefits all parties involved. Benefits to clients include receiving needed services and the feeling that someone is interested in and cares about them. Benefits to organizations include increasing cost-effectiveness, expanding programs, and raising service quality. Benefits to communities include enhanced civic participation and awareness.

Research has shown that, with respect to the monetary return on investment, volunteer programs routinely yield more in dollar value than organizations expend on them (Gaskin 2003). For clients, volunteers, and communities, the social and psychic benefits are likely to be far greater.

SEE ALSO National Service Programs; Philanthropy


Anheier, Helmut K., and Lester M. Salamon. 1999. Volunteering in Cross-National Perspective: Initial Comparisons. Law and Contemporary Problems 62 (4): 4366.

Brudney, Jeffrey L. 1994. Volunteers in the Delivery of Public Services: Magnitude, Scope, and Management. In Handbook of Public Personnel Administration, eds. Jack Rabin, Thomas Vocino, W. Bartley Hildreth, and Gerald J. Miller, 661686. New York: Marcel Decker.

Brudney, Jeffrey L. 1996. Designing and Implementing Volunteer Programs. In The State of Public Management, eds. Donald F. Kettl and H. Brinton Milward, 193212. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Brudney, Jeffrey L. 1999. The Effective Use of Volunteers: Best Practices for the Public Sector. Law and Contemporary Problems 62 (4): 219255.

Brudney, Jeffrey L. 2005. Designing and Managing Volunteer Programs. In The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, 2nd ed., eds. Robert Herman et al., 310-344. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). 2006. Volunteering in America: State Trends and Rankings: A Summary Report. Washington, DC: CNCS.

Dolan, Robert J. 1969. The Leadership Development Process in Complex Organizations. Raleigh: North Carolina State University.

Ellis, Susan J. 1996a. From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Volunteer Program Success. Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Energize.

Ellis, Susan J. 1996b. The Volunteer Recruitment Book (and Membership Development). Philadelphia: Energize.

Farmer, Steven M., and Donald B. Fedor. 1999. Volunteer Participation and Withdrawal: A Psychological Contract Perspective on the Role of Expectations and Organizational Support. Nonprofit Management and Leadership 9 (4): 349367.

Gaskin, Katherine. 2003. VIVA in Europe: A Comparative Study of the Volunteer Investment and Value Audit. Journal of Volunteer Administration 21 (2): 4548.

Goulborne, Michele, and Don Embuldeniya. 2002. Assigning Economic Value to Volunteer Activity: Eight Tools for Efficient Program Management. Toronto: Canadian Center for Philanthropy.

Graff, Linda. 2003. Better Safe: Risk Management in Volunteer Programs and Community Service. Ontario, Canada: Linda Graff and Associates.

Hager, Mark A. 2004. Volunteer Management Capacity in Americas Charities and Congregations: A Briefing Report. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Hager, Mark A., and Jeffrey L. Brudney. 2004. Balancing Act: The Challenges and Benefits of Volunteers. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Independent Sector. 2002. Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Findings from a National Survey. Washington, DC: Independent Sector.

Independent Sector. 2006. Value of Volunteer Time. http://www.independentsector.org/programs/research/volunteer_time.html#value.

Kwarteng, Joseph A., Keith L. Smith, and Larry E. Miller. 1988. Ohio 4-H Agents and Volunteer Leaders Perceptions of the Volunteer Leadership Development Program. Journal of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture 29 (2): 5562.

Lake, Jaime. 2001. Screening School Grandparents: Ensuring Continued Safety and Success of School Volunteer Programs. Elder Law Journal 8 (2): 423431.

Lee, Young-joo, and Jeffrey L. Brudney. 2006. School-Based Volunteer Programs: Meeting Challenges and Achieving Benefits. The Reporter, Georgia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Lenihan, Genie O., and Louise Jackson. 1984. Social Need, Public Response: The Volunteer Professional Model for Human Services Agencies and Counselors. Personnel and Guidance Journal 62 (5): 285289.

McCurley, Steve, and Rick Lynch. 2006. Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Energize.

Penrod, Kathryn M. 1991. Leadership Involving Volunteers: The L-O-O-P Model. Journal of Extension 29 (4): 39.

Salamon, Lester M., and S. Wojciech Sokolowski. 2001. Volunteering in Cross-National Perspective: Evidence from Twenty-Four Countries. Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project Working Paper no. 40. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

Smith, David H. 1994. Determinants of Voluntary Association Participation and Volunteering: A Literature Review. Nonprofit Voluntary Sector Quarterly 21: 243263.

Van Hal, Tirza, Lucas Meijs, and Marijke Steenbergen. 2004. Volunteering and Participation on the Agenda: Survey on Volunteering Policy and Partnerships in the European Union. Utrecht, Netherlands: CIVIQ.

Vineyard, Sue. 1984. Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers No Gimmicks, No Gags! Journal of Volunteer Administration 2 (3): 2328.

Wilson, John, and Marc A. Musick. 1999. The Effects of Volunteering on the Volunteer. Law and Contemporary Problems 62 (4): 141168.

Jeffrey L. Brudney

Young-joo Lee


views updated May 14 2018



Volunteerism refers to a broad range of activities that benefit another person, group, or cause and that are carried out by individuals by their own choice and without pay. Individuals engaged in volunteerism are referred to as volunteers. Examples of volunteerism include serving on the board of a museum, organizing a protest meeting against environmental pollution, preparing food in a soup kitchen, caring for the elderly in a nursing home, looking after pets or mail for a neighbor, and the donation of blood at a blood center. However, also more controversial activities like distributing flyers for an extremist political party and providing shelter to illegal immigrants may qualify as examples of volunteerism.

A common distinction is made between formal and informal volunteerism. Formal volunteerism is carried out in an organization, usually a nonprofit organization. Informal volunteerism is not carried out in an organization and usually benefits specific individuals or groups with whom the volunteer has personal connections. Informal volunteerism is also called social support or helping behavior. Informal volunteerism that benefits colleagues or ones employer is called organizational citizenship behavior.

In sociology and political science volunteerism is considered a form of civic engagement and an expression of cohesion or social capital in society (Putnam 2000). Formal volunteerism has received more attention in these disciplines than informal volunteerism, although the two are related empirically (Wilson and Musick 1997). The focus on formal volunteerism is apparent in the frequent measurement of engagement in voluntary associations in general household surveys. These surveys contain lists of types of organizations, for each of which the respondent answers to what extent he or she is engaged in the organization (not engaged, passive member, active member, volunteer). In some household surveys respondents report the frequency of informal helping behaviors. Informal volunteerism is commonly measured in questionnaires on social support networks. Respondents indicate whether they have people (alters) available to them with whom they discuss important matters (emotional support) or who can assist them in practical matters like small repairs (practical support).

Volunteerism is more common among married persons, whites, the middle-aged and elderly, the higher educated, more frequent church attendees, rural residents, children of volunteers, and extraverted persons (Bekkers 2005, 2007; Penner et al. 2005; Putnam 2000; Wilson 2000). Differences between whites and blacks differ from study to study (contrasting findings in Wilson and Musick 1997 and Carson 1987). Among other things, volunteerism is more common among the higher educated because they have more civic skills, more knowledge, and a stronger feeling of efficacy (Brady et al. 1995; Nie et al. 1996). Individuals with more civic skills and knowledge are more able to understand arguments, to express their views, and to convince others. These are useful qualities that lower the cost and increase the expected benefit of volunteerism. Individuals with a stronger feeling of efficacy are more likely to think their volunteerism makes a difference for the beneficiary of their volunteerism, which increases its expected benefit. Formal volunteerism in turn enhances civic skills, knowledge, and self-efficacy. Beyond paid work, voluntary associations are an important context in which people gain experience in organizing meetings, learn to understand others, and gain confidence in their abilities.

Volunteerism is also linked with a variety of other benefits. Volunteers are known to live longer and to be healthier in old age than nonvolunteers. In addition volunteerism contributes to mental health and may contribute to success in paid labor in the long run (Penner et al. 2005; Wilson and Musick 2000). At the macro level voluntary associations strengthen civil society and democracy (Putnam 2000).

Because of these benefits, schools increasingly include service learning and community service programs in their curricula. Completing a service learning program, which itself is usually not a form of volunteerism because it is obligatory, may promote civic skills and volunteerism in the future, depending on several characteristics of the program. More beneficial programs have a moderate level of freedom for pupils in selecting service activities, require a higher level of reflection from pupils, and are supervised by more enthusiastic teachers (Metz and Youniss 2005). Voluntary programs do not have more beneficial effects than required programs (Schmidt et al. 2006). Voluntary programs draw an audience that consists mostly of young people with a social background that facilitates volunteerism: parents volunteer themselves, are religious, and have higher socioeconomic status (Metz and Youniss 2005). Given that required service learning programs also have beneficial effects among youths from less-favorable backgrounds and perhaps even more so than among youths from advantageous backgrounds, required service learning programs may reduce social inequality in volunteerism and civic engagement in the long run.

SEE ALSO Altruism; Altruism and Prosocial Behavior; Associations, Voluntary; Civil Society; Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); Philanthropy; Prevention Science; Putnam, Robert; Social Capital; Verba, Sidney; Volunteer Programs


Bekkers, René. 2005. Participation in Voluntary Associations: Relations with Resources, Personality, and Political Values. Political Psychology 26: 439454.

Bekkers, René. 2007. Intergenerational Transmission of Volunteerism. Acta Sociologica 50 (2): 99114.

Brady, Henry E., Sidney Verba, and Kay Lehman Schlozman. 1995. Beyond SES: A Resource Model of Political Participation. American Political Science Review 89: 271294.

Carson, Emmett D. 1987. The Charitable Activities of Black Americans: A Portrait of Self-Help? Review of Black Political Economy 15 (3): 100111.

Metz, Edward C., and James Youniss. 2005. Longitudinal Gains in Civic Development through School-Based Required Service. Political Psychology 26 (3): 413437.

Nie, Norman H., Jane Junn, and Kenneth Stehlik-Barry. 1996. Education and Democratic Citizenship in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Penner, Louis A., John F. Dovidio, Jane A. Piliavin, and David A. Schroeder. 2005. Prosocial Behavior: Multilevel Perspectives. Annual Review of Psychology 56: 365392.

Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Schmidt, Jennifer A., Lee Shumow, and Hayal Kackar. 2006. Adolescents Participation in Service Activities and Its Impact on Academic, Behavioral, and Civic Outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35 (2): 127140.

Wilson, John. 2000. Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 215240.

Wilson, John, and Marc A. Musick. 1997. Who Cares? Toward an Integrated Theory of Volunteer Work. American Sociological Review 62: 694713.

Wilson, John, and Marc A. Musick. 2000. The Effects of Volunteering on the Volunteer. Law and Contemporary Problems 62: 141168.

René Bekkers

Volunteer Work

views updated May 29 2018


Volunteer work offers an opportunity for individuals and communities to engage in activities that affect the common good of society. For young people, volunteer work provides a way to gain a variety of useful skills, to understand the community in which they live, and to enhance community life. The community, in turn, fosters the development of a citizenry that is involved in creating a better democracy.

There is an increasing emphasis in schools on the development of character in students, through the study of community issues, actions to address these issues, and reflection on the experience. Many schools are moving students from volunteerism to service-learning initiatives within the curriculum so that students at all levels can develop cooperation, empathy, citizenship, and self-esteem. For example, the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 mandates graduation requirements that emphasize application and integration of community-service work and learning.

Elementary and secondary schools have devised a variety of ways to integrate volunteerism into their schools and community. In some cases, students are left to their own motivations to engage in service to the community through acts of volunteerism. These volunteer experiences can take the form of a onetime involvement in a community agency or event, or can result in a sustained relationship over a period of time with a particular service organization in the community.

Many schools have moved from an emphasis on volunteerism to an involvement by students that connect their service with the curriculum. For example, one elementary school focuses on service to the elderly. As part of the history curriculum, a history of the community was produced after students interviewed older citizens and created a collection of their stories. In art classes, the students produced artwork as gifts for senior members of the community. In math, students helped older adults with grocery shopping, and older adults were able to help students with math problems that arose regarding product pricing.

Some schools have made service a requirement for graduation, though there is debate regarding the merits of requiring service of all students. Some believe that schools should encourage service, but not make it a requirement and that required service is a contradiction in terms. Others argue that service is a responsibility, a debt due to society, and that it is every citizen's civic duty to contribute to the community. Volunteer service requirements vary from having students enroll in a service class in addition to spending a certain amount of hours in a service activity, while other schools require only the service commitment.

Another approach to engage students in volunteer activities is for the school and an organization to partner in a common initiative. Community organizations that have an investment in fostering a service ethic among a new generation of citizens should be sought out by schools for a partnership.

Engaging students with underserved populations and diverse populations in a community usually builds bridges that link the students with individuals and initiatives with whom they might otherwise never have the opportunity to develop and nurture relationships of understanding and reciprocity. Experiences of this nature enable students to ascertain community assets and needs and gain perspective on how to cooperatively develop community-building initiatives. It can also help students understand issues of social injustice and move them toward moral deliberation and critical thinking about societal issues.

Another option schools have implemented is in-school service. Many programs look within the school community for service activities. Cross-age tutoring, school improvement projects, and mentoring are examples of beneficial student service activities.

Institutions of higher education look to create an "engaged campus," where boundaries are blurred between campus and community, and between knowledge and practice. A campus that is engaged with the surrounding community is not just located in a community, but is connected in an intimate way to the public purposes and aspirations of community life itself.

Many campuses also distinguish between acts of volunteerism and academic service-learning experiences. Offices of volunteer activities on college campuses work with community partners to enlist students to provide much needed hands-on aid to the community. These experiences are authorized and supported by the institution in order to contribute to an organized, efficient, effective, and sustainable effort with students and the community. Many of the social organizations on college campuses include volunteerism as a part of their mission of service. In addition, many students act out of their own intrinsic motivation and sense of civic responsibility to become active volunteers in their community.

While volunteerism is supported and promoted in the student affairs divisions of colleges and universities, academic service-learning is being strongly integrated into the curricular offerings of institutions of higher education. Service-learning usually has a two-fold goal: (1) meeting community needs and providing meaningful learning experiences for the students; and (2) enlivening the public service mission of the institution while becoming engaged in the life of the local community.

Volunteerism does not necessarily produce the same outcomes as a service-learning component in the curriculum. When service learning is integrated into the curriculum, it is desired that students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service in the community, and that this service meets the needs of the community, is coordinated with school and community activities, helps foster civic responsibility, is integrated into the academic curriculum or educational components of community service programs, and provides structured time for students to reflect on the service experience.

Volunteerism and academic service learning are considered important components in the educational process for building a stronger democracy. Emphasis on curricular and extracurricular means of moving students toward civic engagement has become a focal point of teaching and learning in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions.

See also: Community Education; Experiential Education; Service Learning.


Community Service/Service Learning: An Implementor's Guide and Resource Manual. 1996. ERIC Document ED 399239.

Duckenfield, Marty, and Wright Jan, eds. 1995. Pocket Guide to Service Learning. Clemson, SC: National Dropout Prevention Center.

Feltman, Carl I. 1994. Service Learning for All Students. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Gugerty, Catherine R., and Swezey, Erin D. 1996. "Developing Campus-Community Relationships." In Service Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices, ed. Barbara Jacoby. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hollander, Elizabeth. 1998. "Picturing the Engaged Campus." In Service Matters, ed. Michael Rothman. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.

Sharon Shields

Brad Gray


views updated May 17 2018


VOLUNTEERISM may be defined as contributing one's time or talents for charitable, educational, social, political, or other worthwhile purposes, usually in one's community, freely and without regard for compensation. Since the seventeenth century, Americans have shaped their nation by their voluntary efforts: providing services, organizing political action, caring for the poor, reaching out to the disadvantaged, providing education, ensuring equality and civil rights for all citizens, and working for change.

Too numerous to count, American voluntary efforts have served many purposes. For example, thousands of Americans have contributed their resources to achieve political ends, providing invaluable service in times of war. During the Revolution men formed committees of correspondence to keep the colonies in constant contact; joined militias, like the Minutemen of Concord, to fight the British army; and organized the Boston Tea Party, a raid on ships in Boston Harbor, during which crates of

expensive tea were thrown overboard to protest taxes imposed by the crown. At the same time, women used their economic power to boycott luxury items and cloth imported from Britain, producing their own goods for their family's needs. During the Revolution and later wars, women visited hospitals and prisons, rolled bandages, organized food drives, nursed soldiers, and sometimes worked as spies. In the nineteenth century, African Americans and white Americans undertook the dangerous task of moving escaped slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Children volunteered also, contributing their pennies and participating in drives to conserve food, clothing, and other resources. Americans continue to volunteer for political purposes by joining the military, working for political parties at elections, participating in voting drives, organizing block associations, protesting, marching, lobbying, and raising funds.

Volunteers have also provided relief to people in need. At first, citizens willingly organized to provide a service for their town or county. In the nineteenth century, public need began to overwhelm local resources. Women then seized the opportunity to become actively engaged in public life and policy. They organized, built, and maintained shelters for the homeless, soup lines, orphanages, homes for single mothers and abandoned children, and hospitals for the needy. Often established by religious and ethnic groups, these institutions assisted individuals and families, filling in the gaps that government did not have the authority or ability to cover. Similarly, from slavery through the beginning of the twenty-first century, African Americans have organized to provide relief, churches, burial, and religious instruction for their communities. Children have helped raise funds in their neighborhoods for schools, missions, and foreign aid organizations like UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund). Volunteers continue to visit and nurse the sick, offer food to the hungry, clean up after disasters, build homes, give blood, raise money, and publicize the needs of others.

The volunteer force in the early 2000s was as large as it was diverse. Americans of every age, race, religion, and ethnic group contributed their time and abilities to local communities as well as to the nation. People worked independently and through organizations that coordinated volunteers to help provide healthcare, accessible public transportation, and decent schools and to support urban revitalization, public information, recycling, environmental protection, religious missions, and charities, among many other efforts.


Ellis, Susan J., and Katherine H. Noyes. By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers. Revised ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.

Trattner, Walter I. From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America. 6th ed. New York: Free Press, 1999.

Wuthnow, Robert, Virginia A. Hodgkinson, and Associates. Faith and Philanthropy in America: Exploring the Role of Religion in America's Voluntary Sector. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.

Regina M.Faden

See alsoAmericorps ; Peace Corps ; Philanthropy ; Welfare System .


views updated Jun 27 2018

vol·un·teer / ˌvälənˈtir/ • n. a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. ∎  a person who works for an organization without being paid. ∎  a person who freely enrolls for military service rather than being conscripted, esp. a member of a force formed by voluntary enrollment and distinct from the regular army. ∎  a plant that has not been deliberately planted. ∎  Law a person to whom a voluntary conveyance or deposition is made.• v. [intr.] freely offer to do something: he volunteered for the job| I rashly volunteered to be a contestant. ∎  [tr.] offer (help) in such a way: he volunteered his services as a driver for the convoy. ∎  say or suggest something without being asked: [tr.] it never paid to volunteer information | [with direct speech] “Her name's Louise,” Christina volunteered. ∎  work for an organization without being paid. ∎  [tr.] commit (someone) to a particular undertaking, typically without consulting them: he was volunteered for parachute training by friends.


views updated May 23 2018

volunteers. Since from time immemorial it had been regarded as the duty of citizens and free men to defend their country, governments could scarcely object if, in moments of crisis, volunteers came forward to offer their services. Yet they were not necessarily very efficient, often tiresome in their personal demands, and, as the case of the Irish volunteers suggests, a potential political threat. Henry Fox in 1745 doubted whether one should trust a man to raise a regiment who could not raise half a crown and Hanbury Williams wrote of the duke of Bolton that ‘he much dislikes both guns and pikes, but relishes the clothing’. Volunteer corps were raised by private donations, reinforced by public appeals, but, as weapons of war grew more sophisticated and expensive, governments had to find substantial assistance. A number of corps were raised in 1690 to deal with a threat of French invasion, again in 1715 and 1745 to cope with the Jacobite risings, and again in 1779 during the American War of Independence. But the biggest response was during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and again in 1859 when there was yet another threat of war with France. By 1901 there were 230,000 volunteers, augmented by the Royal Navy and Royal Artillery Volunteers, the militia and the yeomanry. Haldane's reforms of 1907 reorganized them into the Territorial Force, later the Territorial Army.

J. A. Cannon

Volunteer movement

views updated Jun 27 2018

Volunteer movement (Ireland). After France and Spain had entered the American War of Independence, many Irish volunteered to defend their country against invasion. By 1780, 40,000 were under arms. This also gave them political leverage which they used to wring concessions from the British government—first commercial advantages offered by North in 1780, then the repeal of Poynings's Law and the grant of legislative independence from the Rockinghams in 1782. But when the Volunteers moved on to discuss parliamentary reform, they split on the rock of the catholic question. The coming of peace in 1783 also deprived them of their tactical advantage and after the Dublin convention of November 1783, the movement faded rapidly.

J. A. Cannon


views updated May 14 2018

Volunteers ★★ 1985 (R)

Ivy League playboy joins the newly formed Peace Corps to escape gambling debts and finds himself on a bridge-building mission in Thailand. Has its comedic moments, especially with Candy. 107m/C VHS, DVD . Tom Hanks, John Candy, Rita Wilson, Tim Thomerson, Gedde Watanabe, George Plimpton, Ernest Harada; D: Nicholas Meyer; W: David Isaacs, Ken Levine; C: Ric Waite; M: James Horner.


views updated Jun 08 2018

volunteer one volunteer is worth two pressed men proverbial saying, early 18th century; a pressed man was someone forcibly enlisted by the press gang, a body of men which in the 18th and 19th centuries was employed to enlist men forcibly into service in the army or navy.
Volunteer State informal name for Tennessee, given in allusion to the large number of volunteers contributed by Tennessee to the Mexican War of 1847.


views updated May 23 2018


VOLUNTEERS. SeeConscription and Recruitment ; Enlistment .