Image of Volunteering

The materials in this section portray volunteering to the public in a range of ways -- from negative stereotypes to overly-positive hype.

Clarifying Expectations on Both Sides, Eileen Hammond, 64-66, Directory of Social Change
DIVERSITY: Different Perspectives on the Same Topic, Sue Vineyard, Megatrends & Volunteerism, pp. 121-123, Heritage Arts Publishing
Don't Call Me a 'Senior'!, Susan J. Ellis
The Implications of History, Susan J. Ellis
The Limits of the "V" Word, Sarah Jane Rehnborg
Moving on from 2001, Susan J. Ellis
The Need for Diversity – a ‘Whole-of-Volunteering’ Approach, Joy Noble, Louise Rogers, and Andy Fryar, Volunteer Program Management, Volunteering SA Inc
The Perfect Volunteer Storm, Susan J. Ellis
Recruitment Maxims, Susan J. Ellis
Research on Volunteerism...What Needs to Be Done, Susan J. Ellis, From Journal of Voluntary Action Research, Volume 14, Number 2-3, April-September 1985, pages 11-14. Originally presented at the Symposium at the 1984 AVAS Conference
The Self-Directed Volunteer, Susan J. Ellis
So, What Do You Do?, Susan J. Ellis
Still Tilting at Windmills, Susan J. Ellis


Join In (UK)'s innovative research into "the hidden value of sport volunteers, going beyond cost to measure the true value they create – through participation, wellbeing, trust and community."  The report has been published on 

, 2014, pp. 32
This document from Volunteering England explores what "valuing volunteer management" really means and is designed to help organisations assess how they currently value volunteer management, why this is important, and what extra steps they could take., 2011, pp. 16
Over a dozen practical, free manuals to support (international) inclusion projects for socially excluded young people, from SALTO-YOUTH (Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities within the European YOUTH programme). , 2010
Allison Fine for the Case Foundation. Social Citizens BETA addresses the unique characteristics of Millennials, who have grown up in a digital era, and "are equipped with innovative tools and ideas for bringing about change. This is a paper intended to start a "larger conversation with these 'social citizens, to share new ideas and "challenge perceptions about their approaches to being engaged." , 2013, pp. 65

By Nora L. Silver, based on work done by The Volunteerism Project on volunteering by diverse ethnic/cultural groups. Seven focus groups provided the basis for the book:

  • A Chorus of Voices, African American focus group facilitated by Vicki Clark in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Self-Determination: Messages for Our Native Youth, two American Indian focus groups conducted by Kouslaa Kessler-Mata in Oakland and San Francisco, California
  • Uno Recibe lo que Uno Da: You Get What You Give, Central American focus group conducted in Spanish, facilitated by Coco Mendoza and translated by Gary Wheelock in San Francisco, California
  • Extending the Family, Chinese American focus group conducted by Mae Chao in San Francisco, California
  • Giving Generously, Japanese American focus group conducted by Mami Ishikawa in Berkeley, California
  • Three Continents, Four States, Ten Cities, Korean American focus group facilitated by Debbie Ng in Oakland, California
  • La Gran Familia, Mexican American focus group facilitated by Ramon del Castillo, with simultaneous translation by Patsy Roybal in Denver, Colorado
, 2011, pp. 131

By Natasha Menon, Amanda Moore and Michael Sherraden, published by Center for Social Development/Global Service Institute.

, 2002, pp. 15
by Renaissance London, report of a 3-year project at the largest archaeological archive in Europe designed to test volunteering as a form of social inclusion by recruiting volunteers from diverse backgrounds , 2010, pp. 18

By Joanna Machin of the  Institute for Volunteering Research (UK) for the Voluntary Action Media Unit to identify research and information which address issues related to the image of volunteering and volunteers by the public and the media -- specific reference made to the images held by different social groups. 

, 2005, pp. 47

CNIB offers this manual for people who would like to learn how to advocate in support of causes that matter to them. While it has been written for CNIB volunteers, it can be used by anyone who simply wants to understand how advocacy works and how to apply advocacy best practices in support of any cause of their choosing.  The manual, which can be downloaded in Word for free, is accompanied by a Toolkit and an Advocacy Program Training Guide.

, 2017
Engaging Volunteers (blog)

Excellent blog written by members of the VolunteerMatch team and third-party experts in the volunteering and technology community. Great source for trends in the field.


Explore is a philanthropic community whose mission is to champion the selfless acts of others by documenting leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Its growing library of more than 250 original films and 30,000 photographs from around the world features a wide range of topics and everything can be used free of charge for motivation and training.

Initiatives Opposed to Volunteering

Jayne Cravens has been collecting information for years on initiatives opposed to some or all volunteering (unpaid work), or ALL kinds of volunteering, including unpaid internships at nonprofit organizations/charities. It is also a list of online and print articles about or addressing controversies regarding volunteers replacing paid staff. Most of the links are to initiatives or actions in Europe or the USA. She keeps it updated, too.

This list has been compiled to help researchers regarding volunteerism, as well as for policy makers and volunteerism advocates who want to avoid these kinds of controversies at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. This list is also compiled to refute those who believe that there are no such controversies (believe it or not, those people DO exist).

Look to the Stars: Charitable and Philanthropic Celebrities

Searchable site on the philanthropic work of 3000+ celebrities -- what causes they support with volunteering and money.


This UK consulting and research firm provides free -- and well-written -- reports on many aspects of trends in nonprofit management, online charity outreach, and volunteering. You must register your e-mail address to download PDFs.

Sesame Street introduces the concept of "volunteer" with Elmo and guest Usher

Ever wondered where volunteers find their inspiration, what makes someone a great leader?  Tonyehn Verkitus, the Senior VP of Nonprofit Engagement at GiveGab, interviews volunteers doing amazing things, leaders who inspire debate, and nonprofits finding creative solutions to problems big and small. "Snapshots" in 7 Questions take a small dip into the lives of people who do big things. New interview monthly. Free archive of all podcasts remains available.

If it's on Sesame Street, it has to appeal, right?

Bring the Media Blitz Home
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Chances are, at least for anyone watching American television, that you told volunteers to be on the lookout for mentions of service on TV and elsewhere during the week of October 19th. Even though the media blitz was something of a bust, you can still make use of it as a conversation starter. Here are some ideas:

  • Run a contest for who saw the most mentions of the word "volunteer" and where.
  • Hold a brown-bag lunch to discuss what volunteers (and paid staff) thought about the storylines or public service announcements they saw. Did they feel the messages represented them? How or how not?
  • Talk about how volunteering for your organization might be incorporated into the storyline of a popular show. Which characters would make good volunteer additions to your team? If you like the ideas generated, write them up and send them to the show's producers, with a copy to the Entertainment Industry Foundation. You never know!
  • Again if some fun ideas surface, "act out" the scenarios at your next volunteer party or recognition event. Find pictures of the actors involved and make masks for the skit players to wear as they speak the lines of fantasy dialogue the characters would have in doing or talking about their volunteer work.
Sharing Our History of Volunteers
Submitted by

At Energize, we have a special interest in documenting the history of volunteers. Our president, Susan J. Ellis, co-authored the book: By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers, New Century Edition. We encourage all organizations and collaborative efforts to celebrate  volunteers today by showcasing them as the current step in a continuum of volunteer action from the past and therefore the next step to future service. This is a great way to recognize volunteers and educate the public about their importance. [You can also read Susan's original "Hot Topic" introducing this idea and see what colleagues said in reply.] On this page, we share how others have celebrated the history of their volunteers, plus provide links to pages that can help you develop or share your projects.