Employees as Volunteers? Or Volunteers as Employees?

If your organization relies on paid employees to get its work done, would you treat them any differently if they were volunteers?

Other thought leaders have shared their views on this topic, including:

Here are my thoughts to build on this management discussion. The key difference between these two sets of workers are that volunteers “aren’t bound by the same command and control requirements that employees have.”  This means volunteers can voluntarily choose to offer their time and services to what they consider a worthwhile organization. They can also voluntarily choose to withdraw their time and services  when it no longer suits them. Even though employees are in contractual work situations, they can also choose to stay or leave an organization. Unlike volunteers, however, employees may need to stay for their paychecks even though they would prefer to leave — engagement for payment purposes only.

If your organization relies on volunteers to get its work done, would you treat them any differently if they were employees?

As I’ve found in my work in the nonprofit sector, the presumption that all nonprofits value volunteerism is not necessarily the case. Some nonprofit managers only give lip-service to their volunteers despite benefiting from their time and skills. These managers can take advantage of their volunteers’ passion for the mission for only so long before those volunteers get frustrated and leave.

What matters to employees and volunteers is being treated with respect while getting the tools and information needed to effectively contribute their time and talents. Whether an organization is profit-driven or mission-driven, the quality of workplace engagement depends on its culture and values including how its people are treated, regardless of their paid or unpaid status. Both employee engagement and volunteer engagement are critical – neither should be taken for granted.


2 replies on “Employees as Volunteers? Or Volunteers as Employees?”

I always treated volunteers with respect & did all I could to make sure they succeeded. In my very last job we had an amazing boss. Change happens from the top down & Terry respected everybody who worked. The volunteers celebrated their birthdays the way the staff did…..Can you say free lunch for all? If we got a bonus for the year, so did the volunteers who worked that year. Weddings, dinners, whatever all were invited. We worked hard together. We played hard together. We were treated as family. Terry has gone on to bigger opportunities. I have retired but we are still in touch.

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