The Current definition of volunteering is outdated because it excludes large numbers of volunteers around the nation who do not fit into the current one.
I have had the privilege and honor of managing volunteer programs for the past 18 years and have done so in both not for profit and private organizations. So I believe I can speak with a certain knowledge of how volunteering works on many levels in various settings. I am passionate about volunteering and effective Volunteer Management and fear that if the definition of volunteering remains as it is that we will have too many tiers of volunteering. Of course I understand the fears too that volunteers could be “used” by privately owned organizations and not used appropriately or to save staffing costs. This is where effective Volunteer Management comes into place.
I believe that not only do we need a broader and clearer definition of volunteering but we need some type of accreditation body that can set standards for all organizations that engage volunteers. This would be similar to the current national standards but could go one step further in giving marks of approval to organizations meeting these standards.
I am in favor of the definition being along the lines of those in the UK, Canada and the United Nations.
The “Compact Code of Good Practice on volunteering” (2008) cited at www.volunteering.org.uk contains a short definition of volunteering as:
“an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than (or in addition to) close relatives…and includes formal activity undertaken through public, private and voluntary organisations as well as informal community participation and campaigning.”
I have written more about the topic on this blog.