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Models of Volunteering: Entrepreneurial, Episodic, Informal, Mandated, and Residential

Entrepreneurial Volunteering

A recent trend in volunteer service has been an increase in individuals approaching organizations with their own self-defined projects or roles, also known as entrepreneurial volunteerism. While independently-proposed projects are more difficult to anticipate and may be a bit more challenging to manage, they also present a terrific opportunity to engage volunteers who might not be interested in traditional service roles. In addition, the injection of new ideas and activities can help a volunteer program move beyond tried and true volunteer positions and into more innovative models of engagement.

Here are a few resources to learn more about entrepreneurial volunteering:

Episodic Volunteering

Another recent trend has been a shift away from regular, long-term volunteering to more episodic or one-time service. While this has created significant challenges for many organizations that depend on consistently available volunteers (think mentoring, health services, etc.), the reality is that more and more volunteers are looking for ways to get engaged in a short-term capacity.

This is especially true given that episodic volunteering may not always be about time availability but rather time of year - for example, lots of people seek to volunteer during the holiday season of November and December. Here are a few resources we've found to help organizations find more ways to involve episodic volunteers:

Informal Volunteerism

As professionals in the field of volunteer engagement, it is easy to forget that an entirely separate strand of engagement exists worldwide that we many never see – informal volunteering. Here's a great research article on informal volunteering in the U.S.:

Mandated Volunteerism

There will always be debates on what constitutes volunteering. For some, it is the absence of pay. For others, it is the willingness to give time without personal reward. The difference between the two? The former excludes national service like AmeriCorps (where stipends and education awards are often included) and the latter excludes service-learning and mandated volunteerism, both cases in which the volunteer may not truly be choosing service so much as fulfilling a requirement. Where most agree is that volunteers work for the betterment of community.

However you define volunteerism though, mandated volunteerism, often court-ordered via local judicial systems, is a topic that will likely come up when seeking volunteers. Here are some resources to help you decide if and/or how you will work with court-ordered volunteers:

Residential Volunteerism

What is residential volunteerism? It's that middle-ground between local volunteerism and national service. Volunteering for a prolonged period of time, whether it be weeks or months, living in a new area, and working with a particular organization…not necessarily as part of a formal program. Check out these resources from the UK where there is a strong network of residential volunteerism: