This site is a sandbox or learning lab of sorts: a place to play and experiment with ideas about volunteer engagement.
Ultimately, I hope to help change the conversation about volunteerism. Too often the narrative is sweet and anemic (“look at what those nice volunteers did”) or defaults to a series of logistics and transactions. I envision a:
- narrative about service that is as generative and powerful as the work volunteers do.
- practice of service that draws on community-centric principles such as reciprocity, interdependence, love, stewardship, right relationship, justice, and co-creation.
- framing of service that understands it as a powerful adaptive tool that brings community together to meet common needs.
To support that vision, I borrow a tactic from the Solutions Journalism Network of complicating the narrative. Journalist Amanda Ripley explains it this way:
“Complicating the narrative means finding and including the details that don’t fit the narrative – on purpose. The idea is to revive complexity in a time of false simplicity.”
- Because service, volunteers, the agencies that engage volunteers, and the practice of community are complex and diverse. Oversimplifying them diminishes their richness and nuance and meaning.
- Because we need to fully reckon with the light and the often-overlooked shadow of service if we are to realize its potential.
- Because we have an opportunity to come up with more enlivening and equitable answers to the question of how we want to be in community with each other.
Ready to get started? Check out, comment on, and share the blogs below or on the right. Explore the application of developmental theories (All Quadrant Model and Action Logics) or the concept of the Commons to volunteerism. Geek out with my dissertation, which is a deep dive on volunteer value: Making the Invisible Visible: Capturing the Value of Volunteerism in Nonprofit Organizations. Thanks for visiting!
- When and Where to Use Wage Replacement Rates (or Not) for Volunteer Value“The most enduring and controversial question within the field of volunteerism is the one that relates to the ‘value’ of volunteers and the hours they contribute”. Andy Fryar This enduring question comes to the forefront each year during National Volunteer Month when Independent Sector releases its annual update of the financial value of a volunteer…
- Trading Measurement for WitnessingThree years ago, I facilitated a session about capturing volunteer impact in Manhattan. We discussed connecting volunteer contributions to the organization mission. I encouraged the group to think about capturing volunteer impact instead of measuring it since so much of what volunteers offer doesn’t show up in numbers. The participants teamed up to match volunteer…
- Why Volunteering for the Optics is Not a Good LookDirty. Icky. Gross. A colleague who facilitates group volunteering shared a trend she noticed in Summer 2020. Some of the groups calling her began asking for service projects “with a diversity focus”. When pressed for what that meant, most could not offer specifics. One corporate representative replied that he was only the messenger, merely passing…
- Volunteer Purpose: Low-Cost Labor, Value-Added Partners, or More?The scene… A volunteer administrator puts the finishing touches on his budget for the year. He is excited about the ways this funding will enable volunteers to advance the organization’s mission in meaningful ways and support paid staff in engaging those volunteers well. The budget is higher than in past years but still modest compared…
- Reflections on Finding Community and This Year’s Popular BlogsAs the year wraps up, I want to thank you for visiting Volunteer Commons. My word for the year was dare. One way I practiced daring was to get content out of the journals pictured above and into the world. The best part of this daring was finding community at the other end of a…