Volunteering Has Been Identified as a Significant Contribution to the Development of Social Capital or Civil Society. Should Non Government Organisations Feel a Responsibility to Maximise Volunteer Opportunities

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Volunteering has been identified as a significant contribution to the development of social capital or civil society. Should non government organisations feel a responsibility to maximise volunteer opportunities? Why?

Introduction

Volunteering is defined as "any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization" (Wilson, 2000). It is often mentioned in the context of social capital. Researchers believe that volunteering has contribution to the development of social capital so that it produces social and economic benefits to society. Beside this, volunteering also brings about benefits to volunteers themselves. Therefore, non government organizations (NGO) should have responsibility to promote and maximize volunteer opportunities. This essay aims to analysis this point of view.

What is volunteering?
There is a broad range of definitions describing the concept of volunteering. Many definitions of volunteering are used in research, creating confusion for readers and researchers (Pereiwskyj and Warburton, 2007). The definition of volunteering varies from researcher to researcher, from organization to organization, and from country to country. Regarding who or what is considered a volunteer, according to Justin Davis Smith (2000), volunteering takes different forms and meanings in different contexts. Although volunteering has a variety of definitions, there are some core characteristics which constitute a voluntary activity. First, voluntary activities should not be undertaken primarily for financial gain. Voluntary action is not rewarded with a wage or salary. Some would argue that only purely altruistic behavior should be considered as volunteering. Others think that there is no pure altruism behavior so that all volunteering contains an element of exchange and reciprocity. Hence, some definitions allow volunteers receive reward in some way, either non-materially, through the provision of training or accreditation, or materially, through the reimbursement of expenses or the payment of an honorarium. This characteristic is the most important point to distinguish between volunteering and paid employment. Volunteer should not undertake the activity primarily for financial gain. The second, it is undertaken of one’s own free will. The decision to volunteer may be influenced by peer pressure or personal feelings of obligation to society but, in essence, the individual must be in a position to choose whether or not to volunteer. The third, the activity should be of benefit to someone other than the volunteer, or to society at large, although it is recognized that volunteering brings significant benefit to the volunteer as well. Fourthly, some definitions claim that volunteering must be carried out through a formal, non-profit organizations or NGOs. Other definitions also include activity undertaken within the public or corporate sector. This characteristic is used to separate formal volunteering from informal volunteering which may include everyday situations such as when a group of neighbors help a local family by picking up children from school. In Australia context, a volunteer is broadly described by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2001) as someone who willingly gives unpaid help in the form of time, service or skills, through an organization or group.

Benefits of volunteering

Studies on the value of volunteering have focused on three areas: the economic value, social value, and the benefits to volunteers themselves (Kirsten, 2009).

First, volunteering makes a direct economic contribution to society. By providing time and resources to organisations, volunteers help deliver services, products and opportunities. Without volunteer’s help, these services or products may have been provided at a higher cost to the recipient or not be provided at all. Therefore, volunteering adds to the overall economic output...
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