Communication Studies, Department of



Steimel, S. (2018). Skills-based volunteering as both work and not work: A tension-centered examination of constructions of “volunteer”. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 29(1), 133-143. doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9859-8


The Corporation for National and Community Service defines professional skills-based community service as “the practice of using work-related knowledge and expertise in a volunteer opportunity.” Traditional definitions of volunteer work in organizational communication scholarship, however, are typically based on (1) the bifurcation between work and volunteer activity; (2) low barriers to volunteer entry and exit; (3) the lack of managerial power/control over volunteers; and (4) the altruistic focus of volunteer work. An analysis of interviews with 19 skills-based volunteers highlights the identity and role tensions inherent in professional volunteering and serves as the basis for a proposal for a new way to visualize volunteering characterized by spectrums of tension rather than by the traditional lens of “not work.”