The nicest form of slavery?

Could it be volunteering? This is just me trying to understand the idea and what it leads to.

The definition sounds great:Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved for the individual. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. Volunteering may have positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment. It is helping, assisting, or serving another person or persons without pay(selection is mine). But is it always so rosy?

Where could you volunteer? Obviousely, for a charity. ”A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization. It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on non-profit and philanthropic goals as well as social well-being (e.g. activities serving the public interest or common good)“. Great. For years I’ve been part of artists charities manifesting themselves in artists-run galleries. Artists come together as volunteers to help each other. Noble. Wait, most of the time it is to help each other to earn some money. Doesn’t sound very volunteer-like but this is partly because of the system which tax and charge for a space so much that only a handful of art and craft people could ever earn their own living. Society needs creative people so this somehow covers the "public interest” definitions for a charity.

If all participants (called volunteers) sell equally or depending on the time commited – this is not too bad, I suppose. But this is often not the case. Some artist, either because they commercially are more profitable, or have some influence in their organization, could easily start earning good sums of money. Then all underdogs are actually helping them to make their living and hoping this may one day happen to them too. This is a tormenting situation and has nothing to do with concepts of charities and volunteering.

Sometime charities have staff and that’s fine as long as it is all for common good. Say, If nobody volunteers to do accounting then they have to hire.

Lets look now at all the social enterprises. “A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as a for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a co-operative, mutual organization, a disregarded entity, a social business, a benefit corporation, or a charity organization. Many commercial enterprises would consider themselves to have social objectives, but commitment to these objectives is motivated by the perception that such commitment will ultimately make the enterprise more
financially valuable. Social enterprises differ in that, inversely,
they do not aim to offer any benefit to their investors, except where
they believe that doing so will ultimately further their capacity to
realize their social and environmental goals

You are sort of allowed to make a profit but it should be all for a common good. If you are confused – you are not alone. Lets focus on a simple cooperative: “A co-op is an autonomous association of people who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.”

Here comes this staff vs volunteers problem. How do you draw a line? Who deserves money for their work and who is destine to be called a volunteer?

Some people feel they have enough money and time to help others to earn money (especially if this is all for a good cause) – and that is great. But honestly would anybody bother to ask what is you situation when expecting you to volunteer? 

The only solution I see at the moment is to make absolutely clear for everybody involved what work would entitle them for some kind of reward. There must be mutual benefit and if for some it is friendship and skills, for others it could be a bag of potatoes or even some money.

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