More Than a ‘Little Act of Kindness’? Towards a Typology of Volunteering as Unpaid Work

Mihaela Kelemen, Anita Mangan, Sue Moffat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
447 Downloads (Pure)


Definitions of volunteering are widespread and complex, yet relatively little attention is given to volunteering as unpaid work, even though it intersects with the worlds of paid employment and the domestic sphere, cutting across individual/collective and public/private spaces. This article advances a typology of volunteering work (altruistic, instrumental, militant and forced volunteering/‘voluntolding’) that illuminates the complexity and dynamism of volunteering. Using qualitative data from a study of 30 volunteers to explore practices of volunteering as they unfold in daily life, the typology provides much-needed conceptual building blocks for a theory of ‘volunteering as unpaid work’. This perspective helps transcend the binaries prevalent in the sociology of work and provides a lens to rethink what counts as work in contemporary society. It also invites further research about the effects of ‘voluntolding’ on individuals and society, and on the complex relationship between volunteering work and outcomes at a personal and collective level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1256
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Early online date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Structured keywords

  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy
  • MGMT theme Inclusive Economy


  • altruism
  • collectivism
  • individualism
  • sociology of work
  • volunteering
  • ‘voluntolding’
  • unpaid work


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