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Paying to Play: Charging Fees to Volunteers

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In March 2011, 10News in San Diego, California, ran a story with the following headline: “Habitat For Humanity Charging Local Volunteers: Group Forcing Local Volunteers To Pay Before Helping Build Homes.” The resulting controversy revealed both facts and opinions about “passing along” the costs of supporting volunteers to the volunteers themselves. This practice occurs more often than many realize, and can include expenses for extra supervision for a group project, background check inquiries, special training, or even membership dues. In this Points of View, Susan J. Ellis and Steve McCurley question whether it’s reasonable to levy fees on volunteers, when the expense of hiring paid staff is seen as a budget item. They analyze all of the issues involved, and offer an unusual proposal from a different perspective.

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