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“Incentivizing” Volunteering

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Volunteer for four hours and get a free concert ticket. Volunteer for 100 hours and get a tax rebate. Or volunteer for 500 hours to organize a gala fundraising dinner, but pay for your own admission ticket to eat.

Do we need to offer incentives to people to get them to volunteer? Are incentives simply a nice form of recognition or do they corrode the fundamental importance of volunteering as altruism? When do we ignore the money volunteers spend on top of giving time?

There has long been debate about the effectiveness of offering money, significant gifts, and other perks to stimulate volunteer recruitment. After outlining the problem,  Susan J. Ellis and Rob Jackson return to the original Points of View format of “She says/He says” to highlight both sides of the issue.

“Yes!” argues Ellis. “Incentives sometimes make sense.”
 “No!” counters Jackson.  “We should not incentivize volunteering.”

In presenting their arguments, the authors highlight some difficult gray areas concerning the  issue. And they both agree to keep in mind that “empowered, self-confident volunteers” deserve respect when the subject of incentivizing bubbles to the top.