Volunteers vs. Paid Workers

Not for profit organizations are comprised of a wide variety of people in order to carry out its mission and vision. Naturally, some work to get paid while others do it as volunteer work or for charitable purposes. It is important to understand the difference between those two categories before planning your management program or strategy.

There are three main categories for which volunteers and paid workers differ, these are:

  • Work
  • Hours
  • Reason


Paid Workers are given definite job descriptions for which their salary and position is based. They also undergo more complicated interviews and tests to ensure that the employer gets the best out of its money and hires the most qualified person in terms of skills and education.

Volunteer workers on the other hand have diversified job roles that does not necessarily have to be in sync with his or her experience. Moreover, every person who has the potential and drive to be a volunteer may be hired to an organization.

Regardless of paid or non-paid status, they are bound by the labor code of the area that they work in, with the same benefits and liabilities that may come with that.


Paid workers often have set hours per day or a specific count of days per week. Most of the time, whatever is in excess of that is considered as over time that the employer has to pay as well.

Volunteers may operate on the same time sheets as paid workers, however, they are mostly working around their other obligations, such as their paid work. Therefore more flexibility is usually expected.


Paid workers are employed in order for them to earn a living. Their main goal is to generate money from their employment to pay for their needs. That does not however preclude them from the same reason volunteers work at the organization.

Volunteers work because they believe in the cause that the organization is campaigning for. It may also be in line with their passion or talent. Their compensations comes in the form of fulfillment from carrying out the activities of the organization.

Management Difference

Given the aforementioned differences, we have lined up basic management guidelines for both paid workers and volunteers. It is important to note, however that management style varies depending on the type and culture of the organization and each individual.

Managing Both Similarly

1. Appreciation

Everyone wants to feel that what they are doing has a good impact. Always appreciate your staff either verbally or through written letters. This may sound simple but it can definitely go a long way in terms of motivating and managing people.

2. Sense of Responsibility

It is important to make volunteers feel that they own what they are doing and that they are headed towards the mission of the organization. This is similar to making paid workers feel accountable to the results of their tasks and showing them the impact of their actions for the advancement of their career in the organization.

3. Clear Communication

Always provide clear communication mediums for both volunteers and paid staff. Miscommunications and confusions can easily demotivate people.

Managing Both Differently

1. Tone of Command

It is important to take into account all the time that volunteers are not paid which means that the tone of command should always be evaluated. For volunteers the tone should often play around the idea that this is a teamwork project. People are teammates, there are no solid bosses or subordinates.

2. Working Hours

Again, the issue of not being paid is very important. When asking for volunteers to work overtime it is imperative that you ask them if they are comfortable with the time frame that you have in mind. This is to ensure that the volunteer and you are on the same page.

3. Resources

There are always expenses incurred when doing volunteer work, ensure at all times that costs that are related to working on organizational activities are reimbursed properly. Volunteers are often confused as donors, but they are not. Whereas employees have allowances to pay for these expenses beforehand, volunteers personal expenses need to be taken into consideration and acknowledged.