6.1. Background information

Volunteering comes from the Latin word ‘voluntas’ and means free will or a decision taken individually. Therefore, volunteering means the willingness to devote ones time, energy, skills and good will to perform various works.

There are also other terms used for volunteering based on the country and region, for example: civic participation, civic engagement, voluntary participation and honorary position.

At the European level, the European council decided that the term “voluntary activities” refers to all types of voluntary activity, whether formal or non-formal which are undertaken of a person’s own free will, choice and motivation, and is without concern for financial gain.

Volunteering is broadly used to include both formal and non-formal forms of volunteering.

Formal volunteering involves activities that lace in organized structures. For example being the unpaid board member of a non-profit organization or the unpaid coach of a local football team.

In other words , volunteers involved in formal volunteering activities donate their time or work without pay for or through organizations or social groups.

Non-formal volunteering involves unorganized forms of volunteering activities. For example, helping neighbors with groceries or organizing a neighborhood picnic .

Volunteers involved in non-formal volunteering activities donate their time without compensation to people (outside the family and circle of friends), or to their environment (community, neighborhood) performed without the help of intermediary organizations or groups.

To keep it simple, we decided to use the following definition for volunteering, involving both formal and non-formal activities, for this toolkit:

Volunteering is the unpaid help provided to others

The term volunteering should be not mixed up with philanthropy. Philanthropy involves the transfer of money or gifts in kind, to or through organizations or social groups. However, volunteering is more than providing money and goods it involves being active yourself. For example, if you are involved in the unpaid activity of collecting the money and goods for social group in need, meaning picking up and packing the money and goods, than this would count as volunteering activity.