TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Apr 00 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Ilene Hoffman, Contributing Editor

Web-Based Volunteerism - Helping People or Lining Pockets?

"Naked a man comes into the world and naked he leaves it, after all is said and done he leaves nothing except the good deeds he leaves behind". -adapted from the great Jewish thinker RASHI (Source Unknown)

In 1997 President Clinton passed the Volunteer Protection Act. This act was designed to protect volunteers from being unfairly sued or otherwise held unfairly accountable for reasonable actions encountered while doing their "jobs" as volunteers. A random search on the web uncovers many voluntary agencies who believe that the act has a lot of holes in it, but that's not our specific beef here though. My beef is, where does it say who is responsible for the volunteers who are poorly trained, over committed by their "employers," and misused by profit making companies? What about the volunteers who don't get any recognition or rewards for their time and achievements? There's more to volunteer abuse, than being sued for a job well done.

When was the last time you knew someone who walked into an office and said: "Hey, this job looks like fun, can I volunteer at your company?"

It doesn't sound like a likely scenario, yet that is what's happening all over the Web on "community-based" sites. (Why do I put community in parentheses, well, because I'm starting to doubt the truth of whether these sites really constitute community building, but that's a whole 'nother rant for another day.)

As an advocate for volunteerism I've put my money where my mouth is for many years. I've worked with chronic psychiatric patients, drug involved teens, low-income women, single parents, and computer user groups. All of these groups had one thing in common: They were non-profit (501-C3) organizations helping some disenfranchised population reach needed services. The keyword here is non-profit. Groups that deliver needed services to some population which either has no access, no knowledge, or no funds to receive professional services readily available to monied populations.

Volunteers aid agencies by providing needed services that help reduce operational costs; there is no question of that. Volunteers aid people in many, many ways. So what do the thousands of volunteers across the web really contribute to society? Better yet, what company policies are in place to foster and reward these volunteers for their hard work and commitment?

Are web companies abusing the privileges of using volunteers? I think so. If you go to any community site, you will rarely find a non-profit organization. You will find profit making companies who "employ" volunteers to further the company's goals and enhance their ability to make money though. Not to belittle the volunteers themselves, they are making a difference in people's lives. They provide information, impart knowledge, help users navigate the web, aid in leading discussions (chats and message boards), help design sites, and create a friendly user experience on the company's web site.

The problem lies with the companies. One Volunteer Development Coordinator recently expressed this concern in a mailing list: "Are these "volunteers" help[ing] the company, which in turn will help the community? Or are they simply helping a company that is trying to save money for their shareholders."

I think far too many profit making web-based companies are sapping our valuable volunteer resources by enticing people into volunteering for their own gain. America Online, which at least provided free accounts to their volunteers, was the target of a suit, when their service costs were reduced and the volunteers felt their rewards no longer justified the means. The difference between AOL and many other companies is they still provided those free accounts, no matter the dollar value. Most web-based companies don't even pay volunteers' service provider costs. So, in effect, volunteers not only give time, but actually pay for the privilege.

The Independent Sector claims the "volunteer rate for 1998 [was] $14.30 [per hour]. We arrive at the new figure each year after calculating the average hourly wage for nonagricultural workers as published in the latest edition of the "Economic Report of the President" (released each year (for the previous year) at the end of February) and increasing it by 12 percent to estimate fringe benefits." This means that people are expending volunteer hours at a rate that is most probably higher than their own hourly wages at their jobs. Most companies are benefiting by the work done at that phantom $14.30 per hour rate, but not returning anything to society or to the IRS for that investment.

Some web-based companies even require volunteer work above and beyond their paid workers' hours, and give volunteers the exact same jobs as the paid workers, both of which I think may be illegal in some states. These companies are very good at building internal loyalty and espousing the extra work is for the "good of the community" to entice workers to give more and more of their time. Are these people rewarded in any way for their extra time? Not on some sites. I wonder when the volunteers will realize that they are being misused as a way to increase a company's profit and little else.

Got a comment? Know of a related law in your state? Know of a profit making website who does it the right way? I'd love to hear it, email me at: ileneh@mac.com.


Ilene Hoffman is a Contributing Editor for MacTech and TechRepublic magazines. She is also the Administrator at MacFixIt.com Forums and has worked with many community-based web sites. Comments on this article can be mailed to: ileneh@mac.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

How to become the ultimate robot warrior...
Chrono Strike is a delightfully immersive beat ‘em up with a sense of humor (any game with a good Sims reference gets points in my book). [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a higher score in...
Snow Roll is a devilish endless runner very much in the vein of Flappy Bird. It revels in its dastardly level of difficulty, and doesn’t really care how angry you get at it as it knows you’ll keep coming back for more. [Read more] | Read more »
How to win big in Slots Deluxe
Cheating while gambling is illegal and morally wrong, and in some parts of the world it leads to men with names like Vinnie "Six Knuckles" Manchenzo beating you to a pulp in a dark alley. [Read more] | Read more »
How to take over the world in Dictator 2
Running a country isn't easy - especially when you're a dictator who wants to take over the world and crush everyone in your path while you do it. [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a higher score in...
Tank.iois - you guessed it! - another multiplayer arena battler likeAgar.io and Slither.io. It does differentiate itself by putting you in a tiny tank though, so it's not exactly the same. To help you get that all-important high score, we've got a... | Read more »
How to unlock characters in One Tap Tenn...
As the title suggests, One Tap Tennis requires only a single tap to play its particular brand of tennis, and rewards you with a ton of unlockable characters if you perform well. Fortunately for you, we at 148Apps have got a few tips and tricks to... | Read more »
Grab it now: Game Craft’s Legend of War...
The real time strategy game is now available for you to sink your teeth into, through the App Store and Google Play. Combining elements of skill, strategy and empire building, Legend of War is a real gamers’ game. [Read more] | Read more »
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka (Gam...
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Skateboard Party is back! This third edition of the popular sports franchise features professional skater... | Read more »
Cubious (Games)
Cubious 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubious – How smart are you? How high is your IQube? Solve the impossible puzzles to find out, and help a lost little cube find his... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Waste of Space (Games)
Goat Simulator Waste of Space 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Enterprise Workers Pick Technology Over Perks...
New Adobe study shows surprising attitudes about office jobs and where the future of work is heading. Adobe has released survey findings revealing that a surprising 70 percent of U.S. office workers... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: $50-$100 off 11-in...
B&H Photo has 13″ and 11″ MacBook Airs with 256GB SSDs on sale for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100 off MSRP... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sales: Apple MacBook Pro...
B&H Photo has 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sales: Apple iMacs and M...
Take up to $150 off the price of a new iMac or Mac mini at the following Apple resellers this Memorial Day weekend: iMacs: B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP... Read more
Apple refurbished Retina MacBook Pros availab...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free... Read more
Apple refurbished 11-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $170 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Goal Zero and OtterBox Partner to Expand iPh...
Goal Zero, specialists in portable power, have announced a partnership with OtterBox, brand smartphone case protection, to offer the Slide and Slide Plus Batteries as modules compatible with the new... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
*Apple* Project Engineer - Smart Source Inc...
SmartSource is in need of an Apple Project Engineer for a 12 month contract opportunity in Pittsburg, PA. Role: Apple Project Engineer Location: Pittsburg, PA Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
Service Assistant - *Apple* Chevrolet *App...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive, we Read more
Editor, *Apple* News - APPLE (United States...
Job Summary The Apple News team is looking for a passionate and knowledgeable editor with experience covering entertainment/pop culture and experience running social Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.