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

Black Hole Joyrider (Games)
Black Hole Joyrider 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Guide your spacecraft through the gravity well of a powerful black hole using only your retro-thrusters and dwindling fuel... | Read more »
My Koi (Games)
My Koi 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: My Koi is a beautiful and relaxing fish pond app. Customise and name each fish. Feed them daily. Watch them grow. Collect new fish.... | Read more »
Never Gone (Games)
Never Gone 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ###IMPPORTANT### Never Gone's HD art resources require devices with more than 1GB RAM, so please note that iPhone 4/4s, iPad 2/... | Read more »
INKS. (Games)
INKS. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers of BAFTA-winning Lumino City comes INKS. INKS updates pinball for a new generation. It combines the joy of pinball with... | Read more »
How to maximise your profits in Bakery B...
Running a bakery can be an expensive venture. You’ll need to continuously upgrade your oven, your kitchen supplies, and even your ingredients to keep customers happy. Most of these renovations in Bakery Blitz cost a pretty penny, but we have a few... | Read more »
How to manage your time in Bakery Blitz
It can be tricky, especially when you risk burning your kitchen to the ground if you forget a cake in the oven, so make sure to use these time management tricks to keep your bakery running smoothly. Don’t collect the money right away [Read more] | Read more »
Model 15 (Music)
Model 15 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $29.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The Moog Model 15 App is the first Moog modular synthesizer and synthesis educational tool created exclusively for iPad, iPhone and... | Read more »
How to deal with wind in Angry Birds Act...
Angry Birds Action! is a physics-based puzzler in which you're tasked with dragging and launching birds around an obstacle-littered field to achieve a set objective. It's simple enough at first, but when wind gets introduced things can get pretty... | Read more »
How to get three stars in every level of...
Angry Birds Action! is, essentially, a pinball-style take on the pull-and-fling action of the original games. When you first boot it up, you'll likely be wondering exactly what it is you have to do to get a good score. Well, never fear as 148Apps... | Read more »
The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12-inch 128GB iPad Pros on sale for up to $10...
B&H Photo has 12″ 128GB WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 12″ Space Gray 128GB WiFi iPad Pro: $899 $50 off MSRP... Read more
Global Tablet Sales Slump Continues, iPad’s F...
Another miserable showing for the global slate tablet category in calendar Q1/16, with global tablet shipments falling another 1ten percent to 46.5 million units during the according to Strategy... Read more
Revel Systems to Showcase iPad POS Platform w...
Revel Systems, specialists in iPad Point of Sale management solution for brick-and-mortar retail, food businesses and more, today announced that it will showcase its innovative iPad Point of Sale... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 iMacs available for up...
Apple now has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are... Read more
Indian Smartphone Market Grows Annually by 12...
India’s smartphone market grew by 12 percent year-over-year, with 24.4 million units shipping in Q1 2016. The top five vendors stayed the same, with Samsung in the lead, followed by Micromax, Intex... Read more
Get Notifications When Your Friend’s Phone Ba...
Calgary, Canada based Stonelight Pictures has announced the release of Battery Share 1.0.1, its new utility for iOS 9 supported devices. The company notes that people are spending more time on their... Read more
11-inch 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Amazon has the current-generation 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MJVM2LL/A) on sale for $749.99 for a limited time. Their price is $150 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more
Price drops on clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs by up to $250. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799, $200... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and 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
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.