You Thought That This Would Be Easy? Seeking an Understanding of Episodic Volunteering


Date of Publication:  2021

Authors: naan, Meijs, Brudney, Hersberger-Langlah, Okada, & Abu-Rumman


Published by: VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations

Episodic volunteering refers to people committing their services for a one-time event or activity. The dynamic is different to relying on active members or ongoing volunteers. When it is completed, volunteers disappear from the organisation; the psychological contract between the volunteer and organisation is short-term.  This type of limited volunteering is especially attractive among young professionals who care enough to assist but are unable to commit for sustained long-term help.

This article focused on summarising and distilling knowledge about episodic volunteering.

Based on a thorough literature review, the authors presented state-of-the-art knowledge about episodic volunteering divided into key subsections that include:

  1. Questioning whether episodic volunteering is a new area or a new era in volunteering.
  2. Defining the concept of episodic volunteering – “an individual who engages in one-time or short-term volunteer opportunities”.
  3. The singularity of episodic volunteering - is episodic volunteering performed only by episodic volunteers?
  4. Assessing the domains where episodic volunteering is most prevalent. They are more common in sporting events and fundraising events and less common in health and social services.
  5. Examining the impact of episodic volunteering on the participating individuals. It is difficult to generalise because of the many forms of episodic volunteering, but it would appear that most episodic volunteers report high levels of satisfaction and are willing to participate in other episodic volunteering events.
  6. New parties in volunteer organisations. The last 20 years have shown the rise of new parties organising and hosting episodic volunteering.
  7. Managing episodic volunteers. If an organisation wishes to keep using episodic volunteers, it must improve its volunteer management practices and make them applicable to episodic volunteers rather than to ongoing volunteers.

Finally, the authors present current gaps in the knowledge of episodic volunteers, especially understanding episodic volunteering in non-English-speaking countries.

Request a free copy of the full text from the authors here.