Altruism, Volunteerism, Tax Credits and Bill C-399

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Nov 2, 2012 | Blog

Recent articles on Bill C-399: The Volunteer Tax Credit, have provoked an old debate on volunteerism and altruism. For example, Charity Village posed this question to its readers in the article NDP MP proposes tax credit for volunteers Does it make sense for taxpayers to pay for volunteerism or does volunteerism itself imply an altruistic, non-monetary activity that needs no material reward? 

Volunteerism is not altruistic. There, I said it.

People have motivations for volunteering. They are unique to each individual and come in the form of a desire to socialize; learn something new; gain a new skill; add experience to a resume; build professional networks; understand how to best address a community issue; contribute to a solution; have fun; and many, many more.

The idea that people have motivations behind volunteering is not new, but what about the idea of turning motivations into a form of payment? When not-for-profits provide volunteer roles that explicitly offer the above as a type of “payment”, they create an equal exchange. A win-win for the organization AND the individual.

At Vantage Point, we believe in paying people for their volunteer work, but not with money, and definitely not poorly. Tax credits for volunteer hours will not encourage more people to volunteer or provide an adequate reward to those who already do.

So, what will? Well, people choose to volunteer because they want the unique opportunities we as not-for-profits can offer them (all those great things I mentioned above!) which they often can’t find elsewhere (like in their day-to-day, paid-with-money work). These opportunities are a significant payment – and the more we offer  them, the more people will want to contribute their time and talent.

What do you think?  

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Vantage Point

Our mission is to transform not-for-profit organizations by convening, connecting, and equipping leaders to lift organizational capacity. Every client leaves our programs with resources to excel in their role and grow the impact of their organization.

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