Volunteering and volunteers: Benefit-cost analyses

Femida Handy, Laurie Mook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


This article examines the phenomenon of volunteering from a benefit-cost perspective. Both the individual making a decision to volunteer and the organization making a decision to use volunteer labor face benefits and costs of their actions, yet these costs and benefits almost always remain unarticulated, perhaps because the common perception of the do-good volunteer who contributes his or her labor for free discourages rational benefit-cost calculus. In this article, we examine, conceptually, the benefits and costs (both direct and indirect) accruing to the volunteer and the organization that uses volunteer labor. It is important for organizations making resource allocation both to understand and to delineate these benefits and costs. Using a case study of an organization and recent methods in social accounting, we present a practical model for doing so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-420
Number of pages9
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011


  • benefit-cost
  • social accounting
  • value added
  • volunteer labor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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