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

f.lux 42.1 - Adjusts the color of your d...
f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake... Read more
Spotify 1.1.94.872 - Stream music, creat...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
Vitamin-R 4.15 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
OfficeTime 2.0.628 - Easy time and expen...
OfficeTime is time and expense tracking that is easy, elegant and focused. Other time keepers are clumsy or oversimplified. OfficeTime balances features and ease of use, allowing you to easily track... Read more
Slack 4.28.182 - Collaborative communica...
Slack brings team communication and collaboration into one place so you can get more work done, whether you belong to a large enterprise or a small business. Check off your to-do list and move your... Read more
DEVONthink Pro 3.8.6 - Knowledge base, i...
DEVONthink is DEVONtechnologies' document and information management solution. It supports a large variety of file formats and stores them in a database enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI). Many... Read more
FileMaker Pro 19.5.4 - Quickly build cus...
FileMaker Pro is the tool you use to create a custom app. You also use FileMaker Pro to access your app on a computer. Start by importing data from a spreadsheet or using a built-in Starter app to... Read more
Backblaze 8.5.0.628 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $6 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Day One 7.16 - Maintain a daily journal.
Day One is an easy, great-looking way to use a journal / diary / text-logging application. Day One is well designed and extremely focused to encourage you to write more through quick Menu Bar entry,... Read more
Garmin Express 7.14.0.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

We’re Digging ‘Shovel Knight Dig’ – The...
We spend the bulk of this week’s podcast talking about the new iPhone 14. Specifically, the iPhone 14 Pro Max which both Eli and myself picked up. The consensus seems to be: They’re great! They’re iPhones! We do lay down our hot takes on all the new... | Read more »
TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Loose Noz...
There aren’t a lot of stories like that of the development of Loose Nozzles, and of those games that do have an interesting development story, even fewer are actually decent games to play. Loose Nozzles nails both, though. The way it was created is... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Shovel Knight Di...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for September 23rd, 2022. In today’s article, we’ve got the rest of this week’s releases to look at. There are actually a few big games today, including the hot-hot-hot Shovel Knight Dig... | Read more »
‘Gubbins’ is a Way Too Adorable Word Gam...
There are games whose art style, sounds, and overall vibe just make me smile ear to ear. Games like Hidden Folks, Krispee Street, or Tiny Wings. There’s just something so cool about being able to literally feel the heart that goes into a game. Now... | Read more »
Based on the Baking Reality Show, ‘Naile...
Fans of Netflix’s reality baking show Nailed It! have a new holiday-themed season to look forward to next month when Nailed It! Halloween launches on October 5th, but the fun doesn’t stop there because the show is also arriving as a mobile game the... | Read more »
Cookie Run: Kingdom announces collaborat...
In news sure to excite fans of biscuits or K-Pop music, the Korean sensations BTS have teamed up with Cookie Run: Kingdom for a series of events. After some warm-up episodes, the collaboration will culminate in a BTS in-game concert, so if anyone'... | Read more »
‘Shovel Knight Dig’ From Nitrome and Yac...
Shovel Knight Dig () from Nitrome and Yacht Club Games is this week’s new Apple Arcade release. It is definitely one of my favorite additions to the service ever, and a fantastic game overall. I played it a few hours ago when it started rolling out... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Mario Strikers’...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for September 22nd, 2022. Hunh, lots of twos in the date today. Nifty. As those who read yesterday’s article may remember, I got a vaccine shot about twenty four hours ago and it is... | Read more »
Rogue-Like Platformer ‘Tallowmere 2’ Lau...
The original Tallowmere from developer Chris McFarland launched on mobile way back in 2015, and to be honest it did not leave a good first impression with me. For lack of a better term, it just seemed… janky, and right from the start the game sort... | Read more »
Alchemy Stars newest event launches and...
Alchemy Stars has introduced its latest event, entitled Farewell, My Wonderland, bringing with it new characters and a bevvy of rewards. The event will reportedly focus on the underlying message that even after tragic events there is still light,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Use our exclusive Apple Price Trackers to fin...
Our Apple award-winning price trackers are the best place to look for the lowest prices and latest sales on all the latest Apple gear this season. Scan our price trackers for the latest information... Read more
New promo at Verizon: Get Apple Watch Series...
Purchase a new iPhone 14 at Verizon, and get an Apple Watch Series 8 for as low as $5 per month. $120 in promo credits for the Watch are spread over a 36 month term, reducing the price of the Watch... Read more
Visible drops prices on Apple iPhone 13 model...
Verizon’s low-cost wireless cell service, Visible has dropped prices on iPhone 13 models to new low prices starting at $599: – iPhone 13 Pro Max: starting at $980 + free $200 gift card – iPhone 13... Read more
Back in stock! 14″ MacBook Pros with Apple M1...
Amazon has restocked 14″ MacBook Pros M1 Pro CPUs for $400 off MSRP, starting at only $1599. Shipping is free. Be sure to make your purchase from Amazon rather than a third-party seller. Their prices... Read more
This is the final week to take advantage of A...
Apple’s Back to School promotion for 2022 ends on September 26, 2022. As part of this promotion, Apple will include a free $150 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of any MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or... Read more
Mac Studio with M1 Max CPU back in stock toda...
Apple has the base standard-configuration Mac Studio available again in their Certified Refurbished section for $1799, and it’s in stock today. Each Mac Studio comes with Apple’s one-year warranty,... Read more
Apple MagSafe iPhone battery on sale for $84,...
Amazon has Apple’s MagSafe Battery on sale for $84 today. Shipping is free. That’s $15 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for one of these MagSafe batteries among the Apple retailers we... Read more
24-inch M1-powered iMacs available today at A...
Apple has a full range of 24-inch M1 iMacs available today in their Certified Refurbished store. Models are available starting at only $1099 and range up to $260 off original MSRP. Each iMac is in... Read more
Verizon offers free Apple iPhone 14 models to...
Verizon is offering a $800-$1000 discounts on Apple’s new iPhone 14 models for new and existing customers with a qualified trade-in. Price of the iPhone 14 will be spread over 36 months of payments,... Read more
Gazelle drops prices on iPhone 13 models to a...
Gazelle has a full line of discounted, refurbished, unlocked Apple iPhone 13 models now available starting at $469. iPhones are offered in Fair, Good, and Excellent conditions, and multiple colors... Read more

Jobs Board

Physician Assistant, Primary Care, *Apple*...
Physician Assistant, Primary Care, Apple Valley (1.07FTE) + Job ID: 65766 + Department: AV Primary Care + City: Apple Valley, MN + Location: HP - Apple Read more
Operations Manager - Mac/ *Apple* Engineerin...
…Responsible for the day-to-day activities relating to the engineering of Apple Macs in a complex, multi-platform environment. Demonstrates strong leadership, Read more
Lead Developer - *Apple* tvOS - Rumble (Uni...
…earnings, and positive sentiment About the role: We are looking for a Lead Apple tvOS Developer to join our application engineering team to expand our video centric Read more
Systems Administrator - *Apple* Devices / J...
…Administration **Duties and Responsibilities** + Configure and maintain the client's Apple Device Management (ADM) solution. The current solution is JAMF supporting Read more
Sr Product Manager, *Apple* TV Platforms -...
…an experienced senior product manager to drive the strategy and requirements for our Apple TV devices, acting as the champion and owner of the holistic experience in Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.