Dictionary

Possibly the only online dictionary of terms related to volunteering and volunteering theory. Possibly.

 

A

Altruism. A term popularised by Auguste de Comte detailing the selfless concern for the welfare of others. Opposite of egoism and selfishness. With regards to volunteer motives; the big A is an easy concept to define but an extremely difficult motive to isolate from other more egoistic concerns.

Ambiguity.“Use of words that allow alternative interpretations.” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Surrounds much of the terminology used to discuss volunteerism.

B

Big Society. Policy of the UK Conservative Party and now of the UK Coalition government. Concerned with empowering society and reducing the role of the government. Increasing the contribution of volunteers is a key priority of the policy.

C

Charity.

Civic-Duty.

Civil Society. The totality of organisations that are distinct from the state, big-business and family. They are thus defined by being non-profit and dominated by volunteers.  In practice the clear delineation of what constitutes civil society is made difficult by the blurring of boundaries between state, society, family and commerce.

Collective Action.

Communitarianism.

Community. “A society where peoples relations with each other are direct and personal and where a complex web of ties link people in mutual bonds of emotion and obligation.” (From ODSS). However a community is not limited to a particular geographic locality. Many larger communities are transnational (i.e. they cross borders) and are defined by common and shared interests, heritage and/or heritage e.g. online communities, global communities, business communities, religious communities. Possessing a ‘sense of community’ may encourage someone to volunteer.

Corporate Social Responsibility.

CSO. Civil Society Organisation; any organisation that is considered part of civil society. Includes NGOs, charities, trade-unions, community organisations and advocacy groups.

Cultural Capital. A term popularised by Pierre Bourdieu referring to resources, that are not directly financial or economic in nature, that allow an individual to progress in life. Examples include upbringing, education, experiences, inheritance etc. It is widely believed that the more cultural capital a person has; the more likely they are to volunteer. For a better explanation of it see here.

D

Donations.

E

ENGO. Environmental NGO. An NGO concerned with the environment e.g. WWF

F

Formal Volunteering.

Free-Rider Problem. Consuming a collective resource without contributing to its production or maintenance. The term originates from ‘free-riding’ on public transport i.e. not paying the fare. If this happens too much then the collective resource becomes expensive to maintain. With regards to volunteering, the Free-Rider problem affects motivation as Wilson and Musick explain: “How long will you pick up  litter  in your neighbourhood  if you do not see  anyone else  doing  it and your solitary  effort  has  little  impact?” (695).

G

Grass-Roots.

H

I

Informal Volunteering.

INGO. International NGO. An NGO whos scope is international rather than just local. May work as a network facilitating co-operation between local and regional NGOs. Usually has offices in different countries.

J

K

L

M

Micro-Volunteering.

N

NGO. Non-governmental Organisation. An organisation that is separate from the state although it is often synonymous with a non-profit organisation as well. As with the definition of civil society, the definition of an NGO is blurred by the fact that NGOs often work in close-co-operation with both big-business and the government.

Not-for-Profit.

O

Online Volunteering.

P

Patriotism.

Philanthropy.

Pro-Social Attitude.

Public Services

Q

QUANGO. Quasi-Autonomous NGO. Mainly used in the UK and Australia, the term refers to an NGO that has greater ties to the government than a normal NGO. This often refers to the fact that the NGO is financed partly or wholly by the government. In practise this can compromise the autonomy of the NGO. An ambiguous term that underlines the complexity of delineating civil society organisations.

R

S

Sense of Community.

Social Capital. Social capital is a term beloved of modern sociologists and essentially describes the way in which contacts between people (termed social networks) have a (usually positive) effect on a person or community. Boiled down to its common base-form this often equates to “the more people you know = the greater capacity you have to be more productive”. It is, of course, not that simple and many sociologists would say that the affects of social capital are not always positive.

Social Networks.

Social Responsibility.

T

The Common Good.

The Volunteer Community.

Think Tank.

U

Ushahidi.

Utilitarianism.

V

Voluntarism.

Volunteerism.

Volunteer Management.

Volunteer Organisation.

W

X

Y

Z

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