Informal Volunteering, Inequality, and Illegitimacy

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. This article argues that informal volunteering (the unstructured giving of one’s time to help friends, neighbors, or community) has been ignored or understudied within research and policy. With data frequently showing higher rates of informal volunteering among women, people of color, working-class communities, and other often discriminated against groups and qualitative research demonstrating the value of informal volunteering within poorer communities, such positioning serves to reproduce dominant narratives around volunteering, reinforcing social inequalities. Using Bourdieusian critical theory from largely U.K.-based working-class feminist scholars, this article contributes to the nonprofit literature by showing how such a formulation adds to the legitimacy of middle-class cultures and delegitimizes working-class ones, especially at the current neoliberal conjuncture where volunteering experiences are encouraged to be used as a tool of distinction and employability. However, the article cautions against conceptualizing informal volunteering within existing formal volunteering frameworks, as doing so may further hollow out community life.

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly |  

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