Types of volunteering

Volunteering can come in many forms, and depending on the situation may not be easily categorized. Here are some other examples:

“With formal volunteering, it’s more structured, and there’s usually certain outcomes that you want to meet. There’s also an agreement with an organisation and with volunteers about how much time they’re going to be spending on a particular programme and the number of days. It’s really set, there is a structure and you have to follow a particular structure.”  Tiffany Schouw, Programmes Assistant at Action Volunteers Africa.


Volunteers in governance work provide leadership and direction to an organization. They help in the planning and decision-making involved in an organization’s operations. Those who fit this type of work usually have career experience or advocacy related to the organization’s main focus.

Example positions: Member of the Board of Directors of a not-for-profit, member of a parish administration board, treasurer for the SGB.

Social action

Social action volunteers are joined together by common advocacy or goal. Like non-formal volunteers, they regard each other as friends or comrades. A social action volunteer program can have structure, for example having a coordinator or leader, but some do not. Volunteers do not usually have regular hours of volunteer time. But volunteers make up for it since they are usually very passionate and motivated about the cause and work hard towards achieving specific social change.

Example positions: lobbyist for political groups, campaigner for environmentalism, advocate for research/studies on a certain illness or disease.
gathering signatures, making phone calls.

Project based

In this type of volunteer work, volunteers provide their services for projects that have defined time frames. This requires volunteers to have specific skills to contribute. They follow clearly defined goals to be delivered at defined schedules. Project-based work can exist within a formal program or can be a standalone project. It can have leaders or coordinators but they are not expected to manage the volunteers.

Example positions: Member of a committee planning the anniversary of your town.

Information sourced from Live & Learn. 2018. Updated 2020. 5 types of volunteer work [online] Available here.

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