Skip to main content

Volunteering for Human Service Provisions: Lessons from Italy and the U.S.A.

Abstract

The increased reliance on volunteers in all industrialized democracies has been parallelled by growing fiscal crises in most states, widespread criticism of welfare, and increased demand for social services. While volunteer work is presumed to be an alternative to public services, its feasibility is not yet clear. We suggest that a cross-national comparison of two significantly different countries would provide more information about volunteerism as a partial substitute for public services. We compared the United States where volunteerism is a widespread tradition and Italy where there has been a “rediscovery” of volunteerism since the 1980s.

Differences between the two countries in the practice of volunteerism are examined from several perspectives. They include the relationships between volunteers and the statutory sector, the professionalization of volunteer activity, the role of citizen participation in a capitalistic society, and the Lockean principle of limited government. Finally, we conclude that while there are many differences in welfare provision between the United States and Italy, they do have a common element: increased reliance on volunteers for every aspect of day-to-day life; however, this reliance is mostly ideologically-based and may prove unfounded and costly.

REFERENCES

  • Adams, D. S.: 1987, ‘Ronald Reagan's “revival”: Voluntarism as a theme in Reagan's civic religion’, Sociological Analysis 48, pp. 17–29.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ascoli, U.: 1988a, ‘Azione volontaria e servizi socio-assistenziali: Uno studio dell'area anconetana’, Prisma 12 (December), pp. 47–54.

  • Ascoli, U.: 1988b, ‘The Italian welfare system in the 1980s: Less state and more market?’, in R. Morris (ed.), Testing the Limits of Social Welfare: International Perspectives on Policy Changes in Nine Countries (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, Hanover, NH), pp. 165–192.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ascoli, U.: 1992. ‘Towards a partnership between statutory sector and voluntary action? Italian welfare pluralism in the 90's’, in S. Kuhnle and P. Selle (eds.), Government and Voluntary Organizations (Avebury, Aldershot, UK), pp. 136–156.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ascoli, U.: 1994, Il volontariato in alcune citta' delle Marche (Istituto di Storia Economica e Sociologia, Universita' di Ancona).

  • Baldock, C. V.: 1983, ‘Volunteer work as work: Some theoretical considerations’, in C. V. Baldock and R. Cass (eds.), Women, Social Welfare, and the State in Australia (George Allen & Unwin, Boston), pp. 279–297).

    Google Scholar 

  • Bianchi, M. and P. Ceresa: 1985, Il volontariato nella provincia di Trento. (Quaderni di Lavoro della Provinicia autonoma di Trento, Trento).

    Google Scholar 

  • Bojar, K.: 1989, ‘Broadening community service to include low-income students’, Change (September/October), pp. 22–23.

  • Booz, Allen and Hamilton, Inc.: 1985, Action on National Retired Senior Volunteer Program Participant Impact Evaluation (ACTION, Washington, DC).

    Google Scholar 

  • Borzaga, C.: 1993, ‘The Italian nonprofit sector: An overview of an undervalued reality’, in A. Ben-Ner and B. Gui (eds.), The Nonprofit Sector in the Mixed Economy (The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI), pp. 205–219.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowles, E.: 1976, ‘Older persons as providers of services: Three federal programs’, in F. Riessman (ed.), Older Persons: Unused Resources for Unmet Needs (Sage, Beverly Hills, CA), pp. 114–127.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brudney, J. L.: 1989, ‘The use of volunteers by local governments as an approach to fiscal stress’, Research in Urban Policy 3, pp. 109–121.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brudney, J. L.: 1990, Fostering Volunteer Programs in the Public Sector (Jossey Bass, San Francisco).

    Google Scholar 

  • Burke D. M. and M. Hall: 1986, ‘Personality characteristics of volunteers in a companion for children program’, Psychological Reports 59, pp. 819–825.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cahn, E. S.: 1990, The Time Dollar (Essential Information, Washington, DC).

    Google Scholar 

  • Chambre, S. M.: 1987, Good Deeds in Old Age (D.C. Health, Lexington, MA).

    Google Scholar 

  • Chambre S. M.: 1991, ‘Volunteers as witnesses: perspectives on AIDS volunteers in New York City’, Social Service Review 65, pp. 531–547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A.: 1990, ‘Deployment of volunteers by governmental social services in Israel’, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 17(3), pp. 150–173.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A.: 1996, ‘Empowerment under capitalism: The case of the United States’, in P. Parsloe (ed.), Pathways to Empowerment (Vintage Press, Birmingham, UK), pp. 27–39.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A. and L. M. Amrofell: 1994, ‘Mapping volunteer activity’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 23, pp. 335–351.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A. and J. Cwikel: 1992, ‘Elderly volunteers: Assessing their potential as an untapped resource’, Journal of Aging and Social Policy 4(1-2), pp. 125–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A. and R. S. Goldberg-Glen: 1991, ‘Measuring motivation to volunteer in human services’, Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences 27(3), pp. 269–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A., F. Handy and M. Wadsworth: 1996, ‘Public perception of who is a volunteer’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 24, pp. 364–383.

    Google Scholar 

  • Comune di Modena: 1987, Modena e il volontariato (F. Angeli, Milan).

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooley, E. A., G. H. Singer and L. K. Irvin: 1989, ‘Volunteers as part of family support services for families of developmentally disabled members’, Education and Training in Mental Retardation 24, pp. 207–218.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duncombe, S.: 1985, ‘Volunteers in city government: Advantages, disadvantages, and uses’, National Civic Review 79, pp. 356–364.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, S. J. and K. H. Noyes: 1990, By the People (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco).

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, S. J., A. Weisbord and K. H. Noyes: 1991, Children as Volunteers: Preparing for Community Service (revised ed.) (Energize, Philadelphia).

    Google Scholar 

  • Fischer, L. R., M. D. Mueller and P. W. Cooper: 1991, ‘Older volunteers: A discussion of the Minnesota senior study’, The Gerontologist 31, pp. 183–194.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frisch, M. B. and M. Gerrard: 1981, ‘Natural helping systems: A survey of Red Cross volunteers’, American Journal of Community Psychology 9, pp. 567–579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Forward, D.: 1994, Heros After Hours: Extraordinary Acts of Employee Volunteerism (Jossey Bass, San Francisco).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayghe, H. V.: 1991. ‘Volunteers in the U.S.: Who donates time?’, Monthly Labor Review 114(2), pp. 17–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hodgkinson, V. A., H. A. Gorski, S. M. Noga and E. B. Knauft: 1995, Trends in Giving and Volunteering by Type of Charity (Vol. 2). (Independent Sector, Washington, DC).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hodgkinson, V. A. and M. S. Weitzman: 1992, Giving and Volunteering in the United States (Independent Sector, Washington, DC).

    Google Scholar 

  • IREF: 1993, 4° Rapporto sull'associazionismo sociale (Cens: Milan).

    Google Scholar 

  • IREF: 1995, 5° Rapporto sull'associazionismo sociale (Editoriale Aesse S.r.1., Roma).

    Google Scholar 

  • Karl, B. D.: 1984, ‘Lo, the poor volunteer: An essay on the relation between history and myth’. Social Service Review 58, pp. 493–522.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lammers, J. C.: 1991, ‘Attitudes, motives, and demographic predictors of volunteer commitment and service duration’, Journal of Social Service Research 14(3/4), pp. 125–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lemon, M., B. J. Paisleys and P. E. Jacobson: 1972, ‘Dominant statuses and involvement in formal voluntary associations’, Journal of Voluntary Action Research 1(2), pp. 30–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • Metzendorf, D. and R. A. Cnaan: 1992, ‘Volunteers in feminist organizations’, Nonprofit Management & Leadership 2, pp. 255–269.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mizenko, W. M. and L. A. Smith: 1991, The Significance of Volunteering (Energize, Philadelphia).

    Google Scholar 

  • Morrow-Howell, N.: 1989, The Service Credit Exchange: Service Insurance for Older Adults. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Minneapolis, MN. November.

  • Naylor, H. H.: 1985, ‘Beyond managing volunteers’, Journal of Voluntary Action Research 14(2-3), pp. 25–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Newman, S., J. Vasudev and R. Onawola: 1985, ‘Older volunteers' perceptions of impacts of volunteering on their psychological well-being’. Journal of Applied Gerontology 4(2), pp. 123–127.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ozawa, M. N. and N. Morrow-Howell: 1988, "services provided by elderly volunteers: An empirical study’, Journal of Gerontological Social Work 13(1-2), pp. 65–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pasquinelli, S.: 1993. ‘Italy: Toward an unplanned partnership’, in R. M. Kramer, H. Lorentzen, W. B. Melief and S. Pasquinelli (eds.), Privatization in Four European Countries (M. E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY), pp. 48–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pearce, J. L.: 1983, ‘Job attitude and motivation differences between volunteers and employees from comparable organizations’, Journal of Applied Psychology 68, pp. 385–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perlmutter, F. D.: 1996, Women & Social Change: Nonprofits and Social Policy (National Association of Social Workers, Washington, DC).

    Google Scholar 

  • Perlmutter, T.: 1991, ‘Italy: Why no voluntary sector?’, in R. Wuthnow (ed.), Between States and Markets: The Voluntary Sector in Comparative Perspective (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ), pp. 157–188.

    Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D.: 1993, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ).

    Google Scholar 

  • Qureshi, H., D. Challis and B. Davies: 1989, Helpers in Case-Managed Community Care (Gower, Aldershot, The Netherlands).

    Google Scholar 

  • Ranci, C.: 1985, Volontariato, bisogni, servizi (F. Angeli, Milan).

    Google Scholar 

  • Ranci, C., U. De Ambrogio and S. Pasquinelli: 1991, Identita' e servizio il volontariato nella crisi del welfare (il Mulino, Bologna).

    Google Scholar 

  • Rossi, G. and I. Colozzi: 1985, ‘ItIl volontariato in Italia: Alcuni dati dalla prima ricerca nazionale sui gruppi di volontariato’, in P. Donati (ed.), Le frontiere della politica sociale (F. Angeli, Milan), pp. 282–317.

    Google Scholar 

  • Redfering, D. L. and F. Biasco: 1982, ‘Volunteering for college credit’, College Student Journal 16, pp. 121–123.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M.: 1993, ‘The marketization of welfare: Changing nonprofit and profit roles’, Social Service Review 67, pp. 16–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M.: 1995, Partners in Public Service: Government-Nonprofit Relations in the Modern Welfare State (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD).

    Google Scholar 

  • Schervish, P. G. and J. J. Havens: 1994, Social Participation and Charitable Giving: A Multivariate Analysis. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Researchers on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Berkeley, CA. October.

  • Schilling, R. F., S. P. Schinke and R. A. Weatherly: 1988, ‘Service trends in a conservative era: Social workers rediscover the past’, Social Work 33, pp. 5–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scortegagna, R.: 1985, Il ruolo del volontariato nell' assistenza deglianziani (Marsilio, Venezia).

    Google Scholar 

  • Seguin, M. M. and R. O'Brien: 1976, Releasing the Potential of Older Volunteers (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA).

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, D. H.: 1982, ‘Altruism, volunteers, and volunteerism’, in J. D. Harmann (ed.), Volunteerism in the Eighties (University Press of America, Lanham, MD) pp. 23–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, D. H.: 1994, ‘Determinants of voluntary association participation and volunteering: A literature review’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 23, pp. 243–263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, N. H. and G. T. Berns: 1981, ‘Results of a national survey of recruitment and motivation techniques’, Volunteer Administration XIV(2), pp. 1–4.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stehle, V.: July 27, 1995, ‘European volunteerism trails U.S.’, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, pp. 14–15.

  • Stubblefield, H.W. and L. Miles: 1986, ‘Administration of volunteer programs as a career: What role for higher education?’, Journal of Voluntary Action Research 15(4), pp. 4–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sundeen, R. A.: 1988, ‘Explaining participation in coproduction: A study of volunteers’, Social Science Quarterly 69, pp. 547–568.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sundeen, R. A.: 1990, ‘Family life course status and volunteer behavior: Implications for the single parent’, Sociological Perspectives 33, pp. 483–500.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, P.: 1991, ‘Subject to contract? Volunteers as providers of community care for the elderly people and their supporters’, Journal of Aging Studies 5, pp. 181–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tomeh, A. K.: 1973, ‘Formal voluntary organizations: Participation, correlates, and inter-relationships’, Sociological Inquiry 43, pp. 89–122.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vellekoop-Baldock, C.: 1990, Volunteers in Welfare (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, Australia).

    Google Scholar 

  • Weisbrod, B. and E. Mauser: 1990, Tax Policy Toward Nonprofit Organizations: An Eleven Country Survey. Working paper, Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University.

  • Volunteer Centre, U.K.: 1994, A New Civic Europe? A Study of the Extent and Role of Volunteering (Author, London, U.K.).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wineburg, R. J.: 1996, ‘An investigation of religious support of public and private agencies in one community in an era of retrenchment’, Journal of Community Practice 3(2), pp. 35–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wuthnow, R.: 1991, Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ascoli, U., Cnaan, R.A. Volunteering for Human Service Provisions: Lessons from Italy and the U.S.A.. Social Indicators Research 40, 299 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006876528133

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006876528133

  • volunteers
  • cross-national comparison
  • welfare state
  • voluntary activity
  • citizen participation
  • Italy
  • the United States