Facts to know about:
Volunteerism in Ohio State
Volunteers and volunteerism are highly prevalent in today’s society. In 2002,
more than 83.9 million American adults aged 21 or older volunteered services
worth more than $256.4 billion dollars (Independent Sector, 2002). In 1998
56% of adults aged 18 or over volunteered a total of 19.9 billion hours. This
was the highest ever-recorded level of participation in volunteering during the
Independent Sector survey. Married people volunteered more than single
people, females volunteered more than males, and volunteering by minorities
increased. The fastest growing pool of volunteer resources came from the
private sector, and volunteer opportunities were more diverse than ever before.
Although the concepts of “volunteer” and “volunteerism” are extremely familiar to
most individuals, they are not defined consistently. Smith (1972) conceptualizes
volunteers as individuals who donate their time to help other people directly,
particularly in areas of health, welfare, housing, education, recreation, and
rehabilitation. Park (1983, p.118) suggests, “the heart of volunteerism is the
countless individual acts of commitment encompassing an endless variety of …
tasks.” Although functional definitions of volunteerism are as varied as the
volunteers themselves, a unifying concept is the idea that volunteers are not paid
for their services.
In the Volunteer 2000 Study conducted by the American Red Cross, Smith
(1989) defines volunteers as individuals who reach out beyond the confines of
their paid employment and their normal responsibilities to contribute time and
service to a not-for-profit cause in the belief that their activity is beneficial to
others as well as satisfying to themselves. However, Brudney (1990, p.3) notes
that some organizations allow volunteers to receive partial subsistence
remuneration and/or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.
Who Is An Extension Volunteer?
Regardless of the specific definition used, there are four basic components
involved in identifying who is a volunteer:
(1) The individual is actively involved by contributing time, talents, or
(2) The involvement is (relatively) uncoerced;
(3) The uncoerced, active involvement does not result in new financial gain
for the individual; and
(4) The individual’s active involvement results in a positive impact on another
individual, a group or organizational, or society in general.
The Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture (1990) defines a 4-H
volunteer as any person, adult or teen, in a leadership capacity that contributes time to
the promotion, organization, assistance, or leadership of a 4-H organization, and is not
paid for services rendered. The Ohio State University Extension defines a volunteer
as: Anyone who (1) contributes time, energy, or talent to O.S.U Extension
educational programs and (2) is not paid by O.S.U. Extension Funds. This definition
emphasizes active involvement and partnership between O.S.U. Extension individuals
identified as volunteers. In perspective, those individuals who contribute financial and/
or material resources to O.S.U. Extension are recognized as donors or sponsors.
Volunteers, donors, and sponsors are all-important partners with Extension
professionals and are vital to the continued success of Extension education programs.
This definition emphasizes an active involvement and partnership between Ohio State
University Extension and individuals identified as volunteers. In perspective, those
individuals who contribute financial and/or material resources to Extension are
recognized as donors or sponsors. Volunteers, donors, and sponsors are partners
with Extension professionals and are vital to the continued success of the Extension
Types of Extension Volunteers
There are six specific types of Ohio State University Extension volunteers.
(1) An advisor is any individual who works with a community or subject matter
based group that involves two or more youth who meet regularly to conduct club
business, plan the groups program, and enroll individually or as a group in one or
more 4-H projects. In 4-H youth development, there are three types of 4-H club
advisors. An organizational advisor serves as the primary communications and
information liaison between the county 4-H professional and the club’s members,
their parents, and other advisors in the club. A project advisor assists 4-H
members with their projects. An activity advisor works with members in planning
and conducting club activities. However, all of these advisors work together as a
team in supporting the members of a 4-H club and their parents.
(2) A middle manager is any individual who serves in a coordination role between
professional Extension staff and other volunteers, parents, or members. Master
Gardeners work with Extension Agriculture and Natural Resource Educators to
provide educational programming and teach horticultural and gardening subject
matter. Master Clothing Educators and Master Money Managers are some other
examples of middle managers that provide in-depth training in a specific subject
matter for youth and adults. There are two types of middle managers: key leaders
who serve as experts in particular subject matter areas or with specific activities and
events; and master volunteers have completed in-depth training on a particular
subject who in return teach this subject matter to other volunteers, youth or parents.
(3) A school enrichment volunteer is any individual (including a classroom teacher)
who works with a short-term educational program, offered during school hours, to
enrich the formal classroom curriculum. A school enrichment program focuses on
hands-on experiences, provides real life applications of , increases
member understanding of difficult concepts, and encourages the development of
student members as young adults.
(4) A special emphasis volunteer is any individual who works with a short-term
Extension program to offer a series of hands-on activities designed to meet the
interests and needs of the clientele within their community. This is the most flexible of
the Extension groups, because it can be offered to various numbers of individuals in a
variety of settings and on a multitude of topics. In many communities, special
emphasis groups meet in schools, community centers, or churches. Individual
volunteers as small, informal gatherings that meet in homes or local businesses can
also organize special emphasis groups. These groups typically attract participants
within the community by focusing on a particular area of specialty, such as
woodworking, family life, crop science, cultural arts, foods, clowning, photography,
(5) A Committee Member is an individuals who contributes time, energy, talent to any
Extension Advisory Committee, County 4-H Committee, Family and Community
Education Councils, Support Committees, Commodities Committees, Family &
Consumer Science Committee, Species Committees
(6) A teen leader is any young person with the emotional maturity and leadership
ability necessary to function in any of the above volunteer roles, as well as camp
counselor, junior fair board member, ambassadors, junior master gardeners, Carteen
Extension Service- USDA. (1990). Volunteers, a challenge for Extension workers:
Developing volunteer leaders from disadvantaged families (program Aid #0-
506-296). Washington, D.C.: United Sate Government Printing Office.
Brudney, J.L. (1990). Fostering volunteer programs in public sector. San Francisco:
Independent Sector. (2002). Giving and volunteering in the United States Findings
from a national survey. Washington, D.C.
Park, J.M. (1983). Meaning well is not enough: Perspectives on Volunteering South
Planinfield, New Jersey: Groupwork Today.
Smith, M. P. (1989). Taking volunteerism into the 21st century: Some conclusions
from the American Red Cross. Journal of Volunteer Administration, 8(1), 3-10.
• Types of Extension Volunteers
R. Dale Safrit, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Education and
Ohio State University Extension, March 1995
2004 Revision by:
Joe Campbell, Program Leader, Volunteerism, 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State
University, April 2004
OSU Extension embraces human diversity, is committed to equal employment opportunity, affirmative action,
building a diverse workforce and eliminating discrimination. Employment and all educational programs
conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to
race, color, age, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or
Issued in the furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Keith L. Smith, Director, Ohio State University Extension.