Get access

Volunteerism: Social Issues Perspectives and Social Policy Implications


  • The preparation of this review and some of the research described in it have been supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to Mark Snyder and to Allen M. Omoto.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Snyder, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455 [e-mail:] or to Allen M. Omoto, School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University, 123 E. Eighth Street, Claremont, CA 91711 [e-mail:].


This analytic review focuses on theory and research on volunteerism. First, we define volunteerism as freely chosen helping activities that extend over time and that are often performed through organizations and on behalf of receptive causes or individuals. Next, we link these definitional features to the Volunteer Process Model, which depicts volunteerism as a process with three sequential and interactive stages (antecedents, experiences, and consequences) and at multiple levels of analysis. Then, we use this model to organize the empirical literature on volunteerism and selected work on social movements. Finally, we discuss implications for social policy issues relevant to individuals, organizations, communities, and societies.