The complex picture of volunteer payment

Matt Baillie Smith, professor of international development, explains why the global development community needs to stop avoiding the issue of volunteer payment.

The payment of volunteers is one of the greatest challenges for volunteerism, according to data found in the Global Review on Volunteering Report. It’s a complicated picture — when organizations have an urgent need for support and provide incentives to volunteers, is this still volunteering?

“Donors in the ‘global south’ are saying this is undermining the spirit of volunteerism,” Matt Baillie Smith, professor of international development at Northumbria University, told Devex reporter Helen Morgan on the sidelines of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland.

This has become a “taboo” subject, and avoiding the topic isn’t helping, he added.

In the above video, Baillie Smith shares his insights on growing tensions as certain volunteer positions become more attractive than others, the hierarchies between organizations, and what needs to happen to help prevent unanticipated consequences.

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About the author

  • Helen Morgan

    Helen Morgan is a former associate editor and producer at Devex, focusing on climate change and resilience building as the editorial lead of Devex’s Turning the Tide series, and opinions editor for Devex’s Global Views section. With a background in human rights, migration, and sustainable development and design, Helen has written for a variety of international publications in Buenos Aires and Shanghai before moving to Barcelona to study contemporary migration.