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Face-off: Donating vs. Volunteering

Written by Iman Said

Volunteer or Donor

We are a generation of busy people. Work, family, education, raising children, homemaking – you name it, we’re busy with it. As societies move away from collectivism and grow increasingly individualistic, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make time for things outside our immediate circle of responsibilities that are important and fulfilling, such as volunteering. Some of us are unable to make the time in our schedules, for various reasons, to engage in volunteering so we look for other ways to contribute that aren’t quite so time consuming, like donating or regular giving.

From our experience at MAA, we have found that donors and volunteers, quite often, are one and the same. Both value the organisation they are contributing towards and believe in the cause and both require recognition and nurturing in order to ensure they are willing to keep donating their time or money.

It is worth bearing in mind that donations fund projects and overheads, but most importantly, they also fund staff and volunteers. It can be argued that volunteers invest far more into an organisation than donors do, because all donors have to do is make a payment. But in order to accept offers of volunteering, an organisation must ensure that it is equipped to manage volunteers appropriately and delegate them tasks according to their skillsets, which comes in the form of training and supervision. Often, a paid staff member is required to oversee the recruitment, induction, training and supervision of volunteers and this is done partially or fully with the help of donations. Donors provide an organisation with the means to carry out projects and add to their workforce by funding staff and subsequently, volunteers.

But isn’t volunteering technically the same as donating? In a way, it is. After all, what greater asset does one possess than time itself? There are some forms of volunteering where engagement with vulnerable members of society, such as children, the elderly or victims of abuse, is paramount. It is impossible to put a value on face-to-face engagement, particularly when someone is volunteering to support and connect with the most vulnerable people in our societies. It requires passionate, committed volunteers whose enthusiasm is not likely to wane; people who can be relied upon to continue contributing to the charity. Volunteering generates a longstanding effect of greater community involvement, goodwill and eventually, higher numbers of donors.

To conclude, it would be wrong to suggest that one is better than the other and naïve to believe that volunteers could exist without the donors or vice versa. As individuals, what is most important, of course, is that we continue to support those less fortunate than us, and commit unwaveringly to those organisations working tirelessly to improve their quality of life.



Iman is a working mum, a wife and organising junkie. She blogs at Organised by Iman  (, where she shares the beautiful, chaotic, ever-changing life journey that she's on through her parenting experiences, reflections, organising and creative projects, and more. 


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