When designing your program there is an important legal consideration to be mindful of – namely the line between a volunteer and an employee. Members are often trained to undertake a role, given a set of tasks that they are expected to perform, and rewarded in some way for being an engaged program member.
If you don’t follow some careful guidelines around how you approach these things then you could be in breach of the law.
There are a couple of things that come into play here:
- The fact that ‘employee’ is defined differently from country to country
- The nature of your incentives or rewards
The definition of volunteer is different in different countries. In the US it is grounded in the idea of service without contemplation of pay. The key here is that there is no expectation of reward and no receipt of reward for the work.
In the UK it is also important that:
- the individual is free to voluntarily work (or not) as they wish
- there must be no element of compulsion to their attending work, or the hours that they work
Note that the above definition applies to non-profit organizations only. In the US, work of any type for a for-profit organization is considered employment and must be paid. Unpaid internships are allowed, but the intern must not take the place of an employee.