Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



This article examines the interchangeability of paid and volunteer labor. It reports on estimates and prevalence of such interchangeability through a series of studies of Canadian nonprofits: two national surveys of nonprofit organizations and case studies of two hospitals. The first study found evidence that volunteers were replacing paid staff and that paid staff were replacing volunteers, sometimes in the same organization. The second study explored this pattern further and found the percentage of tasks that were interchangeable. The third study found that about two-thirds of the organizations in the sample agreed that the interchangeability of tasks occurred, but the data indicated that it was limited to about 12% of tasks, not dissimilar to the estimates from the case studies. The implications of the results are discussed, and a model for the interchangeability of paid and volunteer labor is presented.


Postprint version. Published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 1, March 2008, pages 76-92. Publisher URL:


interchangeability, volunteer labor, paid labor, labor substitution, nonprofits

Included in

Sociology Commons



Date Posted: 10 March 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.