About Us

This proposal utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to a series of studies about the potential interchangeability between paid labour and volunteers in nonprofit organizations. The proposal builds upon a SSHRC Research Grant completed earlier in 2007—Creating a Framework for Valuing Volunteer Labour: An Interdisciplinary Approach. For that grant, one of the projects addressed the interchangeability between paid labour and volunteers in nonprofit organizations (Handy, Mook, & Quarter, 2008; Quarter, Mook, & Handy, 2004). That study found that about two thirds of a broad sample of nonprofits indicated that there were some interchangeable tasks between paid labour and volunteers and estimated that on average the interchangeability involved 12 percent of the tasks. The interchangeability went two ways: in some organizations volunteers replaced paid labour and in others paid labour replaced volunteers. A more in-depth study by the same researchers of two hospitals found a similar amount of interchangeability and explored some of the factors that affect whether or not there was interchangeability. 

To that end, the Interchangeability Model was developed to understand the factors that affect the likelihood that an organization will interchange paid staff and volunteers. Two general factors—Organizational Demand and Volunteer Labour Supply—were proposed within which organizations make decisions about labour interchangeability, both paid staff replacing volunteers and vice versa.


  • To undertake a rigorous test of the Interchangeability Model
  • To develop policy in order to address the question: under what circumstances is interchangeability appropriate?
  • To understand whether among persons who are in interchangeable roles, some demographic characteristics are more prevalent
  • To understand—from the perspective of volunteers—whether they would prefer to be compensated for their contributions
  • To explore if there is a financial benefit that volunteers attribute to their experience and to estimate how much it would be