What Kind of People Volunteer? An Exploration of the Altruistic Landscape

David Bennett Galloway III

September 6, 2023


Volunteering has been an integral part of societies around the globe, often seen as a selfless act to contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities. But have you ever wondered what kind of people take the time to volunteer? Although it is easy to think of volunteers as a homogeneous group of generous people, the reality is much more nuanced. Below, we examine the various types of people who are often found contributing their time and skills to causes they care about.

The Empathetic Altruists

These are the individuals who feel deeply about the suffering or needs of others. Guided by a sense of moral or ethical responsibility, they are often involved in charitable activities such as feeding the homeless, visiting the sick, or providing emotional support to distressed people. Their primary drive is deep empathy that extends to humans and sometimes animals.

The Career Volunteers

Some people engage in volunteer work as a way to build skills, network, and enhance their resumes. These individuals often choose causes or tasks that align with their career goals. For example, a marketing professional might volunteer to manage social media for a non-profit organization. While they might genuinely care about the cause, a secondary benefit for them is the opportunity to showcase their skills in a real-world setting.

The Cause-Oriented Activists

Highly passionate about climate change, animal rights, or social justice, these volunteers are motivated by the change they hope to see. Their volunteer work often involves awareness-raising campaigns, advocacy, and policy change. For these individuals, volunteering is not just an activity but a lifestyle centered around their cause.

The Social Volunteers

For some, volunteering is a social activity, a way to meet like-minded individuals or spend quality time with friends and family. These volunteers may choose less intense workouts like participating in charity runs, helping at a local fair, or participating in a community clean-up. The social interaction is as rewarding to them as giving back.

The Faith-Based Volunteers

Motivated by religious or spiritual beliefs, these individuals view volunteerism as a form of worship or a way to fulfill a religious obligation. Faith-based volunteers may engage in various activities, from helping their congregation to participating in global mission trips, driven by a belief that they are serving a higher power.

The Skill Sharers

These professionals or experts offer specialized skills pro bono, such as doctors providing free medical care or lawyers offering free legal advice. For these volunteers, it’s an opportunity to give back by utilizing their unique skills to benefit those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to such services.

The Life-Stage Volunteers

Certain phases of life are more conducive to volunteering, and some people seize these opportunities. Retirees, students on summer break, or professionals in between jobs often find volunteering a fulfilling way to spend their free time. They may choose various activities based on personal interests rather than a long-term commitment to a cause.


Volunteers come from all walks of life, bringing unique motivations, skills, and perspectives. While the categories described here are not mutually exclusive, they offer a framework to understand the diversity among volunteers. Recognizing this diversity is crucial for organizations aiming to attract and retain volunteers, as it allows for a more targeted approach, honoring each individual’s unique reasons for giving their time and talents. Regardless of the motives, what unites all volunteers is a willingness to contribute to the betterment of society, proving that at its core, volunteerism is a celebration of humanity’s collective endeavor to help one another.