“Finding Joy in the Act of Giving:” Volunteering Amidst Tensions of Altruism and Egoism
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Volunteering is an action commonly assumed to be altruistic and beneficial to society; one such benefit is the assumed potential of volunteer work to create community ties. This study uses the gift exchange framework to conceptualize volunteer work as a gift of one’s time and energy to explore the potential of volunteer work to build community Within the theory of gift theory, the reciprocation of gifts builds ties; yet, when volunteering is seen as an altruistic action, there is little room for reciprocity. This study uses qualitative methods to address the gap in the literature on volunteer motivations regarding how volunteers engage with ideas of altruism and reciprocity within their accounts of their work. The sociology of community and individualism contextualizes the findings that volunteers both adhere to and contest a cultural ideal of altruism within their motivations, level of commitment, and expectations of reciprocity.