Volunteer Your Time and Talent Only in Nonprofits in Business and at Work


Nonprofit organizations are almost always short-staffed – cash flow is usually not king in these organizations, obviously with “nonprofit” as the operative word. Fortunately, the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows us all to volunteer our time and talent to support the success of nonprofits close to our hearts and core values, without expectation of compensation; for example, I volunteer as a Facebook page administrator for several nonprofits near and dear to my heart.

However, volunteering is permissible only in nonprofit organizations for all (unless you’re an employee of the nonprofit) under the FLSA:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employment very broadly, i.e., “to suffer or permit to work.” However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the FLSA was not intended “to stamp all persons as employees who without any express or implied compensation agreement might work for their own advantage on the premises of another.” In administering the FLSA, the Department of Labor follows this judicial guidance in the case of individuals serving as unpaid volunteers in various community services. Individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.

For example, members of civic organizations may help out in a sheltered workshop; men’s or women’s organizations may send members or students into hospitals or nursing homes to provide certain personal services for the sick or elderly; parents may assist in a school library or cafeteria as a public duty to maintain effective services for their children or they may volunteer to drive a school bus to carry a football team or school band on a trip. Similarly, an individual may volunteer to perform such tasks as driving vehicles or folding bandages for the Red Cross, working with disabled children or disadvantaged youth, helping in youth programs as camp counselors, scoutmasters, den mothers, providing child care assistance for needy working mothers, soliciting contributions or participating in benefit programs for such organizations and volunteering other services needed to carry out their charitable, educational, or religious programs.

It is also permissible to work as a volunteer in public-sector / government agencies under the FLSA; however, like nonprofit employees, per changes made to the FLSA in 1985, public-sector employees may not volunteer their time and talent for public-sector organizations.

How will you (legally) volunteer your time and talent to support the success of the nonprofit organization of your choice, in business and at work?

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