a mash-up of rest & volunteering
People give away their time in a wide variety of interesting ways. We call that act volunteering.
To volunteer –towards something, with something, for something, as something– is an act of societal giving. And that gift, be that anywhere on the spectrum of purely generous to community restitution, comes in the form of a person with a skill or ability, performing that skill or ability for little or no compensation.
As a society, it seems as though we often take the act of volunteering for granted. But it’s actually worth something to society. A big something. For example, a perspective paper from 2013 noted that the estimated economic value of volunteering to Canadians amounted to $50 Billion dollars annually.  Fifty. Billion. That’s roughly $1500 per person (based on a rough population estimate) of value… per year.
Per capita, that’s mathematically less than our household pays in municipal property taxes. Y’know, less than the money collected to pave our roads, maintain our parks, haul away our trash, and do all those other useful services provided by the local city infrastructure.
Unpaid work. Provided by random people in their spare time. For free. Impressed, yet?
Yet, anecdotally, it seems as though volunteer turnover is higher than any other kind of work. From a professional perspective, at least, it seems like people stick to paid jobs for anywhere from two to ten years. As far as skilled labour, data suggest that there is a higher turnover than professional or managerial workers  but (again, anecdotally) that seems heavily dependent on the job-by-job nature of trades, local economic conditions, blah, blah, blah… and so on.
One would suppose that work people choose to do in their spare time, presumably chosen because of a passion, interest or because they get to work with friends or family, rather than work one is required to do because of the need to pay bills and expenses and being strictly limited by skills and availability of work… one would suppose that volunteer jobs may have a stronger staying power with the people who enter them.
But is that truly the case?
The author has personal observations on the subject, for example: Serving on boards, membership rotates quickly. Leading groups of sports teams, coaches and mentors burn out at an alarming rate. Donating skills in technology often comes in the form of cleaning up after a previous volunteer who has bailed from the role mid-stride. And working as a volunteer team coordinator for a cultural group meant constant recruiting and endless interviewing.
It could be speculated that this is due to any number of factors, not the least of which are that the lack of pay equates to a lack of incentive. People, in general, are naturally inclined to the path of least resistance, no? So, quitting a job that pays a wage or salary actually results in more work: looking for a new job, budgetting on a changed income, interviewing, learning new skills or adapting to a new workplace. On the other hand, quitting a volunteer job means less work because… well… the quitter gets a break, has more free time, and presumably fewer obligations and commitments to manage.
There is stigma attached to quitting anything, but walking away from a volunteer role is arguably seen as rest for the soul and a detachment from an unnecessary (though appreciated) obligation. Quitting a job is seen as, at best, social, economic, and familial risk-taking …and at worst, a kind of personal failure.
The author shares no more or less guilt than the average quitter, but offers the notion as a conclusion to this essay: Are volunteer assignments too easy to quit? Could we change that? Or do we even want to?
 2013, Assigning an Economic Value to Volunteering – volunteer.ca
 Alberta HR Trends Report – 2015 hira.ca