The question If no one is paid, then what is the difference between a teammate and a volunteer? is closed for needing details or clarity. From the comments I have a feeling that there is a mismatch between my understanding and the commenters' understanding about what volunteer is. Is that correct? What details or clarity does the question need?

For your convenience, I'll quote the two comments that I think may open the door to the solution:

DJClayworth : "There are many projects that don't call their members as volunteers, although they are not paid." That's just a choice of name, in the same way you might call your customer service people "satisfaction engineers". It means something only in the message it sends to the people concerned.

Me: I understand that it's just a choice of name. But I think they don't use it as an euphemism, but truly view teammates/partners as being different to volunteers. I think this is just a the same as startups

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    You haven't provided any context within which the question can be answered. If it's your nonprofit organization, you can call those who help any term you choose. "I think they don't use it as an euphemism, but truly view teammates/partners as being different to volunteers." - in what way? Mar 26, 2021 at 10:35
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    To me it seems like you are essentially asking us what the difference is between X and Y without telling us how you define either of those two terms. As the top comment says: how do you define volunteer and teammate? Those words' meaning depends on the context which is missing from your question.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Mar 26, 2021 at 11:24
  • @Lilienthal I suppose then a question about how common organizations use the two words would be better. What do you think? It seems that I had expected/assumed that the usage of the two words is quite standard. Which is not
    – Ooker
    Mar 27, 2021 at 6:15
  • @Ooker if you ask, you would need to explain the difference between what these people are doing . Currently we have no idea what a "volunteer" does at your project and what a "teammate" does at your project. And there is a danger is might be closed because, like answers say below you can call people whatever you like and "this site isn't for braimstorming and it won't make decisions for anyone" Mar 27, 2021 at 11:34
  • Also, why do you think it matters? Mar 27, 2021 at 21:02
  • @mattfreake do you think my question explain the difference between them sufficiently? It matters because it can help me appreciate their effort properly. If they feel that they do more than volunteering, but I fail to appreciate that, then it's not good for the project I guess so
    – Ooker
    Mar 28, 2021 at 1:23
  • That is good that you want to do that, but the meanings of the words will vary by region and industry. Probably the best people to ask are your existing teammates and.volunteers Mar 29, 2021 at 12:31
  • @Ooker Bit late on this, but the main problem with the question is that it boils down to semantics. What I think you're getting at is that you have people who help out your non-profit occasionally and there are some who want to perhaps do more or who you would like to engage more often / deeply with the work. Someone who takes on a certain aspect (fundraising, logistics, ...) or whatnot. Or simply someone who is interested in committing more time to work you're doing. You could then call that person something different from the others who are more sporadic.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Mar 31, 2021 at 22:08
  • I really wouldn't call them teammates though. The area this plays in is called volunteer management and I suspect you won't find many definitions for distinguishing commitment levels precisely because it risks alienating other volunteers. You probably don't need to put a label on it. Maybe all you need is to think about how to engage and retain volunteers and use them effectively. But like I said, I'm trying to divine your intentions here, which is the reason your post was originally closed.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Mar 31, 2021 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


With all due respect, your question in it's current form is meaningless.

  • It does not specify a region (in certain regions the terms "teammate" and "volunteer" may have important distinctions, but they don't everywhere)

  • It does not specify an industry. That may also be important. Some industries care a lot about titles.

  • Most importantly (in my opinion), it does not specify why you feel there is a difference between the two terms.

The question as written is basically asking people to brainstorm what you mean, and then help you pick something. This site isn't for brainstorming, and it won't make decisions for anyone.

I didn't vote to close your question, but after a few years here I'm confident that those are the reasons your question was closed. I doubt you'll get votes to reopen it without fixing at least some of them.

  • what do you think about asking about how common organizations use the two words? Especially in startup setting, where profit hasn't come yet. Would that be better?
    – Ooker
    Mar 29, 2021 at 10:00
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    @Ooker It could be, it definitely sounds more answerable. People close questions really quickly here, but if you phrased it well it might get some good answers (or useful comments at least). Try to focus it more on the "how the titles are appropriate for the job" aspect rather than "how do startups use these titles" and it'll probably do a bit better. And definitely include your motivation for thinking that there's a difference - you put it in a comment, but if it's not in the question then people won't read that far.
    – Player One
    Mar 29, 2021 at 10:12
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    I think the "startup" aspect is confusing things. In the UK at least a volunteer is someone who works at a charity or some kind of non-profit for no monetary gain (that might learn stuff or find it satisfying). Someone who works at a startup (a company that wants to make profit but doesn't yet) for free because they think they will get monetary gain later is not, by common understanding I'm the UK, a volunteer Mar 29, 2021 at 18:07

Business titles can mean whatever the company wants them to mean. You can call the tea lady a volunteer if you want, or an associate vice president if you prefer.

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