The difference between a contract and a grant (employee and a volunteer)

The following comparisons appear to provide some interesting reflections of how volunteer management may be (or need to be) evolving…

The difference between a contract and a grant as cited in Caritas Magazine (August 2011).


  • Contract: A legally binding bargain; a payment in return for a service.
  • Grant: A unilateral payment; a subsidy to assist in the provision of service.
  • Contract: Creates reciprocal rights. If the service is delivered the price must be paid and vice versa.
  • Grant: Creates only expectations.
  • Contract: Given on terms and conditions defining proper performance of the service.
  • Grant: Given on conditions that it is applied as intended.
  • Contract: A breach of a contract condition triggers a right to be compensated for consequent loss.
  • Grant: A breach of a grant condition triggers an obligation to repay the grant for not having been used as intended.

These terms feel similar to the differences between an employment contract and a volunteering relationship. Consider:

  • Employment contract: A legally binding bargain; a payment in return for a service.
  • Volunteering relationship: Unilateral payment of expenses/provision of resources to assist volunteers wishing to offer their personal contribution.
  • Employment contract: Creates reciprocal rights. If the service is delivered the price must be paid and vice versa.
  • Volunteering relationship: Creates only expectations.
  • Employment contract: Given on terms and conditions defining proper performance of the service.
  • Volunteering relationship: Given on conditions that it is applied as intended.
  • Employment contract: A breach of an employment contract triggers a right to be compensated for consequent loss.
  • Volunteering relationship: A breach of a volunteer relationship triggers all sorts of mayhem…

OK – it’s not a perfect match, but the third sector is being asked to develop contractual relationships with externals whilst relying on ‘grant-like’ relationships with its volunteers. Something has to give.

I wouldn’t be surprised if organisations that move from grants to contracts need to tighten up the mutual expectations and reporting processes between themselves and their volunteers.

…and then on the other hand, there is a significant push by the government for community involvement, ‘any which way’ it can be encouraged.

It appears the world of volunteer management is entering a very interesting phase, and the ‘VM profession’ needs to be creative, nimble and flexible to ensure is stays relevant.

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Post by Stephen Moreton

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