Cultural Volunteering In Russia And The Usa


Today in Russia, volunteering in the sphere of culture is gaining momentum and becoming a popular activity among the youth of pedagogical universities. Cultural volunteers help cultural institutions in implementing creative and socio-cultural projects, as well as in preserving cultural heritage, restoring historical and cultural monuments. Cultural volunteers make a valuable contribution to the development of cultural initiatives, both in our country and abroad. This study examines the phenomenon of cultural volunteerism in Russia and the United States. The following aspects are studied: the history of cultural volunteering, legal regulation, and experience of cultural volunteering in Russia and the United States. It also examines whether the culture of volunteerism carried out by young people in the United States differs significantly from that of young cultural volunteers in Russia. Volunteer practices are an effective mechanism for the formation of primary competencies and career guidance of students. The paper considers how the student's involvement in various types of activities offered by the educational space of the university and beyond influences the formation of professional competencies. The results show that the students’ participation in voluntary cultural activities is positively associated with the acquisition of skills for a future profession in the field of culture, both in Russia and in the United States.

Keywords: Cultural volunteeringvoluntary activityculturevolunteer


Volunteering around the world is becoming a part of different people’s lives joined to solve not only some pressing social problems, but also cultural ones. In some cases, someone initiates mass associations of volunteers, helps, directs them, and provides assistance. In others, people take the initiative themselves. Undoubtedly, volunteering can be called a global social phenomenon of our time, a world trend and, at the same time, has pronounced national characteristics in each country (Danilova, 2015). The state youth policy is a system of forming priorities and measures aimed at creating conditions and opportunities for successful socialization and effective self-realization of young people, for developing their potential in the interests of Russia and, consequently, for the socio-economic and cultural development of the country, ensuring its competitiveness and strengthening national security.

Educational, scientific, cultural, medical spheres, support for the arts, and environmental protection are the most important factors in the development of society, which are reflected in increasing interest in volunteerism (Volkova et al., 2016). These activity areas contribute to the further implementation of tasks to improve the quality of life and social services provided, and open up unique opportunities for citizens’ self-realization. Voluntary activity gives scope for creative initiative and creativity of the general population, provides an important contribution to achieving the goals of the country's social policy and improving the quality of citizens’ life.

Volunteer practices are an effective mechanism for the formation of primary competencies and career guidance. People who have experience in implementing volunteer projects and events are in demand as a human resource reserve for organizations and institutions. For the younger generation, volunteerism is an important way to acquire new knowledge and skills in social activities, develop moral values, and take an active civil position. Based on this, the system of higher education, which prepares bachelors in "Art education" in pedagogical universities, should also change correspondingly.

Volunteering should become a component of cultural professions (Art teachers), since it is largely due to volunteerism that students acquire such abilities as project development and implementation, teamwork and leadership, communication, social interaction, building and implementing a trajectory of self-sufficiency in full-fledged social and professional activities. The formation of these competencies depends on the students’ involvement in various activities offered by the educational space of the university and beyond. Therefore, there is a need to look for mechanisms for involving students in activities that will identify and educate the leaders of tomorrow. Students can and should influence the process of forming their professional competencies by participating in creative, volunteer projects related to their future profession.

Problem Statement

The potential of volunteerism as a cultural phenomenon, which is now widely spread at the international, national and local levels, forces researchers to pay attention to the society needs in the study of opportunities for volunteering for young people. The development of Russian cultural volunteerism is set by a number of social trends that appear in the form of contradictions. One of them, on the one hand, characterizes the strengthening of external influence on volunteers in the country, aimed at expanding the boundaries of volunteerism, increasing the number of this community members and attempts to unite them externally. On the other hand, it reflects the activity of "reverse force" processes, which demonstrate an internal desire to preserve the autonomy of individual organizations and groups of volunteers as elements of this system that have a unique potential and resource for volunteerism (Pevnaya, 2020). In our opinion, this trend, described by Pevnaya (2020), directly affects the prospects for the development of cultural volunteerism among students of pedagogical universities. Thus, the research approach of considering the cultural volunteerism practice in the context of the United States will be in demand both in theoretical and practical terms.

To date, empirical research on the cultural volunteerism impact on teaching youth is fairly sparse, although evidence for the benefits is certainly plentiful. Some studies provide evidence that cultural volunteerism is associated with civic engagement and cognitive development of young people. Based on this, our attention was drawn to the conceptual ideas that determine the impact of leisure on the process of young people’s socio-cultural self-realization by L. I. Belyaev and V. N. Pimenov. The pedagogy of civil education of youth on the basis of socio-cultural creativity is also presented in the works of Russian teachers — A. A. Zharkova, K. D. Ushinsky, S. T. Shatsky.

The current state, relevance of volunteer activity, and its significance for our society were studied by M. O. Arapov, K. Biderman, G. P. Bodrenkova, I. N. Grigoriev, A. D. Zharkov, O. V. Mitrokhina, N. A. Novikova, and others. Evaluating the scientific works of the above-mentioned scientists, we note that this topic was not considered in this context.

Research Questions

The key research problem, the solution of which is presented in this article, is the need to assess the cultural volunteerism development trend in the United States and identify the specifics of Russian cultural volunteerism in order to predict its further development. In our research, we consider the mechanisms of volunteer assistance to culture.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to examine the practice of volunteer initiatives in the field of culture in Russia and the United States.

Research Methods

A representative online survey of Volgograd region volunteers was implemented in 2019 under the guidance of the author, as a part of a master's thesis. The survey was attended by 300 participants, including volunteer activists, participants of thematic communities in various social networks that unite active youth of pedagogical universities, young people who took part in cultural volunteer programs and projects.

At the first stage, the author formulated the basics of the author's understanding of the essence of cultural volunteerism in Russia. Interpretations of the studied phenomenon from the position of system and activity approaches are given. The structure of volunteerism is considered, its main types and types are systematized, and its functions in Russia are identified.

At the second stage of the study, a comparative analysis of Russian and American cultural volunteerism was conducted, and the experience of organizing and managing the phenomenon under study is compared. According to the analysis of sociological research, on the basis of normative legal documents studying and having summarized the results of public opinion polls we highlighted trends in cultural volunteering which predict its further development.

Based on the results of a survey of Volgograd region volunteers, at the third stage, we developed a number of recommendations for organizing cultural volunteerism among pedagogical universities in the city of Volgograd.


The main purpose of the data analysis was to assess the impact of cultural volunteerism on students of pedagogical universities. Our survey among teachers of the VSPU pedagogical University showed that a special place in the formation of the future teacher's personality is occupied by extracurricular activities, in which professional skills and socially significant personal qualities are acquired. It is extracurricular activities that have great opportunities, as they help to unite the team of students, strengthen the professional orientation of the individual. Almost all teachers who participated in the survey noted that it is voluntary extracurricular activities that can effectively influence the formation of professional competence of students.

The main purpose of the data analysis was to assess the impact of cultural volunteerism on pedagogical universities students. Our survey among teachers of the VSPU (Volgograd State Pedagogical University) showed that a special place in the formation of the future teacher's personality is occupied by extracurricular activities, in which professional skills and socially significant personal qualities are acquired. It is extracurricular activities that have great opportunities, as they help to unite the team of students, strengthen the individual’s professional orientation. Almost all teachers who participated in the survey noted that it is voluntary extracurricular activities that can effectively influence the formation of students’ professional competence.

An increasing number of colleges and universities in the United States have become actively involved in encouraging their undergraduate students to participate in some form of volunteer service. In addition, services are increasingly included in the curriculum of basic and general education courses (Donnellan, 2017). While relatively few colleges make volunteer service a curriculum requirement, their number is growing, and such a requirement is becoming an increasingly frequent topic of discussion. One of the questions often raised by teachers and others who may be skeptical about the value of services or volunteer experience is the question of effectiveness: how does participation in volunteer activities affect the student's education and personal development?

At the first stage of our research, we analyzed Russian and foreign literature, which showed that a culture volunteer is a volunteer who provides voluntary assistance and supports projects and events aimed at introducing the broad strata of society to various forms of world culture. The main goal of cultural volunteering in Russia is to preserve and promote the country's cultural heritage, formation and preservation of cultural identity. This kind of volunteer uses his creative potential and the cultural richness of the space in which he works, for example, a gallery, a museum, or a theater. Moreover, there are four priority areas of volunteerism in Russia, one of which is cultural volunteerism. In the United States, there is no current separate definition of cultural volunteers (Hudson, 2017). A volunteer in the United States is someone who gives time, energy, and talent to others without expecting anything in return. Volunteers must be open-minded, willing to accept the wisdom learned from the experience of others, and allow the experience of volunteering to lead to personal and internal growth (Ahmadi, 2013).

Since the late 1980s, the most significant change in the United States has been a sharp increase in volunteerism associated with educational and youth organizations. One of the factors that encourage young people to participate in volunteerism is the growth of educational services (outside and inside schools and colleges). In 2008, based on a survey conducted in the United States among school and college principals, it was found that 86% of secondary educational institutions initiated public works. In November 2019, the Public Opinion Foundation conducted a survey among 3017 respondents that showed that 48% of Russians believe that people around them are always or often ready to help others. While only 23% of respondents consider themselves to be volunteers or former volunteers. Yet in fact, 87% of Russians took part in activities that can be considered voluntary (as cited by Public Opinion Foundation, 2019).

Despite this, Russia ranks only 117th in the world charity ranking of the World Giving Index. To change the situation for the better, our country could very much use the American experience of solving such a problem.

For many years, America has been one of the leading countries in terms of the number of volunteers and charity as such. According to "The World Giving Index" for 2019, there are about 42% of volunteers in the country. In 2019, it is ranked 1st in the world charity ranking (as cited in The World Giving Index, 2019). According to the Learning center, New York is the city with the most opportunities for volunteers.

The idea of voluntary assistance to others is also considered one of the hallmarks of the American mentality and is very popular among US residents in general (Hudson, 2017). One can often read or hear the statement that volunteerism is one of the main "conditions for a healthy democracy". In addition, many people in America are willing to spend all their free time on charity, considering it a kind of leisure (Petrova, 2018).

The goal of every volunteer camp in America is to help a country (city, village) implement a project that the country (city, village) does not have sufficient funds to implement. The volunteer movement involves students, university teachers, people of various professions – quite well-off and respectable, but preferring to spend their holidays in active creation. Today it is extremely difficult to find a sphere of life in which volunteers are not involved. According to Homayun Ahmadi (2013), volunteer activity in the United States is based either on the activity specifics or on the volunteer's belonging to a particular group or organization, i.e., on the object and subject of voluntary assistance.

Thus, the scientist identifies the following classifications of volunteer activities by their type:

•Social volunteering — helping people in difficult situations.

• Volunteering skills – volunteers help people with their talents or skills. In Russia, this type of volunteer activity is called cultural volunteering or event volunteering. Such volunteers provide assistance to museums, theaters, libraries and other cultural institutions. They participate in various cultural, sports, educational, military - patriotic, official and other events.

•Environmental volunteerism - implementation of actions for cleaning, landscaping of territories, assistance to animals, nature reserves, zoos, etc.

•International volunteering — intended for people who want to help people or participate in volunteer programs in other countries. Volunteers can work in schools with limited resources, shelters, and orphanages, travel and teach poor children.

•Online volunteering — volunteers participate in work where you need to help online. They translate texts, compose documents, develop site designs

•Community volunteering includes working to improve the area where people live.

According to a volunteer belonging to a group or organization:

•Religious. Volunteers are representatives of religious communities (they organize events with involvement of Church community members, etc.)

• Corporate volunteering. Voluntary activity of managers and employees of public and private companies.

•Volunteering of pensioners. Voluntary activity of people of retirement age.

•Inclusive volunteering. Voluntary activities of people with disabilities (remote assistance to a volunteer organization via the Internet, etc.) (Ahmadi, 2013)

It should be noted that volunteering in America is both a voluntary and an obligatory activity (Frank, 2017). College students are required to complete an internship as volunteers in their specialty. In addition, for those who do not have work experience, who are migrants who want to join the professional environment, the experience of volunteering is a significant positive factor in achieving the set goal.

At the second stage of our research, considering the motives for involving young people in cultural volunteerism, we’ve come to the following conclusions. For the United States, participation in the volunteer movement is the most striking indicator of a person's personal qualities. According to Gardner, young people are engaged in volunteering for various reasons. But the main one is this: "Many people come for a unique experience, wanting to help people — and at the same time to find themselves" (Oakland-based non-profit organization ARTogether, 2020). Our survey among Volgograd youth aged 18 to 25 years studying at a pedagogical university showed that 67 % of students consider volunteering not mandatory and not a very prestigious type of activity. This is largely due to the fact that not all educational institutions support and encourage students to participate in volunteer activities. Analyzing associations of volunteers in the field of culture throughout Russia, one can see that such organizations as "Heritage Volunteers", volunteer movement of the all-Russian society for protection of historical and cultural monuments, "Art - volunteers" consist of young people who possess certain professional skills, who do not need additional motivation to participate in such movements. Professionals also often act as volunteers, helping with their skills and knowledge on a voluntary basis.

For example, the Union of restorers of Russia regularly restores both museum exhibits and architectural monuments, attracting young professionals and students who are studying the profession of restorer. Thus, it allows to solve several tasks at once: to preserve the monument, to give students additional practice and to help a museum or a cultural institution with the restoration of the object. Can cultural volunteerism exist without professionals in its team?

In the United States, it is believed that without good volunteer management, an organization can be limited in its success. Quality management of volunteers creates a positive impulse for the organization, but it can also be the cause of project failure too. Quality management of volunteers is a prerequisite for any developing volunteer organization. The organization should make managing (working with) volunteers a top priority (Yeager, 2017). Taking the USA volunteer management scheme as a basis, in 2017, we created an experimental group of cultural volunteers among students studying "Art education" and "Painting and fine arts" at the Volgograd State Social and Pedagogical University. We invited students to take part in cultural projects such as "Draw your homecity" and "Sketch trips over Volgograd". The main goal of the projects is to promote culture and art among schoolchildren, youth and citizens of Volgograd. When creating the volunteer corps, we took into account the criteria that organizations follow when recruiting volunteers in the United States to work in cultural institutions.

We have developed project logistics, pre-planned project activities. Volunteers were recruited and trained to conduct creative master classes and sketch tours for schoolchildren. From the experience described by Yeager (2017), we knew that only 25 % of the large number of volunteers would be effective. These volunteers are willing to step in at the last minute to help in areas where no volunteers have been recruited. Unorganized volunteering efforts always lead to a less desirable result, which leads to a reluctance to participate in the following volunteering activities. To prevent this from happening, and to make each volunteer aware of their importance and their personal result in the project, we have developed clear and concise instructions for each of them. Without these components, the volunteers do not experience the satisfaction that they should get from work and can potentially disrupt the event or work.

If we talk about the socio-cultural creativity of volunteers in the framework of cultural volunteering, it should be noted that working as a volunteer in the project teams of cultural institutions, one can gain truly valuable experience in various fields of activity, get authoritative recommendations and a promising job. Tareva (2019) notes, that there are some difficulties that arise in the process of intercultural communication when the partners try to understand each other. Culture volunteers should communicate a lot and they should solve such difficulties (Tareva, 2019). Within the framework of the proposed types of work, volunteers are effectively immersed into the practice-oriented, socially significant activities of cultural institutions that contribute to the development of personal qualities. Students volunteer for cultural projects, perform special design and creative tasks.

Like volunteers in America, leisure and subject interests and social interaction primarily motivate cultural volunteers in Russia. This is why trust is important when working with volunteers. Volunteers trust a cultural organization when they become part of a cultural volunteers’ team. To support them, the organizers must respect the investment volunteers make in the project. Projects that are being implemented must have an idea that the entire team will support (Madding, 2018).

Returning to volunteers in the United States, cultural institutions and non-profit volunteers are looking for unique and satisfying ways to participate in their communities (Hoven & Wellman, 2016). Museum volunteers in the United States are a potential resource and audience. They can help museums maintain their main goals. Volunteers participate in the creation of educational programs, work as guides for museums of fine arts for schoolchildren. In the United States, there are many art organizations, in addition to museums, that help volunteers to realize their cultural potential, for example:

- organizations that promote friendship, meetings, and belonging by providing art workshops, after-school programs, or art-oriented social gatherings. Events are usually held in partner community organizations and community art centers, as well as around individual and / or group projects led by artists;

- organizations that provide free home schooling;

- organizations dedicated to the restoration of cultural objects (Zacapa, 2018).

On the basis of such organizations, one can complete training and get a school or course volunteer loan. Students who participate in the programs of such organizations not only develop artistic skills and techniques, but also build professional relationships (Boland, 2020).


The volunteer movement organization at the university is one of the best mechanisms for attracting young people to solve urgent problems of society development. Based on this, we are ready to give a number of recommendations for organizing a volunteer movement among students of a pedagogical institution studying "Art education".

In our guide, we explain how to become a cultural volunteer in Russia and take part in similar programs in the United States. On the first pages, we offer students to familiarize themselves with the concept of volunteerism and choose the direction of work: art, museums, theaters. We also describe the mechanisms of volunteer organizations’ work.

Our research also showed that the desire to participate in volunteer activities during the student years is preserved after graduation, has a long-term effect. Volunteerism encourages students to become more socially responsible, more committed to serving their communities, more competent, and more committed to education.


  1. Ahmadi, H. (2013). Volunteering: Personal, Social and Community Benefits. Xlibris Corporation.
  2. Boland, B. (2020). Making the Most of Teen Library Volunteers: Energizing and Engaging Community. Libraries Unlimited.
  3. Danilova, E. V. (2015). International experience of volunteer activity. Moscow: Bulletin of rmat, 4, 11-15.
  4. Donnellan, L. (2017). Nonprofit Management Simplified: Board and Volunteer Development. Charity Channel Press.
  5. Frank, R. (2017). The Volunteer Code: How to Recruit and Care for Volunteers. Four Rivers Design.
  6. Hoven, K., & Wellman, L. (2016). Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management (American Association for State and Local History). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  7. Hudson, D. (2017). The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams. Hudson Publications.
  8. Madding, A. (2018). Volunteer Management 101: How to Recruit and Retain Volunteers. Charm House Publishing.
  9. Oakland-based non-profit organization ARTogether. (2020, April).
  10. Petrova, T. E. (2018). Volunteerism and volunteerism in Russia: history and modernity. Infora.
  11. Pevnaya, M. V. (2020). Management of volunteerism: international experience and local practices. Yurayt publishing house.
  12. Public Opinion Foundation. (2019 Аpril).
  13. Tareva, E. G. (2019). A dialogue of cultures or not a dialogue of cultures? The dilemma of modern linguodidactics (pp. 49-54). "Publishing House Printing House "Arial".
  14. The World Giving Indeх. (2019). Retrieved from
  15. Volkova, O. A., Mozgova, E. I., & Kulabukhova-Belgorod, D. A. (2016). Social work in the modern world: interaction of science, education and practice. Belgorod publishing house of NRU "Belgu".
  16. Yeager, B. (207). Volunteer Management for Non-Profit Organizations: The Art of People Management. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  17. Zacapa, E. (2018). Essentials for Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders: Guidelines for Organizations that Value Connection. Life Enriching Books.

Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

20 November 2020

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

Cite this article as:

Timofeeva, S. V., & Bokova, T. (2020). Cultural Volunteering In Russia And The Usa. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 999-1007). European Publisher.