This study demonstrates the centrality of emotion work, especially sympathizing with beneficiaries of help, to sustaining volunteerism. Drawing on data from in‐depth interviews with 42 volunteers and paid volunteer coordinators, it explains how volunteers cultivate sympathy, and thus commitment to helping, by framing beneficiaries as deserving. Volunteers constructed recipients as “deserving” along three dimensions: neediness, blamelessness, and impressionability. However, challenges to deservingness disrupted sympathizing, thereby undercutting volunteers' commitment. But rather than quit, volunteers were able to salvage beneficiaries' deservingness by pointing to authority, elaborating on victimhood, relating beneficiaries to their family and friends, and universalizing risks. Engaging in emotion work reinvested volunteers in volunteering.
- 'Symbolic Interaction, Volume 41, Issue 4, Page 465-487, November 2018. '