The role of voluntarism has become ever more important in the Italian and European discussions on the crisis and transformation of welfare administration. Unfortunately in many cases it is taken for granted in its forms, meanings, roles and procedures. The risk is that the institutional system may choose to face a crisis by following development strategies on the basis of its own needs and preformed visions. This could lead to greatly distorted effects that force some realities to adapt in contradictory ways and drive others that do not follow such paradigms towards extinction. The essay shows pivotal aspects and possible perspectives of the relationship between the variety of voluntarism forms and the welfare system, focusing on assumptions and points of view that will help comprehend some of the recent developments and diverse experiences.