Background: Social interventions targeted at people with severe mental illness (SMI) often include volunteers. Volunteers' perspectives are important for these interventions to work. The present paper investigates the experiences of volunteer families who befriend a person with SMI. Material: Qualitative interviews with members of volunteer families. Discussion: The families were motivated by helping a vulnerable person and to engaging in a rewarding relationship. However, the families often doubted their personal judgment and relied on mental health workers to act as safety net. Conclusion: The volunteer involvement is meaningful but also challenging. The families value professional support.