Organizational Factors Affecting Volunteers: A Literature Review on Volunteer Coordination
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While volunteer literature presents diverse insights into the motives, personal dispositions, and sociodemographic characteristics of volunteers, researches comparatively seldom focus on the incentives and organizational context affecting volunteers. This review aims to shed light on the organizational factors affecting volunteers collectively and to discuss the coordination of volunteers. Systematic research of the literature revealed 386 publications that are relevant to volunteer coordination. Their abstracts were analyzed in a process of open and selective coding, which led to the identification of three main clusters. This literature review produced the following propositions: it is argued that the practices and instruments of volunteer management (Cluster 1), and, even more strongly, the organizational attitudes towards volunteers as well as the organizations’ embedded values (Cluster 2), co-determined by social processes (integration and production of meaning), are crucial factors affecting volunteers. The review also deals with structural features that limit the action space of volunteers and volunteer coordination (Cluster 3). It concludes by discussing the limitations present in the current volunteer research and provides implications for future research endeavors. Thus, this piece of work presents a holistic view on volunteer coordination and theory building by carefully synthesizing information about the organizational context of volunteering from different disciplines and research traditions, resulting in different intervention logics, and by integrating these data in an analytical framework.
KeywordsVolunteer coordination Volunteer management Organizational context Literature review
Si les publications sur le volontariat apportent des éclairages divers sur les motifs, les dispositions personnelles et les caractéristiques socio-démographiques des volontaires, par comparaison les recherches s’intéressent rarement aux incitations et au contexte organisationnel affectant les volontaires. Cette étude vise à apporter un éclairage sur les facteurs organisationnels affectant les volontaires à titre collectif et à analyser la coordination de ces derniers. Une recherche systématique de la littérature existante a mis en évidence 386 publications afférentes à la coordination des volontaires. Leurs extraits ont été analysés selon un processus de codage ouvert et sélectif, ayant conduit à l’identification de trois ensembles principaux. Cette étude documentaire a conduit aux propositions suivantes : Il est allégué que les pratiques et outils de gestion des volontaires (Ensemble 1) et, de manière plus forte encore, les attitudes organisationnelles à l’égard des volontaires ainsi que les valeurs intégrées des organisations (Ensemble 2), canalisées par les processus sociaux, constituent des facteurs cruciaux affectant les volontaires. La recherche traite également des caractéristiques structurelles limitant la marge de manœuvre des volontaires et la coordination de ces derniers (Ensemble 3). Elle conclut par une analyse des limitations présentes dans la recherche actuelle sur le volontariat et en expose les implications pour les initiatives futures de recherche. Ce travail présente donc une conception holistique de la coordination des volontaires et de l’élaboration d’une théorie. Il propose une synthèse rigoureuse des informations sur le contexte organisationnel du volontariat, issues de différentes disciplines et traditions de recherche, résultant en des logiques d’intervention distinctes et intégrant ces données au sein d’un cadre analytique.
Zwar verschafft die Literatur zum Thema ehrenamtliche Arbeit diverse Einblicke in die Motive und die persönlichen und soziodemographischen Merkmale ehrenamtlich Tätiger, doch konzentrieren sich die Studien relativ selten auf die Anreize und organisatorischen Umstände, die Einfluss auf ehrenamtlich Tätige nehmen. Ziel des vorliegenden Beitrags ist es, Aufschluss über die organisatorischen Faktoren zu geben, die die ehrenamtlich Tätigen insgesamt beeinflussen, und die Koordination ehrenamtlicher Mitarbeiter zu diskutieren. Im Rahmen einer systematischen Literaturstudie wurden 386 Publikationen entdeckt, die sich auf die Koordination ehrenamtlich Tätiger beziehen. Die Zusammenfassungen dieser Publikationen wurden mittels eines offenen und selektiven Kodierungsverfahrens analysiert, was zu einer Einteilung in drei Hauptgruppen führte. Die Literaturstudie ließ uns folgende Behauptungen aufstellen: Es wird behauptet, dass die Praktiken und Instrumente zum Management ehrenamtlicher Mitarbeiter (Gruppe 1) und insbesondere die organisatorische Haltung gegenüber den ehrenamtlichen Mitarbeitern sowie die Werte der Organisationen (Gruppe 2), welche durch gesellschaftliche Prozesse gemäßigt werden, wichtige Faktoren sind, von denen ehrenamtlich Tätige beeinflusst werden. Die Studie behandelt zudem die strukturellen Merkmale, die den Handlungsspielraum und die Koordination der ehrenamtlichen Mitarbeiter (Gruppe 3) einschränken. Der Beitrag endet mit einer Diskussion der Beschränkungen in der aktuellen Forschung zur ehrenamtlichen Arbeit und beschreibt die Schlussfolgerungen für zukünftige Forschungsbemühungen. Durch eine sorgfältige Darstellung der Informationen über den organisatorischen Zusammenhang ehrenamtlicher Arbeit aus verschiedenen Disziplinen und Forschungstraditionen, was zu unterschiedlichen Interventionslogiken führt, und durch die Integration dieser Daten in ein analytisches Rahmenwerk bietet die vorliegende Arbeit eine ganzheitliche Betrachtung der Koordination ehrenamtlich Tätiger und der Theorieerstellung.
Aunque el material publicado sobre los voluntarios presenta apreciaciones diversas de los motivos, disposiciones personales y características sociodemográficas de los voluntarios, las investigaciones raras veces se centran comparativamente en los incentivos y el contexto organizativo que afecta a los voluntarios. Esta revisión tiene como objetivo arrojar luz sobre los factores organizativos que afectan a los voluntarios colectivamente y tratar de la coordinación de los voluntarios. La investigación sistemática del material publicado reveló 386 publicaciones que son relevantes para la coordinación de los voluntarios. Sus extractos fueron analizados en un proceso de codificación abierta y selectiva, que llevó a la identificación de tres grupos principales. Esta revisión del material publicado produjo las siguientes propuestas: Se argumenta que las prácticas e instrumentos de la gestión de voluntarios (Grupo 1) e, incluso más firmemente, las actitudes organizativas hacia los voluntarios, así como también los valores arraigados de las organizaciones (Grupo 2), moderados por procesos sociales, son factores cruciales que afectan a los voluntarios. La revisión también trata de las características estructurales que limitan el espacio de acción de los voluntarios y la coordinación de los mismos (Grupo 3). Concluye debatiendo las limitaciones presentes en la investigación actual sobre voluntarios y proporciona implicaciones para futuros empeños de investigación. De este modo, este trabajo presenta una visión holística sobre la coordinación de los voluntarios y la creación de teorías sintetizando cuidadosamente la información sobre el contexto organizativo del voluntariado a partir de diferentes disciplinas y tradiciones de investigación, dando lugar a diferentes lógicas de intervención e integrando dichos datos en un marco analítico.
في حين يعرض أدب المتطوعين رؤى متنوعة في الدوافع ، الترتيبات الشخصية، والديموغرافية الإجتماعية وخصائص المتطوعين، البحوث نادرا˝ ما تركز نسبيا˝ على الحوافز والسياق التنظيمي الذي يؤثر في المتطوعين. هذا الإستعراض يهدف إلى تسليط الضوء على العوامل التنظيمية التي تؤثر بشكل جماعي على المتطوعين لمناقشة التنسيق بين المتطوعين. البحث المنهجي في الأدب كشف 386 منشورا˝ ذات صلة بتنسيق التطوع. قد تم تحليل ملخلصاتهم في عملية صياغة رموز شفرية مفتوحة وانتقائية، التي أدت إلى التعرف على ثلاث مجموعات رئيسية. أنتج هذا الاستعراض الأدبي المقترحات التالية : جادلت ممارسات وأدوات إدارة المتطوعين (المجموعة 1) ، وبقوة أكبر، المواقف التنظيمية تجاه المتطوعين وكذلك قيم جزء لا يتجزأ من المنظمات (المجموعة 2)، أصبحت العمليات الإجتماعية المعتدلة، من العوامل الحاسمة التي تؤثر على المتطوعين. الإستعراض يتناول أيضا السمات الهيكلية التي تحد من مساحة عمل المتطوعين وتنسيق المتطوعين (المجموعة 3). يختتم بمناقشة القيود الموجودة في مجال بحوث المتطوعين الحالية ويقدم آثار لمساعي البحث في المستقبل. هكذا، هذا الجزء من العمل يمثل نظرة شاملة على التنسيق التطوعي وبناء نظرية عن طريق تجميع المعلومات بعناية عن السياق التنظيمي للعمل التطوعي من مختلف التخصصات والتقاليد البحثية، مما أدى إلى تدخل منطق مختلف ، ودمج هذه البيانات في إطار تحليلي.
Introduction and Research Question
Volunteer research contributes to an understanding of volunteering at many levels. One strand of literature—mostly sociopsychological—has explored the motives of volunteers, concluding that volunteers’ motives are multidimensional, contain altruistic as well as egoistic elements, and can be measured by the well-established Volunteer Function Inventory (Clary et al. 1996; Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen 1991; Snyder et al. 2000). These studies on “why people volunteer” are accompanied by studies on “who volunteers”—mostly sociological and psychological—discussing the personal dispositions and sociodemographic characteristics of volunteers. Reviews of recent literature have focused on these two topics, namely, the motives and characteristics of volunteers (Bussell and Forbes 2002; Cnaan and Cascio 1998; Hustinx et al. 2010a; Musick and Wilson 2008; Rochester 2006; Rochester et al. 2010b; Smith 1994). While it is often argued that knowledge regarding volunteers’ motives is important to assure the matching of motives and incentives (e.g., see Saxon and Sawyer 2010 ; Meijs and Brudney 2007), only few authors have empirically investigated the effect of adequate matching strategies (Puffer and Meindl 1992). In general, incentives and organizational context affecting volunteers are less discussed than individual motives and dispositions, and there is no integrative review of the organizational factors affecting volunteers (Musick and Wilson 2008). Addressing this lack of knowledge, the aim of our study is to give a generic overview of how organizational factors affect volunteers collectively. This general question is answered by detecting relevant factors in the literature and by analyzing how these factors influence volunteers.
This focus on the organizational settings affecting volunteers sheds light on the “meso-level” between the above-sketched micro-level of motives, sociodemographic characteristics, and personality traits, as well as the macro-level of societal values, government policies, and social capital affecting volunteering (see e.g., Ammann 2004; Cnaan and Amrofell 1994; Haski-Leventhal et al. 2009; Hustinx and Meijs 2011; Rotolo 1999). It aims to review the corpus of the state-of-the-art literature on all the volunteer-encompassing organizational settings that affect volunteers collectively. We examined how these organizational settings support (and restrict) volunteer coordination. Volunteer coordination—mostly left undefined and often used interchangeably with the terms, volunteer management and volunteer administration—is concerned with gaining, orientating, retaining, and organizing volunteers in a formal organization to provide a public good (for a discussion on the definition of volunteers, see Cnaan and Amrofell 1994; Hustinx et al. 2010a; Musick and Wilson 2008). This piece of work argues that successful volunteer coordination demands that the organizational settings are not only carefully assessed and aligned to the needs of volunteers but also to those of the organization and society at large.
Methods, Data Sample, and Arrangement of Codes
Properties used for the specification of the main clusters
Properties distinguishing Clusters 1 and 2 from Cluster 3
Properties especially used for distinguishing Cluster 1 from Cluster 2
Properties used for developing the analytical framework
Clusters of organizational factors affecting volunteers
Relation to volunteer coordination
Scope of influence of volunteer coordinator
Explicitness (and level of formalization)
Level of social construction
Source of definition
Volunteer management practices & instruments
Instrumental aspect of volunteer coordination
Management/standard procedures (“nurture”)
Individual volunteer as member of the workforce
Application of best practices, “managerialism”
Organizational attitudes and values
Attitudinal aspect of volunteer coordination
Group dynamics/social interaction (“nurture”)
Volunteers as a unique organizational resource
Reflection, deconstruction, enabling social interaction
Antecedent of volunteer coordination
Organizational features as indicators for feasible volunteer coordination strategies; volunteers as different types of ‘clients’
Contingency approach, market segmentation
The clusters consist of several categories, moderated by social processes. These categories are represented by the subsections of this article, and the majority of the publications reviewed are dealt with in one subsection of the article. A few key publications with several citations stand out due to the broad range of factors that they identify (Musick and Wilson 2008; Cnaan and Cascio 1998) and/or their conceptual power (Hager and Brudney 2011; Kaltenbrunner 2010). Also, the reiterated demand for a differentiated view on volunteer coordination strategies (Barnes and Sharpe 2009; Brudney and Meijs 2009; Rochester 1999; Zimmeck 2001) and on processes of social construction (Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan 2009; Kreutzer and Jäger 2011; Merrell 2000) contributed to the argumentation line of this piece of work.
As this review’s aim is to focus on the factors that affect volunteers collectively, the first cluster of volunteer coordination practices and instruments is discussed with respect to the effect of introducing a volunteer management process within the organizational structure and with respect to the adequacy of applying human resource management (HRM) in the volunteer coordination context. Further practices and instruments are only mentioned briefly because they are more concerned with the specific interpersonal relationship between the individual volunteer and his/her lead-manager, rather than with the relationship between volunteers as a resource and the organization (the latter aspect being relevant to this piece of work). Emphasis is laid on the organizational context affecting volunteers collectively, such as organizational attitudes and structural features. The second cluster of attitudes and values towards volunteers constitutes the core of this review, because it presents the “nurture” aspects of volunteer coordination (Hager and Brudney 2011): organizational factors that can be—at least partly—influenced by the members of the organization. In contrast, fifth section discusses the “nature” aspects of volunteer coordination (Hager and Brudney 2011): Structural features of the organization are hard to change (and less socially constructed). Sixth section discusses the findings of the literature review and draws the implications for research and practice.
Volunteer Coordination Practices and HRM Influences
Empirically, so far, only a few studies have investigated the efficacy of volunteer management practices arising from the human resource perspective, and they show mixed results. Cnaan and Cascio (1998) applied bivariate analysis and regression analysis (controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and personality traits) to investigate the effect of recruiting practices, orientation, training, supervision, and the provision of symbolic rewards on volunteers. They found positive effects of different factors on volunteers’ satisfaction (contact by mail and visit to agency), commitment (use of an application form, individual supervision), and tenure (contact by telephone, supervision by volunteer administrator). Also, the structural model of Tang et al. (2010) indicated the positive effects of training, ongoing support, and choice of activities on the perceived contributions and personal benefits of volunteers.
Cuskelly et al. (2006) tested the effect of volunteer management practices on the retention of volunteers in rugby clubs. They developed a “Volunteer Management Inventory,” which consists of items measuring planning, recruitment, screening, orientation, training and support, performance management, and recognition practices. They concluded that factor planning had a significant effect on perceived volunteer retention problems (Cuskelly et al. 2006, p. 156). Hager and Brudney (2004b) showed that recognition activities, training, professional volunteer development, screening volunteers, matching volunteers to assignments, and volunteers recruiting others one-on-one all have statistically significant positive effects (with p < 0.10) on the retention of volunteers. Stirling et al. (2011) found evidence that “management practices of keeping formal records and not paying volunteers out of pocket expenses are negatively associated with volunteer recruitment and retention. Alternatively, publicly recognizing volunteers through a volunteer newsletter supports volunteers’ relational expectations and is positively linked to adequate volunteer numbers” (p. 321). Besides the positive effect of some volunteer management practices, it should be taken into account that other practices in the studies mentioned earlier have no explanatory power or even a negative effect on volunteers (see Cnaan and Cascio 1998), which contributes to the discussion about the applicability of the HRM approaches.
A growing number of authors argue that the transfer of HRM to the volunteer coordination context is only half of the picture (see Hustinx et al. 2010a; Brudney and Meijs 2009 for an overview). They ask for a differentiated view, allowing for different types of volunteer management (Carroll and Harris 2000; Howlett 2010; Rochester et al. 2010a) and more “vocation-based, networked, and collaborative” (Barnes and Sharpe 2009), home-grown and value-based (Zimmeck 2001), and non-formalized (Machin and Paine 2008b; Smith 1996) approaches. The transferability of paid staff management practices to volunteers will be challenged in the next section, in a discussion on the differences between these two resources.
Volunteer Coordination Attitudes and Social Processes
Whether or not a volunteer feels welcomed in an organization and inspired to provide a service of high quality not only depends on the practices of the members of the organization (Cluster 1), but also on the attitudes, implicit assumptions, and expectations of the volunteers working within that organization (Cluster 2). The following subsections shed light on how perceptions, attitudes, and values affect the volunteers and volunteer coordination. The effects of these attitudes and values on volunteers are moderated by social processes, where contested conceptualizations are (re-)defined, fostered, and internalized.
Negotiated Relationship Between Volunteers and Paid Staff
Differences, Similarities, and Positioning of the Volunteers with Respect to Paid Staff
Criteria for differences and similarities between volunteers and paid staff
Volunteers and paid staff are different
Volunteers and paid staff are similar
(Perceived value of) Reward
Meaning of the activity (to the volunteer/paid staff)
Farmer and Fedor (1999), Gidron (1987), Handy et al. (2008)a, Kaltenbrunner (2010), Lockstone (2004), Merrell (2000), Pearce (1980), Preston (2006a, with reference to Emanuele's 1996 data), and Ross and Tries (2010)
Mösken et al. (2009)
Source of legitimacy
Task fulfillment expectation
Distribution of authority
Perception of the collective self-concept
Kreutzer and Jäger (2011)
Cnaan and Cascio (1998)
Musick and Wilson (2008)
Human resource market and practices
Unique value of volunteer work
Several conceptualizations defining the quality of volunteer work, compared with professional work, prevail, and these have an impact on the importance given to the volunteers’ voice within the organization. Some authors see volunteers as laypersons (Merrell 2000; Deegan and Nutt 1975) and helpers; in other contexts, they are conceptualized as experts (Pincus and Hermann-Keeling 1982; Netting et al. 2005) or “knowledge workers” (Drucker 1989). A number of publications argue that volunteers should be viewed as cooperation partners (Allen 2006; Brudney and Warren 1990; Karl 2008; Wanca-Thibault 1993; Zeilstra 2003; Zimmeck 2001).
The position of volunteers with regard to their participation in an organization’s decision-making process is also an important component of the relationship between volunteers and paid staff. Here, there is an observable trend for interactions to be conducted “on an equal footing.” Studies suggest that a participative leadership style is least conflictual (Barnes and Sharpe 2009; Jäger et al. 2009; Leonard et al. 2004). Using descriptive statistics, volunteer participation at meetings has been shown to support the perception of successful collaboration with paid staff and the results achieved by the volunteer group (Wallraff 2010). Additionally, participation is (significantly) positively correlated with perceptions of volunteer treatment, personal attachment to the organization, and commitment to the cause (Craig-Lees et al. 2008). In contrast, Hopkins et al. (2010) found a statistically significant positive relationship between inclusion in the decision-making process and job withdrawal in their bivariate analysis; however, this effect disappeared in the multivariate analysis. Waters and Bortree (2007) showed that the perceived power balance between the organization and volunteers influenced the volunteers’ amount of time spent positively.
Conflictual Nature of the Relationship Between Volunteers and Paid Staff
The behavior of paid staff towards volunteers and the coordination of volunteers are based on both explicit and implicit conceptualizations of these relationships. When behavioral relationships deviate from their preconceived conceptualizations, disagreement and conflict arise between the parties. Causes of such conflicts are the competition for workplaces and meaningful or attractive jobs, additional workloads caused by volunteers and carried by paid staff, the fear of quality loss owing to volunteer involvement, lack of acknowledgment that volunteers contribute to the organizational mission, lack of communication, lack of trust-building measures, lack of clear goal definition, different prioritizations of goals, and struggles over the determinants of the organizational identity (Kreutzer and Jäger 2011; Macduff 1995; Musick and Wilson 2008; Netting et al. 2004; Regnet 2002; Ross and Tries 2010; Witt and Sturm 1998). Handling these conflicts is a core challenge for each organization (Kreutzer and Jäger 2011; Leonard et al. 2004; Otto-Schindler 1995; Regnet 2002).
To sum up, volunteers and paid staff constitute different resources for the organization, and different perceptions exist about the nature of the relationship between them (e.g., with respect to work quality standards and the balance of power). Understanding the differences and relation between volunteers and paid staff, as well as reflecting on how these are perceived and actively (de-)constructed can promote the creation of a volunteer-friendly surrounding (Harlow 1998; Netting et al. 2004; Regnet 2002; Perlmutter 1982). Based on a multimethod study querying different stakeholders, Ross and Tries (2010) argued that constructive collaboration between volunteers and paid staff is a key factor for successful volunteer coordination, rather than sophisticated recruitment strategies. In the next sections, this article highlights the importance of establishing clear role definitions and the need to balance the values of different groups within the organization.
Volunteer Roles, Identification, and Socialization
Roles Reduce Conflicts and Ambiguities
Role ambiguities and conflicts lower the contribution made by volunteers to the organization, as shown by many empirical studies. Zischka and Jones (1988, in Cnaan and Cascio 1998), showed the importance of low role ambiguity for the tenure and productivity of volunteers. Nelson et al. (1995) demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between low levels of role ambiguity and organizational commitment. Kulik (2007) provided statistically significant evidence that ambiguity about task requirements results in lower satisfaction with volunteer activity. In addition, the likelihood of burnout was shown to be lower for volunteers with lower levels of role conflict and ambiguity. Hong et al. (2009) included several role-related factors in their construct of “institutional capacity” affecting volunteer outcomes. Conducting a factor analysis, they found role recognition, role flexibility, role specification, and integration to be valid influencing factors, among the others. With regard to the operationalization of these studies and theoretical writings, the different conceptualizations of “volunteer role” are striking.
Conceptualizations of “volunteer role” in literature can be found at different levels of abstraction, ranging from the different “functions” or tasks that volunteers have in the work process (Nelson et al. 1995; Hong et al. 2009) to the role that different volunteer groups play (Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan 2009), to the character of the whole “volunteer workforce” or “volunteer resource” within the organization (Rochester 1999), and on to the volunteer’s identification with the “volunteer role” outside the organization, vis-à-vis family, friends, or employer (Cruz 2009; Farmer and Fedor 2001; Grube and Piliavin 2000; Musick and Wilson 2008; Piliavin et al. 2002). Several attributes enable distinctions to be made between different volunteer roles in an organization, often found in publications about the typologies of volunteers. Heidrich (1990), by conducting a market segmentation study, distinguished between volunteers working in roles of direct service, leadership, general support, and member-at-large. Haski-Leventhal and Meijs (2011) also applied marketing tools and developed a volunteer positioning matrix based on the two dimensions of the price and quality of volunteer experience (as perceived by the volunteer). Furthermore, Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan (2009) distinguished four different groups of volunteers according to their group norms and identities, the level of pre- and post-volunteer-bonding, in-group helping behavior, cost of leaving, level of socialization, collective task commitment, and potential contribution to volunteering. They identified the following: (1) the habitual volunteering group, (2) the dual-identity group, (3) the training-induced group, and (4) the provisional-task group. Rochester (1999, 2007) identified four models of volunteer involvement: (1) the service delivery model, (2) the support role model, (3) the member/activist model, and (4) the co-worker model. His typology is based on the differences in the way in which volunteers become involved, how they are motivated, the organization and management, and the governance system. These different typologies (for more typologies, see Adams 1983; Starnes and Wymer 2000; Walter 1987; Valente and Manchester 1984) show that volunteer roles are conceptualized very differently using a variety of attributes for distinction and different levels of abstraction.
To conclude, volunteer organizations face a key challenge in seeking to establish a clear definition of volunteer roles (Sweeney 1990; Harlow 1998), while avoiding any definition that is too rigid (Musick and Wilson 2008; Tihanyi 1991). To start with, “written guidelines outlining the role and scope of the volunteer’s role” (Merrell 2000, p. 100), training, and a person responsible for volunteer coordination need to be stipulated and implemented (Hidalgo and Moreno 2009; Merrell 2000; Musick and Wilson 2008; Regnet 2002). Additionally, a closer look at role progression (Gaskin 2003) or the Volunteering Stages and Transitions Model (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008) can contribute to a better understanding of the processes of role definition and transformation, help to shape appropriate intervention, and thereby reduce barriers to volunteers. Social processes moderating the influence of role definitions on volunteers, such as identification (through role identities), are discussed in the following section.
Identification, Socialization, and Integration as Co-determining Processes
Several publications suggest that processes of identification enhance the contribution of volunteers to the organization. “Role identities are more than just internalized norms and rules; they serve as cognitive schemata: that means they provide meaning and shape the interpretation of incidences and influence decisions” (Güntert 2007, p. 27, translated into English by the authors of this article). Cohen-Callow (2008) found positive effects of the organizational environment on volunteer identity. Finkelstein et al. (2005) observed statistically significant correlations between identity and time spent volunteering as well as the length of service. They proposed “cultivating” a volunteer role identity by issuing similar items to volunteers (e.g., t-shirts, license-plate holders), which allow them to be recognized publicly for their contribution (Finkelstein et al. 2005, p. 416). From an organizational point of view, the distinction between the role identity as a volunteer in general and the role identity as a volunteer of a specific organization, similar to organizational identification, is of interest, as highlighted by Piliavin et al. (2002; Grube and Piliavin 2000). They provided evidence that volunteers volunteer less for other organizations when specific role identity is strong, controlling for general role identity. Additionally, McCudden (2000) recommended encouraging experienced volunteers to act as role models for new volunteers. Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan (2009) argued that participation in volunteer groups can provide volunteers with points of reference for defining their identities, which leads us to discuss how identification is fostered by processes of socialization and integration.
Besides the above-mentioned considerations and the need to clarify the construct defining roles and role identities, active socialization tactics are proposed to integrate volunteers into the organization (Jordan 2009). Hong et al. (2009) operationalized integration as “participation in decision making,” “serving as official representative,” or “represent the programs.” Group integration (Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan 2009) and intra-team communication (Cunningham and Eys 2007; Sweeney 1990), as well as formal training (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008; Musick and Wilson 2008) are positively linked with low ambiguities (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008), commitment (Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan 2009), and low burnout symptoms (Bennett and Barkensjo 2005). It can be argued that these positive effects of socialization and integration on volunteers’ performance are due to the endorsement of implicit norms and common values by the volunteers (Haski-Leventhal and Cnaan 2009; Jordan 2009; Lois 1999).
Several studies have empirically examined the impact of socialization and integration processes on volunteer performance, indicating a positive relationship. Betz and Judkins (1975) compared the (mean values of) attitudes of volunteers of two organizations and provided evidence that the attitudes of volunteers approximate towards the organization’s mission when socialization occurs. Farmer and Fedor (2001) showed that interactions between volunteers have a positive effect on volunteer contribution, suggesting that volunteer organizations should build “a social web that encourages volunteers to stay engaged.” Jordan (2009) applied the work on socialization tactics by Jones (1986) to the volunteer coordination situation. Conducting a correlation analysis, she concluded that “hospitals in this investigation used collective, formal, investiture, sequential, and serial socialization tactics,” and that “a positive relationship existed between these institutionalized socialization tactics and volunteer perceptions of P-O fit, organization commitment, and job satisfaction” (Jordan 2009, p. vi). Furthermore, Hidalgo and Moreno (2009) showed significant correlations between intention to remain and social networks, understanding, formation, perceived support by the organization and other volunteers, and positive task (measured by eight components of job characteristics).
In contrast to the general demand for a clear role definition and strong integration, the authors warn that role identities (Penner et al. 2005, with reference to Insko et al. 2005) as well as group integration (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008) can support behavior, which is advantageous to the in-group, but harmful to the organization as a whole. Additionally, Netting et al. (2005) relativized the importance of having a clear role definition when concluding that participants, volunteers, and paid staff play multiple and often overlapping roles, and that “the boundaries created by roles count much less than the need and mission at hand” (p. 202). This implies that besides a clearly defined volunteer role, the mission or core value of an organization offers points of reference for identification, which will be discussed in the next section.
Values, Organizational Identity, and Sense-Making
Attitudes, Values, and Organizational Identity
“Volunteering is an emotional and value-based activity” (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008, p. 97) and organizations are expected to actively shape organizational values and attitudes with respect to volunteering, so that they have the capacity to attract volunteers. Paid staff should be trained to become “volunteer-friendly” (Allen 20063; Hobson and Heler 2007; Hobson et al. 1997) and cultivate a “thank-you culture” (Bürsch 2002; Händel-Burckardt 2000; Maran and Soro 2010). With respect to methodology, most of the empirical studies on organizational values affecting volunteers are of a qualitative nature (Kreutzer and Jäger 2011; Maran and Soro 2010; McCudden 2000; Netting et al. 2005; Taylor et al. 2008). Few quantitative studies have included aspects of values in their queries, and if, then under the glossy construct of “organizational culture,” the operationalization of which, for quantitative purposes, is highly problematic, as Wehling (1992) admits (see Hager and Brudney 2011; Maran and Soro 2010 for completely different operationalizations). Additionally, Wymer et al. (1997) remarked that attitudes and values are often used interchangeably in volunteer literature and demanded for a clearer distinction of the two terms. As attitudes are linked to specific objects and as positive attitudes towards these objects (e.g., volunteering and volunteers) are not linked to any concrete behavior, they assigned a lower predictive power to attitudes than to the values associated with volunteering activity. “Values, compared with attitudes, offer promise in understanding voluntary participation because: (1) there are fewer values, (2) values determine attitudes, (3) values have a motivational component, and (4) value changes are more enduring and affect behavior more than attitude changes” (Wymer et al. 1997, p. 7, with reference to Rokeach 1973; Williams 1987). In the following, some insights from qualitative and theoretical analyses on the importance of attitudes and values for volunteer coordination are presented.
First, the value of “making the world a better place” (Musick and Wilson 2003, p. 259) is one that most volunteers can identify with, while other values are less universal. For example, Macduff et al. (2009), with reference to Burrell and Morgan (1979), showed how organizations differ in their worldviews (defined by attitudes towards change and subjectivity/objectivity), and presented a typology of volunteer coordination styles depending on these worldviews (see also Betz and Judkins 1975, for ideological change orientation). To make it even more complex, these worldviews and coordination styles can co-exist within the same organization, which will be discussed subsequently. To sum up, organizations are challenged to find the “right” volunteers with whom they can share and negotiate their organizational values (Pearce 1993; Taylor et al. 2008; Jordan 2009; Paton 1996). The effect of organizational values on volunteers and vice versa is moderated by struggles over meanings, which is outlined in the following section.
Struggle Over Meaning and Sense-Making as Co-determining Processes
Organizational values are a constitutive element of the organizational identity—a much contested identity. Jakimow (2010) demonstrated how struggles between different stakeholders over the value, “voluntarism,” shape the organizational identity. Kreutzer and Jäger (2011) investigated how volunteer managers are challenged to cope with conflicts caused by the semantic ambiguity of the term “organizational identity,” perceived by paid staff to signify “managerial identity” and by the volunteers to signify “volunteer identity.” They suggested that “both paid staff and volunteers alike have to carefully integrate the different understandings of what the organisation is really about into a broader picture, a meta-identity, that everyone can identify with” (p. 24). The common lack of consensus concerning the organization’s values and identity, and the need to redress this, is reflected in the professional competencies that volunteer coordinators are expected to possess: Several authors have identified the ability to balance competing value systems as core competence of volunteer coordinators (Gaskin 2003; Gay 2000; Merrell 2000; Lockett et al. 2010; Silver 1989; Safrit and Merrill 2007).
Sense-making, influenced by values and socialization, is identified by several authors as a central aspect of volunteer behavior (e.g., Pajo and Lee 2011; Mieg and Wehner 2005). The process of sense-making accompanies the socialization process, as pointed out by Haski-Leventhal and Bargal (2008): “[V]olunteers gave a new meaning to what they found as incomprehensible at first, in order to make sense of what they were doing…Volunteers deal with the situation by giving new meanings to the reality” (p. 95, see also Sévigny et al. 2010). Other authors pointed out that active negotiation of relationships within an organization can contribute to the sense-making process (Walter 1987; Liao-Troth and Dunn 1999). To summarize, competent consideration and communication of an organization’s values and identity will help to coordinate the relationship between volunteers and paid staff, support the sense-making process, and provide a means for matching volunteers to the organizations that they work for (Kreutzer and Jäger 2011; regarding the plea for open communication, see also Gross 1995; Hansson 2006; Solansky et al. 2008).
Communication and (Internal) Marketing Strategies
Several empirical studies have investigated how communication strategies affect volunteers by enabling volunteers to be optimally matched with organizations. In three subsequent studies, Boezeman and Ellemers (2008) investigated how informing volunteers regarding the prospects about the organizational environment (support offered by the organization and co-volunteers, organization’s success and activities), “induced anticipated feelings of respect, which subsequently enhanced their attraction to the volunteer organisation” (p. 1013) and their willingness to volunteer. Based on a study by Clary et al. (1994), which suggested that messages should target the functional motives of volunteers to attract them to the organization, Lindenmeier (2008) investigated the effect of communication strategies on the willingness to volunteer. Using message gain/loss frames and the “arousal: cost-reward” model, he gained some evidence to support the effectiveness of these strategies contingent on “perceived self-efficacy” (for the positive effect of perceived self-efficacy on willingness to volunteer, see also Martinez and McMullin 2004). Fisher and Ackerman (1998) emphasized the importance of presenting the target group as needy to increase volunteer participation. Bennett and Barkensjo (2005) provided significant evidence that organizational commitment is affected by internal marketing strategies, mainly consisting of the following items: communication, information sharing, and volunteer training. It can be observed that marketing and public relations’ approaches are now being applied to provide new perspectives on communication and recruitment strategies (see Haski-Leventhal and Meijs 2011 for an overview; also Bennett and Kottasz 2001; Dolnicar and Randle 2007a, b; Randle and Dolnicar 2009a, b; Wymer Jr 2003).
Applying methodologies from the field of marketing to volunteer research has introduced the idea of segmenting volunteers within the volunteer market (Bennett and Kottasz 2001; Ewing et al. 2002; Garver et al. 2009; Heidrich 1990; Shields 2009). Several studies (also from other disciplines than marketing) have provided evidence that different organizations attract different types of volunteers (Beerli et al. 2004; Betz and Judkins 1975; Chinman and Wandersman 1999; Garçia-Mainar and Marcuello 2007; Sundeen 1990, 1992; Williams and Ortega 1986). In the next section (Cluster 3), how organizational features (matching with these different volunteer segments) affect the decision to volunteer and to remain in an organization is discussed.
Organizational Features Affecting Volunteers and Volunteer Coordination
Following the argument of the previous section that different organizations attract different volunteers, the influence of different organizational features on volunteers should be further examined. How organizational features support or constrain volunteers directly will be discussed in the following section. Organizational features also affect volunteers indirectly by putting constraints on the action space of the volunteer coordinator, which gives rise to different coordination styles, which will be discussed in section “Organizational Features Affecting Volunteer Coordination”.
Organizational Features Affecting Volunteers
Goals, Mission, Origin
The most important organizational feature influencing the attractiveness of volunteering is the organization’s aim. “Different goals lead to different organisational cultures and maybe even to fundamentally different volunteers” (Meijs and Ten Hoorn 2008, p. 30, see also Pearce 1993). Hustinx and Lammertyn (2004) argued that volunteer behavior varies according to the volunteer’s degree of identification with the mission. Goal explicitness (Betz and Judkins 1975) and goal diversity (Babchuk and Booth 1969; Karr 2001) have been observed to have a positive effect on volunteers. Babchuk and Booth (1969) argued that “membership tenure is often greater, and turnover lower, in groups that have multiple objectives, a large membership, and a long history” (p. 44). Furthermore, Craig-Lees et al. (2008) showed that volunteers who are more committed to the organization’s cause exhibit a higher “participation quality” (measured in hours volunteered, length of service, and number of meetings attended per year).
Sector, Area of Activity, Task Structure
Some authors argue that an organization’s field of activity affects the type, number, and attitude of the volunteers attracted to the organization (Meijs and Ten Hoorn 2008; Musick and Wilson 2003; Brewis et al. 2010). Empirically, Stirling et al. (2011) showed in a logistic regression that the availability of volunteers differs according to the sector, with one difference reaching statistical significance (odds ratio between “community” and “arts and environment”). Hustinx and Lammertyn (2004) demonstrated that belonging to the First Aid Unit (when compared with other units) in the Flemish Red-Cross stimulates strong identification with the organization. Concerning the task structure, the factors skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback are identified to positively affect volunteers (satisfaction, commitment, and volunteers’ intention to remain), based on Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristic model (Hackman and Oldham 1975, 1976; in Güntert 2007; Hobson and Heler 2007; Schroer 2008) and self-determination theory (Millette 2005; Millette and Gagne 2008).
Bureaucracy Versus Flexibility
Another factor influencing volunteers is the level of bureaucracy (Güntert 2007; Deegan and Nutt 1975; Hustinx and Lammertyn 2003, 2004; Kummerfeldt 2011; Musick and Wilson 2008; Pierucci and Noel 1980; Zimmeck 2001), leading to alienation (Karr 2001; Musick and Wilson 2008). Other authors emphasized the closely related concepts of flexibility (Barnes and Sharpe 2009; Gay 2001; Harlow 1998; Lockstone 2004; Maran and Soro 2010; Meijs and Brudney 2007; Tang et al. 2009) and hierarchy (Brudney and Warren 1990; Kaufman et al. 2004). Additionally, there is a tendency to see specialization as hindering the willingness to volunteer (Musick and Wilson 2008, with reference to Bender 2003; see also Kelley et al. 2005 for a detailed discussion). Empirically, Güntert (2007) provided significant evidence that bureaucracy affects the intention to remain, by negatively influencing commitment and positively influencing burden. Tang et al. (2009) questioned volunteers about the importance of different items of institutional facilitation for volunteering, and found that the choice of volunteer activities and setting one’s own schedule are particularly held in high esteem by volunteers. Lockstone (2004) included measures for functional, temporal, and numerical flexibility in his model of volunteer performance. He gained mixed results for temporal and numerical flexibility as well as positive ones for functional flexibility, and concluded that “job satisfaction is found to increase, the greater the convergence between the perceived availability of functional flexibility practices (job enlargement, job enrichment and job rotation) and the value that paid staff and volunteers attach to them” (p. iv). With respect to formalization, Stirling et al. (2011) showed that keeping written records of volunteers has a negative influence on the availability of them. Even though it is generally held that low levels of bureaucracy and formalization contribute to the satisfaction of volunteers, Musick and Wilson (2008) argued that very low levels can alienate volunteers. Moreover, Kaufman et al. (2004) demonstrated how a formal and hierarchical structure and management (combined with small working groups, creating a family atmosphere) can be successful.
Organizational Features Affecting Volunteer Coordination
Organizational characteristics influence volunteers not only directly but also indirectly by restricting the action space of the volunteer coordinator, which leads to different volunteer coordination strategies and outcomes (Carroll and Harris 2000; Machin and Paine 2008a; Meijs and Ten Hoorn 2008; Zimmeck 2001)—a topic broached in various empirical studies. Watts and Edwards (1983) investigated the differences in recruitment and retaining strategies dependent on the agency’s function, number of employees, percentages of female volunteers, and the change in the number of volunteers, and found agency function to be the most important factor for distinguishing strategies. Brewis et al. (2010) showed that recruitment problems are dependent on the areas of activity for which volunteers are needed. Hager and Brudney (2004b) found management practices to be more widely established in organizations in the health and human services subsectors, in those using volunteers primarily for direct service (in contrast to indirect service, internal administration, or external administration), and in those with more available resources (see also Brewis et al. 2010 that for). Machin and Paine (2008a), in their survey on volunteer management capacity, concluded that “volunteer management in large organisations tends to be better resourced, more structured and formalised” (p. 40). Hager and Brudney (2011) showed statistically significant evidence that the size of an organization is negatively correlated with recruitment problems. Hager and Brudney’s (2004a) study indicates that organizations that are more dependent on volunteers (relative to paid staff) tend to derive higher net benefits from volunteers. Russell and Scott (1997) highlighted that the role of volunteers changes when contracts with the state come into existence (increasing workload, level of responsibility, skills required). Von Eckardstein and Mayerhofer (2001) showed that organizations cope differently with volunteers depending on how well developed their human resources department is (and the way in which the organization perceives the performance of the volunteers). While these studies are mostly focused on the description of different coordination styles or recruitment issues, it may be concluded that the size, the area of activity, financial resources, and the scale of the human resources department influence the “action space” for coordinating volunteers.
Few publications on volunteering have directly highlighted the issue of organizational features that limit the capacity of volunteer coordinators in meeting volunteers’ needs. Based on two studies, Rehnborg et al. (2010) emphasized the reluctance of non-profit executives and funders to provide financial support for capacity building in volunteer coordination. Musick and Wilson (2008) considered the fact that organizational needs create a demand for specific types of volunteer work, which are defined by the organizational structure. Wymer et al. (1997) recognized that “…an organisation may require a minimum time commitment that exceeds the maximum time the recruit is willing to donate” (p. 16). Hager and Brudney (2011) introduced the antithetical concepts of nature—“organizational conditions that cannot readily be overcome by a management response”—and nurture—“organizational conditions that volunteer resource managers and other members of the top management team can directly influence as they seek to make their organization more inviting to prospective volunteers” (p. 137). Similarly, Kaltenbrunner (2010, with reference to Grochla 1995) discussed the interaction between “action parameters” and “conditional parameters” in her conceptual work on integrated volunteer management. Hager and Brudney (2011) regressed the aspects of nature4 and nurture5 on the success of recruitment strategies, and concluded that “managers must be prepared to work with both immutable and malleable conditions when devising strategies for recruiting volunteers whose schedule and skills fit the organization’s needs” (p. 137). One may conclude that the organizational features discussed earlier impose some limitations on an organization’s power to coordinate its volunteers, while a consideration of its specificities and the type of volunteers to be targeted can enhance an organization’s volunteer coordination capacity.
Discussion and Implications
To sum up, we have seen that members of an organization have a limited, but significant, influence on volunteers. We have identified several organizational factors affecting volunteers. Besides the concrete volunteer management practices (Cluster 1), attitudes towards volunteers and values, moderated by social processes, have been found to affect volunteers (Cluster 2). Additionally, it should be taken into account that volunteer management capacity is structurally limited by organizational features (Cluster 3). Successful volunteer coordination, therefore, depends on a careful consideration and implementation of the key factors identified in this review: The definition of roles, monitoring of the social processes (prevention of conflicts, balancing different perceptions), and communication of the organizational identity and values. Our review of the literature has led us to identify the following implications.
Theoretical and Methodological Limitations
By discussing the differences and similarities between volunteers and paid staff, and showing evidence regarding the importance of reflecting the prevailing perceptions and attitudes towards volunteers in the organization, this piece of work has clearly added to the notion that the transfer of HRM practices and theory onto the volunteer coordination situation is only half of the picture. On the other hand, it should be taken into account that the “classical” HRM practices used for volunteer management are also only a part of the picture in the coordination of paid staff. So far, only little effort has been taken to integrate new HRM approaches, i.e., with reference to knowledge production and service delivery, where the importance of intrinsic motivation and lack of formal power to enforce performance quality have equal high importance.6 Many of the discussed differences between volunteers and paid staff are expected to become lesser when considering the respective subsectors of paid work. However, the initial value of volunteering as “expression of free will” (Smith 1996), “production of meaning” (Haski-Leventhal and Bargal 2008; Wehner et al. 2002, 2006), and “unique aspects of volunteerism from the perspective of the beneficiaries” (Metz et al. 2011) is declared to persist. By shedding light on the contextual factors, aspects of volunteer coordination are highlighted, which foster the initial values of volunteering, rather than the perception of seeing volunteers and paid staff as the same resource.
Analytical framework to capture a holistic view on volunteer coordination
Antecedents of volunteer coordination
Attitudinal component of volunteer coordination
Instrumental component of volunteer coordination
Implicit, defined in social processes
Explicit, defined by management
Organizational factors affecting volunteers
Organizational attitudes towards volunteers
Volunteer management practices and instruments
Volunteers as different types of “clients”
Volunteers as a unique organizational resource
Individual volunteer as member of the workforce
The acknowledgment of the differences between volunteers and paid staff leads to the specification of volunteers as a unique resource of an organization that requires strategic decisions
Current volunteer coordination is mainly focused on defining the contribution of an individual volunteer to reduce the organizational workload through the implementation of best management practices
Our hypothesis: Volunteer coordination is also about defining the relationship between the volunteers as a unique resource and the organization. Different actors (volunteers, paid staff, board members) are involved in this definition and mediating interactions and conflicts between these actors is a main challenge of volunteer coordination
Contingency approach, market segmentation
Reflection, deconstruction, enabling social interaction, value-based communication
Application of best practices, “managerialism”
Theoretical considerations on volunteer coordination should include all intervention logics. Methodological triangulation could contribute to the attempt to capture these different logics
Theoretical background (selection)
Contingency approach, market segmentation, Internal marketing, collective action theory, pressure group model
Role (identity) theory, self-categorization theory, message framing; theories of intra- and intergroup behavior, symbolic interaction theory, relationship management theory, organizational culture theory, institutional theory; structuration theory (used as guide), contingency approach, flexibility theory
Job factors theory; functional approach to motivation; leadership styles; achievement, power, and affiliation theory; expectation theory; psychological contract theory; goal-setting theory; two-factor theory; pyramid of needs; consistency theory; theory of planned behavior; arousal and affect theories; congruency models; self-determination theory
The integration of the theoretical considerations of different disciplines is still very low. Some distinctive theories can be identified for Cluster 1 (HRM) and Cluster 3 (market segmentation). The theories referred to in publications used to describe Cluster 2 are often concerned with the effect of organizational context on inner states of volunteers. The theoretical considerations on “meso-level” aspects (structures, organizational culture, and group dynamics) are often used as heuristics, but seldom for theory building
Several authors have adapted HRM theories and market segmentation approaches onto the volunteer coordination context (described by Clusters 1 and 3)
Our approach: Taking the differences between volunteers and paid staff into account, and having a focus on what happens with volunteers once recruited and “in the organization,” we used grounded theory to explore the nurture and nature of organizational factors affecting volunteers and social processes contributing to the definition of the relationship between volunteers as a unique resource and the organization. An analytical framework emerged, providing structuration principles for further theory building
Defining the relationship between paid staff and volunteers: coproduction, psychological contract theory, status characteristics theory
Major methodological concern
Cross-tabulations, market segmentation
Quantitative studies containing some effects of organizational context on volunteers among many other variables
Qualitative studies of social processes and values
Quantitative studies on application of best practices, satisfaction assessments of volunteers
As volunteer coordination contains both socially constructed attitudinal aspects and more unilateral defined instrumental aspects, the integration of different methodological approaches contribute to a holistic perspective of volunteer coordination
Knowledge about volunteer coordination is mainly based on studies querying volunteers, rather than (members of) the organization
Our demand to learn more about organizational factors affecting volunteers, organization should be considered more often as the unit of analysis (For the research process presented here, the described volunteer coordinators and researchers themselves served as main actors of interest)
Unit of analysis
Mainly volunteers in quantitative studies
Volunteers and organizations in qualitative studies
With respect to the methodology, some incongruence in the use of constructs could be detected. The studies did not lend themselves to comparison, because the operationalizations of most of the constructs discussed in this review vary widely, especially when considering constructs capturing (socially constructed) perceptions, attitudes, and values. Additionally, a certain preference for using quantitative methods to investigate certain constructs (practices, communication styles, segmentation) and qualitative methods to investigate others (identification processes, sense-making, organizational culture) could be observed. Therefore, further clarification and a differentiated operationalization of the constructs that affect and are affected by volunteer coordination are needed, which could be facilitated by the use of methodological triangulation.
With regard to the primary unit of investigation, the discrepancy between the number of studies interviewing volunteers and those querying board members or volunteer coordinators in organizations is striking. Among the 386 publications identified, only 15 publications are based on quantitative studies (using ten different datasets in total7) that question organizations about the aspects of volunteer coordination (Cuskelly et al. 2006; Gaskin and Smith 1996; Hager and Brudney 2004a, b, 2011; Hong et al. 2009; Machin and Paine 2008a; Puffer and Meindl 1992; Rehnborg 2007 ; Rehnborg et al. 2002, 2010; Rogelberg et al. 2010; Stirling et al. 2011; UrbanInstitute 2004; Watts and Edwards 1983)8; Studies that were not considered were leadership studies (see e.g., Brewis et al. 2010; Hallahan 2000; Liao-Troth and Dunn 1999; Mather 2001; Pettine 2007; Taylor et al. 2006). Wilson (2005) warned, with reference to social surveys, that studies that use individuals as both the unit of observation and that of analysis fail to shed light on “the impact of social relations and social structures on the range of choices open to actors” (p. 11). Taking this criticism into account, it is not surprising that a substantial number of studies that used organizations as units of observation are qualitative, interaction-focused studies.
Thematic Implications for Research and Practice
Finally, some “blind spots” in this review and within volunteer research literature, in general, should be mentioned. First, as this piece of work has selectively focused on the relationship between the organization and volunteers as a unique resource, rather than on the relationship between an individual volunteer and his/her coordinator or leader, studies on leadership (that for, see Fisher et al. 1994; Hallahan 2000; Hudman 2010; Jäger et al. 2009; Klein 2006; O’Connor 1994; Pettine 2007; Schmid 2006; Stedman 2004; Yeh 2007) have been omitted. Additionally, owing to the focus on what organizations can do to affect volunteers collectively (as a resource), the concept of psychological contract has not been discussed at large, because it defines different types of individual exchange expectations, which have to be continuously negotiated with each individual volunteer (see Smith and Liao-Troth 2009 for an overview). Beyond this article’s specific perspective, the research literature generally fails to discuss about how to deal with the dysfunctionalities and expenses of volunteer behavior, which have to be tackled to improve volunteer coordination efforts (McCudden 2000; Hager and Brudney 2011; Graff 2006; Cunningham 1999; Netting et al. 2004). At an individual level, some studies have investigated overidentification (McCudden 2000; Ostendorp et al. 2001), exploitation (Merrell 2000), stress (Hopkins et al. 2010), and burnout (Capner and Caltabiano 1993; Moreno-Jimenez and Villodres 2010; Rogelberg et al. 2010; Wettlaufer 2009) as negative effects impacting volunteers. The topic of releasing volunteers who fail to meet performance expectations is still a taboo. More generally, the problem of addressing poor quality standards in volunteer work is sometimes considered to be remedied by training programs (especially in the literature on care and relief services). Other problematic issues, such as conflicts of interest, have not yet been entirely screened. Most of the studies have chosen volunteer satisfaction, volunteer retention, or volunteer performance (measured in length of service or hours volunteered) as the dependent variable. No study investigating whether satisfied volunteers also work in accordance with organizational goals and quality standards could be found. To sum up, approaches to investigate the negative effects of volunteering in a constructive manner and to address conflicts of interest should be developed.
Owing to the negative effects of volunteer coordination and volunteering on different levels of abstraction—individual (burnout), organizational (deviation from goals and standards, conflicts), and societal (lack of quality)—and the organizational costs incurred by volunteers (Emanuele 1996; Handy and Srinivasan 2004), volunteer coordination cannot always achieve a win–win situation between volunteers and the organization, but rather it has to balance out trade-offs. “It is about achieving a ‘choice blend’, in which organizations combine ‘choice and control’, ‘flexibility and organisation’, ‘informality and efficiency’, ‘personal and professional support’” (Machin and Paine 2008b, p. 6, with reference to Gaskin 2003). By accepting trade-offs and limitations in the volunteer management capacity, the unilateral imperative “more is better” for volunteer management practices can be replaced by an approach that seeks to establish balance not only between the benefits and needs of the volunteers, but also those of the clients, organizations, and society at large.
The practices and instruments of volunteer coordination proposed by the volunteer management process (Cluster 1/“Volunteer coordination practices and HRM influences”) are strongly influenced by HRM literature, and are based on the assumption that volunteers and paid staff are both components of the same organizational resource. It is argued that volunteers constitute a unique resource (distinctive from paid staff), which requires the organization to make strategic decisions in specifying how to relate to this resource, how to develop it, and how to best distribute the accrued benefits back to the volunteers, organization, and society at large.
Besides the implementation of volunteer management practices (Cluster 1), reflection about the attitudes and values towards volunteers, moderated by social processes (Cluster 2), and organizational features (Cluster 3), limiting the action space of volunteer coordination, is needed to provide a holistic view of volunteer coordination. Table 3 provides an analytical framework to capture volunteer coordination within an organization, which contributes to further theory building and constitute a suitable foundation for strategic decisions.
The attitudinal aspects of volunteer coordination (Cluster 2/“Volunteer coordination attitudes and social processes”) are linked to a different intervention logic than the more instrumental aspects of the volunteer management process (Cluster 1/“Volunteer coordination practices and HRM influences”). It is crucial to capture both intervention logics to provide a holistic view on volunteer coordination. Additionally, considering the “nature” aspects of volunteer coordination (Cluster 3/“Organizational features affecting volunteers and volunteer coordination”) helps to understand the general antecedents and limiting factors of volunteer coordination.
Attempts that seek to achieve a clearer conceptualization and operationalization of the attitudinal aspects of volunteer coordination (Cluster 2/“Volunteer coordination attitudes and social processes”)—such as the perceived position of volunteers in the organization (expertise, participation, roles)—are needed. Also, a consideration of social processes that contribute to a continuous redefinition of these constructs, and which moderate the effect of “nurture” on volunteers, should be further examined.
Reflection about the “nature” of volunteer coordination (Cluster 3/“Organizational features affecting volunteers and volunteer coordination”) introduces trade-offs between the needs of the volunteers and the needs of the organization into the discussion of volunteer coordination. Negative effects of volunteering on the organization (conflicts of interest with respect to goal attainment, formalization, and compliance) and society at large (lack of quality) have not yet been examined in detail. Approaches to deal with conflicts of interest and trade-offs (between volunteers’ and the organization’s needs) are required.
Current knowledge about the organizational factors affecting volunteers is based on a large majority of studies that had investigated the volunteers and a few studies that have examined organizations, out of which only a limited number are based on quantitative methods. This calls for more empirical studies to compare volunteer coordination across different organizations to provide a holistic view on volunteer coordination.
International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing; International Journal of Volunteer Administration; Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing; Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly; Nonprofit Management & Leadership; Nonprofit World; Voluntary Action. The Journal of the Institute for Volunteering Research; Voluntary Sector Review; Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.
Of these studies, approximately one-third are oriented towards practical guidance.
Volunteer-friendly organizations “[…]are those organisations that: recognize that volunteers are an important asset in achieving their mission; identify and address barriers to effective volunteer involvement at all levels of the organisation; empower their paid staff to work in partnership with volunteers; and understand that their volunteers have important observations, perspectives, and knowledge that can help the organisation do its job better” (Allen 2006, p. 42).
Measured by: size of organization, age of volunteers, role that volunteers play in the organization: staff-focused versus volunteer-focused (ratio: staff to volunteers), volunteer intensiveness, number of duties (p. 148).
Measured by: volunteer management capacity (written policies, training for paid staff, liability coverage, recognition activities, regular data collection, training for volunteers, screening and matching, supervision and communication, time VRM spends on volunteer management); organizational culture (lack funds for supporting volunteers, indifference from staff, lack staff training for working with volunteers); number of recruitment methods; and volunteers used to recruit (p. 148).
As an exception, Graf and Gmür 2010) pointed out that the application of a random sample of HRM practices is not enough, and suggested to transfer the High Performance Work System Approach on volunteer coordination. This approach consists of the interaction of its four elements: increasing knowledge, skills, empowerment, and motivation.
To be precise, the publication of Russell and Scott (1997) also belongs to the studies querying a relevant number of organizations (75), but only on the specific issue of the impact that contracts with the government have on volunteers. For this reason, it has not been added to the 15 studies mentioned earlier.
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