Note: The following article is a summary of a journal article
on the changing nature of volunteering, written for practitioners.
It is training for those in the business of managing
and administering volunteer programs.
recent article by Hustinx and Lammertyn in Voluntas International
Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations tackled the issue
of the changing face of volunteering, especially in developed
and largely Western countries. The authors, professors of sociology
from Belgium, propose that the nature of volunteering, in the
formal sense, is changing. It has grown more individualistic,
self-organized, secularized, sporadic, temporary, and non-committed.
Volunteers are driven less by service than personal interest.
The authors set out to review all the literature on this seeming
sea change in the nature of volunteering to determine if others
shared their observations.
volunteering, the old or traditional form
of volunteering involves service given where a group/organization
has initiated, stipulated, and supervised the volunteers. It is
often strongly related to community, with class (and perhaps race)
homogeneity, low turnover among volunteers, and with shared needs
among them. It is also strongly connected to affirmation of group
identity, with communal values, many times with a religious orientation.
form of collective volunteering provides for long-term,
unconditional, and regular volunteer commitment. There is
a strong propensity to strive for the common good. Activities
relate to the values of the group, are usually supervised by others
and quite often multi-purposed. A Boy Scout leader is not just
teaching knot tying. He is also building character; teaching about
teamwork, building new stewards for land and water, and the list
new volunteer, "reflexive," is focused more on the individual,
where personal, not group considerations, are important in determining
the context of the volunteer activity. There are plural motives
for volunteering and high attention to the time given. Time given
is the most radical of the changes with irregular and incidental
volunteer commitments. The reflexive volunteer (often referreed
to in practitioner literature as episodic) wants flexibility and
mobility in assignments, preferring to work on an ad hoc or project
basis. Some volunteers use their involvement to address personal
problems, which is exemplified by the dramatic rise in the formation
of self-help groups.
traditional nonprofit and voluntary organization, which supports
the collective volunteer, is highly structured and often driven
by members, or a social or political ideology. This type of organization
developed along with the Industrial Age. In this organization,
volunteers cooperate in overlapping involvement, with dense networks,
either in the organization or the community it serves. There is
a strong leadership core. The organization is a place for socializing
and linking with other volunteers.
modern nonprofit or voluntary program, that serves the interests
of the reflexive volunteer, is significantly different. There
has been steep growth in staff-led organizations, where the focus
is on the client, not the volunteer giving service to the client.
There are also market driven organizations where membership
is really a vicarious rather than active commitment.
This market driven organization acts as a broker between the more
traditional community groups and the reflexive volunteer who does
not need or desire contact with the organization with whom they
reflexive volunteer is more comfortable in the new organization
because they do not participate for the sake of belonging to a
group, but wish to focus more on the services offered. The selection
of volunteer activities is a private thing, often inspired by
lifestyle and/or politics. The perceptions of the reflexive volunteer
can change quickly, and a brokering organization appears better
able to cope with those changes.
authors search found their initial hypothesis to be correct for
vast numbers of modern volunteers. They are quick to point out
several things, however. There are collective volunteers in all
age and social cohorts, as there are reflexive. The nature of
volunteering is changing, but not 100%. They also note with some
emphasis that reflexive volunteers are imbued with the same spirit
of compassion and duty as their collective volunteer counterparts.
are the implications of this analysis of the changing nature of
Hustinx, Lesley and Lammertyn, Frans, 2003. Collective and Reflexive Styles of Volunteering: A Sociological Modernization Persepctive, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary Nonprofit Organizations.
Interested in more information? Check
out our online
bookstore for Episodic Volunteering, authored by Nancy Macduff.
COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.
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