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January 19 , 2009

Challenges in Volunteer Management


A volume in Research in Public Management Series Editors: Lawrence R. Jones and Nancy C. Roberts, Naval Postgraduate School Volunteer management has many challenges, not the least of which is how we study it and view it. Academics examine it from a variety of disciplines and practitioners experience it in a variety of contexts. However both approaches have limitations. In academia we go to public administration schools to learn about public and nonprofit management, to business schools to apply the principles of private enterprise to nonprofit management, to sociology departments to study the phenomena of volunteerism, to psychology departments to understand the motives of volunteers, and economics departments to examine the value or economic worth of volunteerism. The liability of the academic approach is the segmentation of study and research into departmental areas. The study of volunteers and volunteerism needs to cross all of these organizational and discipline boundaries to be fully appreciated and understood as a field of interest. In contrast, practitioners view volunteer management from their own unique experiences. They try to gauge success in volunteer management based on what they have encountered in particular organizations, towns, cultures, and countries in which they work. As important as these insights are, they are difficult to generalize beyond local settings. Just because an individual has been successful in working with volunteers, it does not mean that the lessons learned in one situation can be translated to others under all conditions. The target audience for this volume is anyone who manages volunteers. The goal of the volume is to demonstrate the breadth ofthought on volunteer management, both across disciplines and a wide range of settings in which volunteers work.
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