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Volunteering and Communication

Studies from Multiple Contexts

Edited By Michael W. Kramer, Loril M. Gossett and Laurie K. Lewis

This book won the 2014 Applied Communication Division Award for Outstanding Edited Book

There is a growing interest in studying nonprofit organizations and volunteers as an alternative to studying employees in for-profit businesses and government agencies. This is driven in part by the recognition that volunteers make important contributions to society and the economy. This book is the first edited volume written primarily by communication scholars to focus on volunteers. It explores the experience of being a volunteer and managing volunteers through a focus on empirical examination of communication in volunteering. The contributors explore volunteers broadly and are divided into five sections which cover becoming a volunteer; learning about self as a volunteer; dark sides of volunteering; organizationally supported volunteering; and voice and dissent. The final chapter suggests areas of future research and application of the book.
An important focus of the book is its data-based, empirical studies. Although each chapter includes applications, those recommendations are based on systematic studies of volunteers rather than primarily on anecdotal evidence or previous literature. Furthermore, each chapter includes a brief field experience narrative written by a volunteer, as well as addressing a broader conceptual or theoretical issue of organizational studies. In this way the book provides more than just case studies of volunteers, but also addresses general organizational issues.


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Chapter 1 AN INTRODUCTION TO VOLUNTEERS Laurie K. Lewis Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey In February 2011, a massive earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. University students wanted to help in the cleanup and rushed to the scene. However, the official disaster responders were wary of these young volun- teers and too stressed to figure out how to work with them and so they turned them away. Sam Johnson, the leader of these volunteers, reports that the stu- dents persevered and eventually thousands of students self-organized through social media and joined in the effort to aid the cleanup effort (John- son, 2012). Johnson shares the story of the volunteer effort that through physical labor made a huge difference in the cleanup effort. The student leaders focused on safety, personal responsibilities, a team approach, having fun, connecting in personal ways to those who had lost loved ones and homes, and supporting each others’ grieving process through service to the community. Along the way the students faced ambivalence and resistance from the bureaucracy of government response agencies. This example serves as an illustration of the high complexity involved in the execution of volunteering in various contexts across our globe. It also reminds us that common stereotypes of the “candy striper” or elderly polling place volunteer are limited archetypes. Further, volunteering is more than an offer of “free labor” as many common definitions would imply. Behind the labor is a complexity of experience, motivation, needs, expectations, rela- tionships, and political, spiritual, philosophical,...

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