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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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Section 3: Dark Sides of Volunteering


Chapter 11 “YOU JUST GOTTA BE CAREFUL ABOUT THOSE BOUNDARIES”: MANAGING RISK IN A VOLUNTEER-BASED ORGANIZATION Abbey E. Wojno Columbus State University I don’t like to use the word family because there is a line that you have to draw be- tween personal and professional life and being a community volunteer and a home- less client. You do have to draw some boundaries because boundaries are very important. We work with a very, very tough population. For example, I would never give my personal cell phone number to anybody who is homeless. You never know who you’re dealing with or what someone’s going through—I mean it’s very tough to say—like you just don’t do it. You want to keep personal life and this life sepa- rate. I can say that coming from an employee aspect but even from a volunteer as- pect. You need to keep your personal life separate. I would never have a picture of my girlfriend on my desk at East Street Shelter. Because they would be like, “who’s that?” You just never know so you just gotta be careful about those boundaries. (Paul, personal communication, August 3, 2010) Paul works with Step Up, Step Out (SUSO, a pseudonym)—a nonprofit organization that brings together both individuals experiencing homelessness as well as housed community volunteers to start their days off running to- gether. His quote illustrates tensions between doing good and staying safe and demonstrates how these tensions complicate the experiences of volun- teers. Volunteers...

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