Studies from Multiple Contexts
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.
Ch 3: Communicating Belonging: Building Communities of Expert Volunteers
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COMMUNICATING BELONGING: BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF EXPERT VOLUNTEERS
Joel O. Iverson University of Montana
Volunteers provide nonprofit organizations (NPOs) with significant resources. Once volunteers are trained for specific tasks, they are integral members of the organization that must be managed effectively. Stamer, Lerdall, and Guo (2008) found three sets of practices that “appear to increase the performance of volunteer programs: 1) building a community of volunteers; 2) enhancing volunteers’ learning experiences; and 3) fostering the self-management of volunteers” (p. 203). Though Stamer and colleagues treat these practices as independent, communication research in knowledge management (KM), and more specifically, the construct of belonging developed in communities of practice (CoP) theory (Iverson, 2011), offer useful insights that can: 1) integrate the three practices through a single set of theoretical constructs; 2) provide an opportunity to better understand why some training programs lead to belonging while others do not; and 3) advance the theory of belonging in the context of training. Overall, this study explores the interconnected nature of building community, enhancing learning, and fostering self-management in the context of volunteer training.
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