(Photo by vastateparksstaff)
A successful nonprofit organization needs dedicated volunteers. For this blog post, I summarized an academic study that provides valuable information about cultivating relationships with volunteers.
The study outlines six strategies that will help manage and strengthen relationships between volunteers and organizations. The three research questions presented in this study are about testing the strength of the strategies with adolescent youth, an audience that nonprofits should spend more resources targeting.
Survey: Denise Sevick Bortree conducted the research by distributing a pencil-and-paper survey to students, ages 15 to 18, who were currently volunteering or had volunteered in the past 12 months. The students were not chosen randomly but through convenience and snowball samples. The researcher specifically distributed the survey to students who had identified themselves as active volunteers.
Participants: Of the 762 surveys that were distributed, 315 were returned and 297 of them provided useable data. This resulted in a 39 percent response rate. The survey was administered in three ways:
- It was distributed to six high schools in Southeastern United States.
- It was given to a communication class at a large Southeastern United States university where students were offered extra credit to participate.
- It was passed through members of a church youth group who indicated they were interested in volunteering.
Participants: The survey group was 72 percent female and 69 percent Caucasian. They ranged from 15-to 18-year-olds and volunteered an average of 8.6 hours per week.
Research Questions: There are three primary research questions in this study. They tested how valuable the relationship strategies were within the sample and how consistent the results were across the sample.
Maintenance Strategies: The seven maintenance strategies are
- Openness: making the volunteer feel secure and comfortable in the relationship and with the organization.
- Access: making senior public relations representatives accessible to the volunteers.
- Positivity: making the task at hand more enjoyable for the volunteer.
- Shared Task: making the task at hand important to the volunteer.
- Networking: making connections with the publics that are important to the volunteers outside of the organization.
- Assurances: making sure the volunteer’s intentions are legitimate.
- Guidance: making the volunteer feel comfortable to seek advice when needed.
They were analyzed based on survey questions that were asked for each strategy. All of the answers resulted in a positive association between the strategies and the strength of the relationships between the volunteers and organizations, with the exception of two measures of openness that were asked poorly. Overall, the relationship maintenance strategies were seen as helpful ways to build lasting relationships between organizations and adolescent volunteers.
Sampling: The high schools that were sampled were only in Southeastern United States and the sample could provide different information and results depending on other regions in the country.
Bortree, D. S. (2010). Exploring adolescent-organization relationships: A study of effective relationship strategies with adolescent volunteers. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(1). Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.libproxy.uoregon.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=873bdd1f-f052-47cd-8cf009c4f1b2fc32%40sessionmgr115&vid=5&hid=113