Research provides insight into local volunteer leadership

VT report cover image

The challenges, strengths, and opportunities of volunteer leadership and management have been examined in a report authored by the University, in partnership with Volunteer Tasmania.

Released to coincide with National Volunteer Week (17 – 23 May), it bridges an important knowledge gap by identifying and proposing measures to help ensure volunteer coordinators can lead and manage well, in order to engage and retain their volunteer workforces.

The research was led by Dr Toby Newstead, and Dr Gemma Lewis from the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, with support from the University’s Volunteer Leadership Research Group.

The team found that while the majority of volunteer coordinators felt a strong sense of satisfaction about their work and activity, they also experienced three key challenges.

These were a lack of HR resourcing to assist with tasks like recruitment and inductions; not identifying as leaders – despite displaying leadership attributes and capabilities; and a lack of access to specialised training to support their leadership and management development.

Lead researcher Dr Toby Newstead said volunteer coordinators facilitated services that touched everyone, from emergency response, to parenting programs, community gardens, sporting clubs, health care and welfare

“Our aim with this report, and with the continued efforts of our Volunteer Leadership Research group, is to ensure volunteers in Tasmania experience the kind of leadership and management that will keep them engaged, satisfied, and able and willing to continue providing the essential services that support our peoples and places,” Dr Newstead said.

The research team have made two key recommendations:

1). Investing in initiatives to develop good leadership and management in the sector, and

2). Conducting further research which explores leadership and management from the perspective of volunteers who are not in coordinator roles.

Volunteering Tasmania CEO Dr Lisa Schimanski said the report highlighted the need for greater recognition of the value of leadership in volunteer coordinators.

“Volunteer coordinators are pivotal in supporting the amazing work of organisations and volunteers. It is essential to recognise the value of the roles they play by providing increased training and resources for volunteer leadership and management,” Dr Schimanski said.

Interviews and focus groups were conducted with more than 30 volunteer coordinators in Tasmania who collectively manage more than 5,000 volunteers.

The full report can be found on the Volunteering Tasmania website.

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