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Volume IV # 2 Pages  Winter 1985-1986

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Moving Along: Case Studies of Career Paths for Volunteer Coordinators

By Ivan Scheier, PhD   ... 


Our sample averaged seven to eight years in the field of volunteer administration---one suspects rather longer than most stay in this career line. The sample also probably over-represents, somewhat, roles as resource people to volunteer coordinators (e.g., trainers, consultants).

Most but not all of the people in our sample made the career move of their own volition, often using considerable initiative; that is, they weren't fired or laid off.

Here are some main trends:

1. Our sample "left the field" in two main ways:

a) job change, (most of our cases) in which the person no longer spends any time directly coordinating volunteer programs.

b) job enlargement, in which the person continues to have some direct involvement close-up with the volunteer program (typically half-time or less) but does a number of other things as well. Often there is now another person to help with the operation of the volunteer program.

2. In job enlargement, the people in our sample always remain in the nonprofit sector. Job change people are more likely to move into the profit sector, but even here the majority stay in the nonprofit workplace.

3. In virtually every case, either of job enlargement or change, the move represented career advancement in terms of status and challenge and usually money, too. Job change, of course, carries with it a change in job title; job enlargement usually does, too, with the new title being a more "important" one.

4. Job enlargement and job change have in common increased concentration in the following areas:

a) management, administration, executive responsibilities, personnel

b) training and education, staff development

c) communications(writing and speaking skills), public relations

d) fundraising, resource development

e) program development, planning

5. The clear majority of our sample agreed that the experience and skills gained as a volunteer coordinator aided their effectiveness in their new position. Mentioned most frequently were the five areas of concentration listed above (par. 4), plus knowledge of motivation and how to handle money. Familiarity with certain kinds of clients and situations gained as a volunteer coordinator was also a response. Finally, in some cases, such as executive of a small nonprofit or fundraiser, knowledge of volunteers was extremely valuable since volunteers played a vital role in the success of the new job function.

6. Our job enlargement sample of course keeps in touch with the volunteer field, they are still partly in it. The pattern is more mixed for job change cases. Approximately half appear to keep in some kind of touch with former colleagues, but this is sometimes more on a personal level than a professional level. Several of those who did not keep contact professionally, said they would get involved if asked, and gave examples of potentially useful contributions they might make.

This summary by no means does justice to the more complete and individualized information in the case studies which follow.

Based on individual interview sample of 24 people


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Ivan Scheier
607 Marr
Truth or Consequences, NM
Tel (505) 894-1340
Email: ivan@zianet.com


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Association for Volunteer Administration

P. O. Box 32092
3108 Parham Road, Suite 200-B
Richmond, VA, USA  23294

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