Falling into a career in the voluntary sector: Career pathways and identity of volunteer managers in New Zealand
Schaenzel, Heike; Proctor-Thomson, Sarah; Smith, Karen (2010)

by Karen Smith

Volunteer management is increasingly being recognised, in the UK and internationally, as a profession requiring distinct and varied skills. Recent research in New Zealand (Smith et al., 2010) has profiled managers of volunteers. The findings mirrored those from the UK (Machin and Ellis Paine, 2008; Brewis et al., 2010) of experienced managers, a diversity of job titles and responsibilities, and multiple routes into volunteer management. This paper reports on a qualitative study using life and work histories to explore the career paths of paid volunteer managers. 27 individuals from the health and tourism sectors were interviewed. Participants made a positive choice to work in the voluntary sector and organisations (and in some cases the public sector). However, volunteer management was also a career that respondents had fallen into. Pathways into volunteer management included moving from volunteer to paid positions with a voluntary organisation, and a late-career change. Participants faced a lack of understanding and recognition of the volunteer manager role, internally within the organisations as well as externally by the sector and community. The voluntary sector can offer work-life balance, particularly through part-time and flexible working practices; conversely, volunteer management is a role with weak boundaries between work and non-work life and time. The paper considers the implications for the voluntary sector for promoting volunteer management as a career, and the support, professional development and recognition of volunteer managers and management.

Karen Smith’s presentation is available here (Powerpoint format).

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