Plain sailing? Volunteer involvement in boating clubs

Steven Howlett and Stephen Driver: University of Roehampton

It has been suggested for some time that management in voluntary organisations needs to learn more from the private sector.  An NCVO working group in 1981 chaired by Charles Handy called for just that, while Helmig et al (2004:102) called the need to move from ‘amateur administration to professional management’ ‘the dominant challenge facing NPOs’. Contrast this with the reading of voluntary action history which suggests the management techniques being used are unhelpful and damaging (Rochester 2013). Within voluntary organisations the influence of management ideas extends to the application of human resource management models (see for example Akingbola 2012, 2013), but these appear to give volunteers  short shrift. Caught in a recognition for the need for some sort of co-ordination or management, but at the same time needing a light touch (Gaskin 2003) volunteering  too has been swept along with the managerialist tide (Rochester et al 2010).

Closer examination reveals that a further teasing out of perspectives on volunteering affords a richer tapestry allowing for combinations of unpaid work, activism or serious leisure to be considered (Rochester et al). In turn, these offer alternative takes on what it means to manage volunteers. Could it be that singling out the serious leisure  raises a question – could  the domination of managerial approaches really take the fun out of everything  for volunteers? (Howlett 201).
This paper explores this further and reports on initial empirical work to explore the relationship between volunteers in a leisure setting and the management strategies used within boating clubs.


Akingbola, K (2012) ‘Contingency, fit and flexibility of HRM in non-profit organisazations’ Employee Relations35(5):479-494

Akingbola, K  (2103)’ Context and non-profit human resource management’ Administration and Society 45(8) 974-1004

Gaskin, K (2003) A choice blend: What volunteers want from organisation and management, Institute for Volunteering Research: London

Helmig, B; Jegers, M and Lapsley, I (2004) ‘Challenges in managing non-profit organizations: A research overview’ Voluntas 15(2):101-116

Howlett. S  (2014) ‘How not to take the fun out of everything: facilitating volunteering and lesiure’ in Elkington, S and Gammon, S (eds) Contemporary perspectives in leisure. Meaning, motives and lifelong learning,Routledge: Oxon

Rochester, C; Ellis Paine, A and Howlett, S (2010) Volunteering and Society in the 21st century, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

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