The organisational structure of voluntary associations has usually been described as ‘unbureaucratic’, and accordingly the managerial advice has been to bureaucratise. However, the following questions arise: What are the functional substitutes for the weak bureaucratic elements that
structure work in voluntary associations and what dysfunctions might be connected with bureaucratisation? This article captures the characteristics of voluntary associations in the ‘voluntary, democratic, independent, volunteer association’ ideal type. These characteristics indicate the structural
prerequisites needed to support this ideal type and the consequences they have for the organisational structure. Most important is that organisational structure has to provide ‘direct incentives’, which are connected with the purpose and work of the voluntary association and its members. The
organisational structure of voluntary associations is characterised as intermediary between small groups and organisations. Interaction crystallisation and personalisation are identified as functional substitutes for formalisation and specialisation. The key problem is to find a balance between
these group-like and organisation-like features.
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