All Quadrant Model – Volunteer Field

Like an organization, a professional field is collective in nature, yet includes individual professionals.  It also is situated within a broader contexts of sector and society. Again, the All Quadrant model can help us understand these dynamics. In particular, this quadrant identifies some of the paradox and tension in the volunteer field within the United States and helps make it more visible. These paradoxes and tensions are often un-named but have significant impact on the day-to-day experience of those who engage volunteers and work to advance the field as a whole.

Subjective qualities & beliefs Objective qualities
  • Volunteer administration: inadvertent/ intentional responsibility
  • Volunteer administrator: marginalized internally/beloved by volunteers
  • Volunteer administrator sense of agency: limited impact/unleashes power & talent of volunteers
  • Volunteer role: strategic partner/“just” a volunteer
  • Co-workers who fear of loss of control/quality/job
  • Low rate of trained volunteer administrators
  • Volunteer administrators: lower-ranking roles compared to other professions
  • High turnover among volunteer administrators
  • Volunteer administrators are usually women
  • Ambassadors are retiring/ up & coming advocates and trainers
  • Celebrity/ corporate attention
Group values & issues System & structure
  • Nonprofit (NP) image: God’s work/do-gooders
  • NP professionalization: run as a business/Where is role for volunteers in a business?
  • Volunteer value: you get what you pay for/volunteers are the heart of our agency
  • Volunteering connects diverse communities/volunteering reinforces privilege & power
  • Limited ideas about what volunteers are qualified do/volunteers run the organization
  • Volunteers are unreliable & more trouble than they’re worth/are critical to organization success
  • Belief that volunteers are free, thus need no investment
  • Volunteers lack power/deal with symptoms. (Activists create change/deal with root causes)
  • Many (competing) volunteer matching technologies
  • Limited volunteer administrator training, emphasizes technical vs. adaptive issues
  • Limited graduate school courses on volunteer engagement even as nonprofit graduate programs increase
  • Volunteer Match: tech & tools, no local staff
  • Volunteer Centers: local connectors & advocates, often underfunded
  • Points of Light: broad, shallow resources
  • AL!VE: attempting to grow membership and resources for field
  • AmeriCorps: constant battle for funding
  • Emphasis/incentives for recruitment
  • Little value given to volunteer infrastructure
  • Value of volunteers in # of hours vs. quality or impact of work

Questions for practical application

  • What level of awareness exists about each quadrant?
  • How is this awareness informing the future of the field?
  • In what ways do patterns in the field mirror patterns at the community level?
  • How do we reverse patterns that are not functional or healthy?
  • How do we sustain patterns that are functional and healthy?
  • What entities can support the assessment and development of the field?

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