A Multiple Case Study of Reversing Volunteer Dropout Rates in Advocacy Nonprofits

A Multiple Case Study of Reversing Volunteer Dropout Rates in Advocacy Nonprofits

Author: 
John V. D'Ascenzo
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was the identification and exploration of the reasons for the high rate of volunteer dropouts in advocacy NPOs during the first year. Advocacy NPOs rely on volunteers for daily operations with minimal impact on fiscal expectations. The operations include delivery of services to targeted constituents as well as community improvements. The average length of service for volunteers rarely exceeds one year; thus strategies that can modify dropout rates are important. The qualitative multiple case study involved the exploration of leadership strategies that enhance performance as well as encourage volunteers to continue service. The multiple cases involved four southeastern Pennsylvania advocacy nonprofit organizations with a purposive sample of 20 participants. The exploration of leaders and followers who volunteer in each organization involved in-depth interviews, nonparticipant observations, and a review of archival documentation for data triangulation. The data collection and analysis provided findings that revealed leadership procedures for replication or remediation regarding modification of volunteer dropout rates. Data analysis included the use of NVivo 10® software resulting in six core themes: a) universal respect enhances leader and follower volunteer commitment, b) communication frequency promotes effective performance, c) fair and impartial conflict resolution procedures promote efficient cultures, d) effective recruitment procedures produce a basis for longterm service, e) recognition of service enhances motivation and commitment, f) leadership style directly affects volunteer followers’ service tenure. The recommendations for leaders of advocacy NPOs included flexibility toward availability and a focus on demographic diversity.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this research study to my family who supported me throughout the program. My wife, Terry, has been my partner and guide since August 27, 1977. Her wisdom and humor helped to keep me focused in times of doubt. My daughter, Laura, and son-in-law, Charles, have been my cheerleaders when I needed positive feedback. My grandchildren, Landon and Aerin inspired me to pursue this degree and hopefully will be equally inspired to achieve greatness. My son-in-law’s mother, Sissy, never stopped asking for updates and acted as a proofreader. Her willingness to relieve me by watching my grandchildren provided the time I needed to complete my work. I would like to present my final familial dedication to my parents, Joseph and Rose, my wife’s parents, Edward and Mary Blair, and my brother, James. They guided me from heaven and their support in the past is responsible for my present and future achievements. A special mention goes to my beloved sheltie, Briscoe, who passed to heaven on March 22nd. I could always count on Briscoe to sleep at my feet as I worked on my assignments late into the night. A dedication to my Lord, my saints and my guardian angels is appropriate for their continual vigilance on my behalf. A final dedication to volunteers in general is appropriate because of the commitment and personal sacrifices they make to provide time for service to their communities. The enhancements to constituents and communities reflect the selflessness of these outstanding individuals.
Acknowledgements: 
The support I received from my mentor, Dr. Larry Ellis included dedication and patience. His availability and sense of humor complemented a solid research background. The sharing of his expertise helped me to overcome the obstacles of a novice researcher. My committee members, Dr. Timothy Malone and Dr. Dale Mueller provided guidance, support and loyalty. The instructors and classmates in my courses provided me with the knowledge I needed to conduct and complete this study. These educators and learners exemplify the Scholar/Practitioner/Leader Model. The network of friends and colleagues who supported my efforts to conduct this study are outstanding individuals. Peter Osborne, Dr. Jillian Skelton and Dr. Jon Grasman advocated my efforts by guiding and listening to a novice researcher. Gabriel Mascio guided and supported me throughout this study from conception to completion. Gabriel, Larry Rubini, Joseph Capone, Derek Zecher and Kristopher Smith assisted me in bringing the four advocacy NPOs into this qualitative multiple case study. I would like to acknowledge the participants of the pilot study and this study whose willingness to contribute input provided robust knowledge. Every participant went out of his or her way to change their schedules for the interviews. The volunteer spirit and dedication within the participants was inspirational. I am truly blessed. Lastly, I express my appreciation for discovering classical music radio station WETA 90.9 FM while in Reston, VA during my first and second Residencies. Listening to WETA online while completing my assignments made this journey enjoyable and productive.