Leading volunteers: Investigating volunteers' perceptions of leaders' behavior and gender

Emanuel Schreiner, Sheridan B. Trent, Kelly A. Prange, Joseph A. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Volunteer coordinators' leadership plays a central role in the efforts to retain volunteers and increase their commitment to an organization; however, research on volunteers' perceptions of their leaders is scarce. Given the challenges of leading volunteers, we present two studies to investigate the effectiveness of consideration and initiating structure for volunteer coordinators. First, we theorized and tested how well findings from the business and government sectors fit today's volunteer domain by studying volunteers' perceptions of their current coordinators' leadership. Using a sample of volunteers across the nonprofit sector, we found that consideration and initiating structure were related to different criteria. Initiating structure was positively related to volunteers' feelings of competence and to role clarity, while consideration was negatively related to burnout. Both leader behaviors were positively related to volunteers' satisfaction with their coordinator. In our second study, using a different sample of volunteers in nonprofit organizations, we employ a vignette study design to show how the gender of the coordinator influences the perception of his or her behavior. By manipulating the coordinators' gender via vignette descriptions, we found evidence of the communality-bonus effect for men as men coordinators' leadership effectiveness was rated higher than women coordinators' effectiveness when displaying gender stereotype incongruent consideration behaviors. On the other hand, there was no difference between leaders' genders regarding initiating structure. Volunteers' satisfaction with their coordinator did not differ significantly based on coordinators' gender. We share several practical and theoretical implications of these findings for leaders of volunteers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-260
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • gender
  • leadership
  • volunteer coordinator
  • volunteers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management


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