Friday, March 16, 2007

Board Member Motivations – Emerging Research

My interest in volunteer motivation is expanding, in part, because understanding individual reasons for board service is one part of the question driving my dissertation research.

In the last two entries, we considered frameworks for describing volunteer service generally. Today, I describe on a research-driven scale developed by Canadian scholars Sue Inglis and Shirley Cleave. They reported their findings in a fall 2006 article, published in the journal, Nonprofit Management & Leadership.

The issue arrived in my mailbox as I was starting to think about the ways in which individual board member motivations might shape their participation in governance work and how they might influence their motivation to learn within the context of their responsibilities. I’m also considering how this might be useful in developing any community-level board development initiatives. (For more information on that effort, please visit the blog archives and read the Feb. 10-21 entries.)

Inglis and Cleave’s research yielded six categories of volunteer board motivations:

Enhancement of Self-Worth: “attitudes and behaviors that benefit the individuals” (p. 93).

Learning through Community: “the individual’s growth through learning new skills, learning about the community, developing strengths, and making contacts” (p. 94).

Helping the Community: “(W)orking to help make a difference in the community” (p. 95). This was the strongest of the six components.

Developing Individual Relationships: social relationships, emphasizing “the personal and individual level and on the relations one builds with others” (p. 95).

Unique Contributions to the Board: “skills, expertise, and different perspectives that are brought to the board…what individuals perceive they bring to the board and how they might be able to see things differently and make a personal difference to the challenges faced by the organization...Worthy of consideration is how these types of attitudes and motivations can be emphasized in various aspects of the board’s work” (p. 95).

Self-Healing: “(H)ow individuals may be interested in volunteering as a way of dealing positively and proactively with deeply felt personal needs and problems of everyday life” (p. 96). This one was the weakest of the six components.

It would be interesting to do our own version of this survey, to see what motivates Laramie’s nonprofit leaders. This could be useful in both recruitment efforts and in developing board learning initiatives. As always, I am interested in your thoughts about how we might use this information in ways that benefit our community.

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