Term Paper: Leadership Data Collection

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[. . .] 4. Research Findings and Discussion:

Accountability and increasing Public Scrutiny: Threat or Opportunity?

Few members of the voluntary sector are unfamiliar with the term 'accountability', which has crept into all corners of the corporate and government world. Increasingly, the sector is being called upon to demonstrate that the services provided by member organizations are making a quantifiable difference in the lives of clients. In some cases, the task of evaluating or measuring outcomes is relatively straightforward. This task is made increasingly difficult in situations where volunteers are concerned. Often times structured analysis of volunteer experiences can give the impression of challenged sustainability, high turnover and fast burn out, not to mention the personal challenges accountability might give the individual volunteer, in an already hectic life. Giving for many people is an additional aspect of their life, that no matter how rewarding it is, can be sacrificed if it becomes to stressful or if the level of appreciation drops to such a degree that makes it seem as if the costs outweigh the benefits of service. It is for this reason that the methodology of this study will both provide foundational qualitative clues as to why certain individuals continue to volunteer and even thrive in the roles and tasks they have been given in the organization. Accountability, in a management/business sense can in and of itself deter volunteers from participation, in situations where low reward and appreciation are perceived. Challenges to the NGO and the individual volunteer often arise through perceptions of accountability that reach beyond the resources of the individual volunteer and high levels of accountability might make the individual feel as if he or she is being asked to give more than he or she is receiving from the volunteer commitment.

The benefits on the other hand of the increased focus upon accountability is the researched-based demonstration of the real need and possible shortcomings of different helping organizations. Though the challenges of the increasing demands, and limited resources upon the organizations themselves often have unintended results the creative ways in which individual organizations rise to those demands is often based on overall and individual accountability for action plans and service needs. Within any given organization there are examples of the ways in which organizations meet increased demands through accountability for productive services. Within the Maltese context as with many others, the social needs that are being met by NGOs have been repeatedly proven to be crucial to the functioning of society and culture. The research from this study furthers these findings by demonstrating the extreme need for the services and the motivation to reduce the need for services by fully utilizing the service of volunteers. This, among many other reasons is a prime example of the ways in which NGOs have risen to the increased demand for accountability to programs and services, not being provided by the traditional means, such as local government and even family, in some cases.

The final accountability question offered very interesting results as participants responded to a higher ideological idea of accountability. Rather than attempting to justify the value of the particular work being done by the affiliate organization the individuals often demonstrated cultural and social needs based on real life situation of assistance they have witnessed or been a party to. Driven by the very personal nature of the answers to this question it can clearly be seen that the individuals must above all else perceive the value of the services they provide regardless of any additional ideas of bottom-line accountability. If the services they provide include social welfare services, which they often do the appreciation and change that has been elicited within the receiver of services is a crucial motivating factor for their continued willingness to offer time and resources to the programs. When asked what the possiblt costs of their volunteer time might be participants often offered time constraints and even pointed out their own perceived ideas of the failings of others in the organization to meet their own level of accountability. Though for the most part the longer the member had been in service to the organization the less importance they place upon the political, personal conflicts that seem to cause so much conflict in any work situation. Those individuals with less overall time in volunteering had more concrete ideas for changes that could be made to alleviate volunteer burnout and increase the overall effectiveness of the programs they volunteer for. Though, they also found more concern with association to accountability of others and also the political and social conflicts that can arise when people are trying to work together for a common goal.

The cultural impact of volunteerism in Malta is a question that needs further research and analysis. Though this work does much to help explain the impact of culture upon the desire to return gifts that have been given to individual volunteers by the closeness and richness of the culture of Malta. Volunteers expressed a great deal of emphasis upon the reliance of their cultural moors and standards as a foundation for their desire to serve others. Additionally, individuals expressed a great deal of emphasis upon their own personal experiences within their families and their lives, as strong motivation for their expression of helping through volunteerism. This would likely be the case in most cultural contexts yet it is clear that at least some emphasis is based upon personal perceptions of cultural ideology and standards, for who in their family or life influenced their desire to give back tot heir community through volunteer activities.

Though culture and family play a significant role in motivation to serve there is also a clear indication that the individual volunteers surveyed had experiences within their lives where they were given assistance by a particular kind of helping organization and they wish for the same or similar organizations to benefit from the resources which they bring to the group or service.

In a prospective study of volunteers at a telephone crisis-counseling agency. Clary and Miller studied the effects of parental modeling and nurturance on sustained altruism (defined as the fulfillment of the volunteer's commitment). They found that volunteers who reported warm and positive relationships with parents who modeled altruism were more likely to sustain their volunteer commitments. (Perry 1997)

Many identify a personal desire to serve because of an example or individual that might have demanded service from them by example when they were young, lending credence to the literature associated with research on volunteerism.

Human capital theory offers an explanation for why children inherit their parents' volunteering habits different from that found in motivation studies. Rather than modeling ideals, parents supply resources. And indeed, children of high-status parents are more likely to volunteer (Sundeen & Raskoff 1994:392). However, the scope of conditions of Human capital theory are not clear. Janoski & Wilson (1995) show that offsprings' volunteering for groups concerned with community problems is predicted by parents' volunteering and by their own marital and parent status at the time, while neither parents' nor volunteers' socioeconomic status has much effect. Conversely, volunteering for more self-oriented organizations, such as unions and professional associations, is predicted by parents' and the volunteers' own socioeconomic status but is negatively related to the volunteers' family status. Parents role model the first but provide the resources for the second. (Wilson 2000)

It is clear from the research of this study that the social status of the individual does in some way impact the ability of an individual to give time to a volunteer project, yet it is also clear that the individuals studied here are of a fairly wide variety, from those who volunteer for professional experience to those who volunteer to give back something they feel they were given in a harder time in their own life. Probably the most significant theme though, is the modeling of an individual within the personal history of the volunteer. Volunteers were likely to answer with names and situations that significantly impacted their view of volunteering in general and their desire to build on that theme from their past through leading by example for the next generation. Volunteers who were not employed elsewhere or where not attending school were of coarse more likely to offer more hours of service but were also more likely to express their own benefits of service as those associated with the social nature of the work they do. They were in general interested in remaining a vibrant part of their community through work that offers emotional and personal rewards and growth.

Within the results of this project can be found many examples of how the affiliation with the organization has become a rich and rewarding part of the lives of the people who both serve and are served by the NGOs in highlight. The effectiveness of the organization itself can in some ways be judged by the effectiveness of the retention of long-term volunteer members… [END OF PREVIEW]

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