Effective Holistic Approach to Association Volunteer Management

ASAE Research Foundation engaged Mariner Management in a study to develop a deeper understanding of holistic models for strategically designing, implementing, and operating effective volunteer management practices in trade and professional associations.


Research Objectives

ASAE Research Foundation sought to develop a deeper understanding of holistic models for strategically designing, implementing, and operating effective volunteer management practices in trade and professional associations. The study aimed to answer the following questions.  

  1. What is the new volunteer management playbook? What are the models, practices and strategies associations use to manage their volunteers and increase diversity and navigate disruptors.  
  2. How do associations define and assess volunteer effectiveness? How can associations be sure their investment in volunteers is making a difference for volunteers, the association, and the member community?  
  3. How can associations continually improve their volunteer system? How do associations use assessments in strategic discussions to increase the effectiveness of their volunteer management system?  



This project followed two phases, outlined below.  

Phase One: Research and data collection studies on current volunteering and volunteer trends. 

Literature review: An in-depth review of previous research in the area and search of relevant literature on nonprofit volunteer systems 

Qualitative studies: Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted to understand how association professionals define and measure an effective volunteer, volunteer groups, and their volunteer strategy. Thirty professionals participated in these studies.  

Quantitative studies: A survey for association staff and a survey for association volunteers were administered to address the research objectives. Both survey tools were based on the 2017 Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism study to determine any changes. 648 unique organizations participated in the Association Staff Survey; 6,260 volunteers representing 49 associations participated in the Volunteer Experience Survey.  

Phase Two: Deliberative application of the strategic insights and options to take action. 

Application of the findings: The Research Advisory Council, a diverse and representative group of 15 association CEOs, served as thought-leaders and subject matter experts throughout. The group reviewed the findings and provided feedback and observations that helped researchers develop an effective framework for volunteer management and a process for assessment.  


Key Takeaways

Three key themes emerged: 

  1. Overall, both staff and volunteers value execution, achievement of key goals, and meaningful participation. 
  2. Associations generally lack independent, objective metrics by which to confirm volunteers’ overall effectiveness or assess if execution was successful, participation meaningful, or key goals clearly achieved. 
  3. Association staff tend to view volunteer effectiveness less favorable than the volunteers view it themselves.  


Research Report

A Holistic Approach to Association Volunteer Management: How Associations Are Supporting—and Can Improve—Their Volunteer Management Systems

This report provides data-based insights that will help leaders take their volunteer management system to the next level. The report highlights the key elements of an effective volunteer management framework, and, because every organization is different, it offers guidance to help you identify the right definitions and measurements of effectiveness for your organization. You’ll also find a set of tools and templates to help you assess your current volunteer management model and identify areas.  


Additional Resources 

Search for more Volunteer Management resources on asaecenter.org.


Project Partners and External Project Team Members

Research Team

Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, Mariner Management 

Peter Houstle, Mariner Management 

Kevin Whorton, Whorton Research & Marketing 

Lindsay Currie, CAE, Research Advisory Council Chair, Council on Undergraduate Research 


Research Advisory Council 

Reva Brennan, CAE, MPA, IOM, COO, New York State Society of CPAs 

Mona Buckley, MPA, CAE, President and CEO, Government Employees’ Benefit Association 

Jen Brydges, CAE, VP of Resource Development and DEI, AMPED 

Bob Chalker, CAE, CEO, AMPP: the Association for Materials Protection & Performance 

Henry Chamberlain, APR, FASAE, CAE, President and COO, BOMA International 

Hannes Combest, FASAE, CAE, Partner, Governance Directions 

Vicki Deal-Williams, FASAE, CAE, CEO, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 

Steve Hartman, CEO, Alpha Kappa Psi 

Vanessa LaClair, CAE, CMP, Executive Director, Empire State Society of Association Executives 

Christina Lewellen, MBA, CAE, Executive Director, Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools 

Jeffers Miruka, CEO, African Association of Agricultural Economists 

Tara Puckey, MBA, CAE, DES, Executive Director, Radio Television Digital News Association 

Suzanne Schaffer, Executive Director, Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity 

Nathan Victoria, CAE, Executive Director, Society for Personality Assessment 


Volunteer Management Taskforce 

Preet Bassi, CAE (advisory group chair), CEO, Center for Public Safety Excellence  

Bob Chalker, CAE, CEO, AMPP: the Association for Materials Protection & Performance 

Hannes Combest, FASAE, CAE, Partner, Governance Directions 

Bob London, FASAE, CAE, National Executive Director, Alpha Phi Omega  

Silvia Quevedo, CCC/SLP, CAE, Executive Director, Lamaze International  

Celeste Smith, CAE, Director of Governance, Strategy and Operations, National Association of Neonatal Nurses 

Amy Williams, IOM, MPA, CAE, Vice President of Business Development & Consulting, Association Headquarters Inc