Leah Weiner


Across the globe, many long-term social service and infrastructure projects of nonprofits are managed by volunteers who freely donate their time to provide aid. Some of these organizations are referred to as voluntary nonprofit organizations with membership being voluntary. As a result, turnover impacts the ability of many volunteer-led nonprofits to achieve their goals. The unique characteristics of volunteers combined with volunteer turnover requires a volunteer-led nonprofit to use organizational models and best practices that align with the needs of a volunteer membership. Unfortunately, current research on the nonprofit sector focuses primarily on paid-staff nonprofit organizations as oppose to volunteer-led. This qualitative case study provides information for leaders to manage challenges that predominately occur within a volunteer-led nonprofit. Theories related to volunteerism, organizational management, structure and culture were explored in the study. The purpose of this research was to: (a) review the obstacles that hinder voluntary nonprofit organizations in accomplishing their mission, (b) understand perceptions of volunteer leaders and (c) identify best practices enabling volunteer-led nonprofit organizations to effectively accomplish their mission. From existing research and through data collection, the lead investigator developed conclusions that could be used to train volunteer-led nonprofits. All of this research was based upon the literature review, previous studies and qualitative analysis of a particular volunteer-led nonprofit organization. The methodology used consisted of a qualitative case study, allowing the lead investigator to analyze a particular volunteer-led nonprofit organization, Sustainable Communities. The lead investigator reviewed organizational documents including a PowerPoint presentation and supplemental notes created by leaders from Sustainable Communities. In addition, 8 individuals from the organization were interviewed by the lead investigator. Upon completion of the data collection, the information from the organizational documents was coded and then interpreted. Based on the review of organizational documents and interviews with participants in the study, the lead investigator found several obstacles hindering the volunteers from successfully completing their mission including: (a) the turnover of volunteers, (b) the transition of new volunteers, (c) the corruption within partnering organizations, and (d) the project scope was to aggressive for organization's infrastructure. Additionally, the lead investigator discovered information on how the leadership managed the organization's volunteers. Lastly, through this research study, best practices for volunteer-led nonprofit organization were explored and specific needs of the organization were discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Volunteers; Leadership

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;