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Unwaged labour intensified. Volunteer management and work targets at a UK charity.

Read, R., 2021. Unwaged labour intensified. Volunteer management and work targets at a UK charity. The Sociological Review, 69 (1), 223-239.

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DOI: 10.1177/0038026120938291


Volunteer management is an expert practice which aims to maximise the productivity and efficiency of volunteers’ activities, by adapting Human Resource Management (HRM) approaches to voluntary work settings. Sociological and social anthropological studies of volunteering have not explored the significance and effects of volunteer management in sufficient detail. This article critically examines the historical emergence and contemporary UK practice of volunteer management at a charity providing counselling services by phone and online. Using data drawn from an ethnographic study among volunteers and staff at this charity, I examine how management practices were calibrated to encourage volunteers to achieve productivity targets. Volunteers’ workloads increased as a result, but management strategies also portrayed a willingness to work intensively as a key measure of altruistic and compassionate motivations. Drawing on feminist analyses of the constitutive nature of service work for workers’ subjectivities, I examine how volunteer management strategies engaged volunteers at the level of affect in order to align their attitudes, feelings and behaviours with the achievement of targets. My argument contributes new insights to sociological and social anthropological debates about volunteering and its relationship to employment, by evaluating how the values of productivity, efficiency and value for money, all of which cohere within volunteer management expert practice, come to animate and reorder the experiences of volunteering.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:volunteering ; unpaid work ; counselling ; volunteer management ; call centres ; UK
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:34126
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:11 Jun 2020 13:12
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:22


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