Applying individual-level performance constructs to volunteer contexts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Volunteering is an important societal activity worldwide; however, within the volunteering literature, there has been limited research into its behavioural outcomes. Although performance is a common outcome variable in the fields of work psychology, HRM, and management, research on volunteer performance is underdeveloped, conflicting, and fragmented. Current operationalisations have used a variety of content dimensions in an inconsistent and atheoretical manner, with substantial methodological limitations. Moreover, some researchers have questioned whether performance is a useful construct for volunteers at all.
In this PhD project, I answered three research questions on the topic of volunteer performance:
RQ1: To what extent do volunteering practitioners consider performance ideas and applications to be relevant and useful in volunteer work contexts?
RQ2: How do volunteering practitioners conceptualise and describe the key performance behaviours in volunteering roles?
RQ3: To what extent is it possible to operationalise volunteer performance into a valid and reliable measurement tool, and what are the implications for measuring volunteer performance?
I took a mixed methods approach to this research, including semi-structured interviews with 57 volunteering practitioners, and cross-sectional survey data from 219 managers.
By answering these questions, I made four contributions to the volunteering and performance literatures. First, I established that performance is a relevant construct for volunteers, as long as it is applied appropriately and sensitively. Secondly, I summarised volunteer performance content into a six-dimensional model, which I operationalised as a psychometric instrument, the Effective Volunteer Behaviours Scale, and validated quantitatively. This model and measure are useful tools for future research. Thirdly, I expanded the general performance literature, by critically evaluating the extent to which general performance models translated to alternative work contexts such as volunteering. Fourthly, I introduced the underpinning framework of role theory to explain volunteer performance behaviours, thus providing a strong theoretical basis for the volunteer performance literature.
Date of Award1 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMichael Clinton (Supervisor) & David Guest (Supervisor)

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