Academic Research, Volunteer Management and Pro Bono

I came across the article Does Academic Research Really Matter?, discussing the relationship between academic research and volunteer management. In reading the article I was struck – as I so often am – by the parallels between the broader world of volunteerism and volunteer management, and the world of pro bono.

We can, of course, quantify to a reasonable extent the amount of pro bono that is being done, both through organizational tracking and through data studies such as those done by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. Those same studies, as well as studies by Deborah RhodeDeborah Schmedemann and others examine motivation.

There are, however, the same gaps in research that are cited by Susan J. Ellis and Steve McCurley in their article:

  • What do pro bono managers actually do?
  • How does that affect volunteers? Clients?
  • Can volunteers do some things better than paid staff?
  • What do paid staff think of volunteers?

We may think we know the answers to some, or even all, of these questions, but our answers are based on experience and anecdotes, not academic research.

Does the absence of academic research on these questions matter? Are there additional questions on which research would be helpful? Or is the data and research currently available enough?

I invite you to read the article, then let us know what you think –  in the Comments at the link, and in our Comments below.

~ Cheryl Zalenski

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