Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study examined the developmental progression of volunteers involved in a community development project and the role of factors on various ecological levels (individual, familial, project and community) that impede and support this progression. In-depth interviews were completed using a narrative approach with a total of 11 individuals who were volunteers (n=5), staff members (n=4) and individuals who were once volunteers who later became frontline staff members (n=2) at the Highfield Community Enrichment Project. This project is one of the several Better Beginnings, Better Future program sites implemented in Ontario. Volunteer participants were asked to tell a story about their journey as a volunteer with the project. Specifically, they were asked to address how and why they became involved with the project, barriers to volunteer involvement, structures that supported their involvement, why they continued to be involved, how they hoped to be involved in the future and how the project could better support volunteers in the future. Staff participants were asked to discuss the initial volunteers with the project and their progression over time, current volunteers and their progression, barriers to participation, reasons behind discontinued volunteerism, how they support and sustain volunteerism, how they encourage a progression of volunteers into complex roles, benefits of volunteerism, and how they can improve upon their support of volunteers. From the data gathered a model of volunteer progression was developed. This model illustrates that volunteerism is a progression where volunteers often begin participating in program-specific roles (task-focused roles) and then progress into more complex roles (i.e., advocacy, leadership, committee roles). It was found that a variety of initiating factors, barriers, supporting and sustaining factors and inhibiting factors play a role in determining whether or not community residents will volunteer in the first place and whether they will progress to occupy more complex roles within the project. The volunteer progression is complete when volunteers progress and move beyond volunteering to enact other roles within the community. An overarching theme emerged from the research data that embodies the entire model developed. This theme was labeled an empowering system of beliefs and structures. It was concluded that without a belief system and project structures that were empowering of volunteer involvement the progression described would not exist. This model serves as an organizational framework from which community development projects similar to the Highfield Community Enrichment project can tailor the support they provide to volunteers to the level at which they are volunteering and from which they can identify and enhance the ways in which they promote volunteer growth and development. This study addresses how this model can be utilized and provides recommendations concerning how the project can maximize volunteerism and promote the progression of volunteers into more complex and central roles.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season