Volunteer stereotypes, stigma and relational identity projects

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
– The purpose of this paper is to seek to enhance the understanding of non-profit marketing and consumer identities by exploring volunteering as a form of symbolic consumption. Specifically, it seeks to examine how young people – both volunteers and non-volunteers – understand and relate to volunteer stereotypes, and how they manage stigma in negotiating their social identities in relation to volunteering.

Design/methodology/approach
– Grounded in consumer culture theory, the study uses mixed qualitative methods, incorporating focus groups, paired and individual interviews and a projective drawing task.

Findings
– Five volunteering-related stereotypes were identified: the older charity shop worker, the sweet singleton, the environmental protestor, the ordinary volunteer and the non-volunteer. Participants related to positive and negative attributes of these stereotypes in different ways. This led volunteers and non-volunteers to engage in a range of impression management strategies, some of which bolstered their own identities by stigmatising other groups.

Research limitations/implications
– The sample was drawn from 39 individuals aged 16-24 years and living in Scotland.

Practical implications
– Because stereotypes are acknowledged as a major barrier to volunteering, particularly among young people, a greater understanding of how these stereotypes are understood and negotiated can assist non-profit marketers in recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Originality/value
– This paper draws on theories of consumer culture and stigma to explore volunteering as a form of symbolic consumption, examines volunteering stereotypes among both volunteers and non-volunteers and uses multiple qualitative methods to facilitate articulation of young people’s experiences in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)854-877
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Volume48
Issue number5/6
Early online date6 May 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • stigma
  • stereotypes
  • symbolic consumption
  • volunteering
  • consumer identity
  • non-profit marketing

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