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Building a grounded theory of volunteer engagement in English associational golf clubs

Mills, Christopher (2021) Building a grounded theory of volunteer engagement in English associational golf clubs. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Voluntary sports clubs rely on committed volunteers for organisational governance and to run sporting activities. However, clubs sometimes struggle to recruit and retain volunteers. Whilst affective organisational commitment encourages and sustains volunteering, the way it develops among sports club volunteers is not well understood. This study explores how volunteers’ club commitment is shaped by their organisational experiences. This study adopts a constructivist grounded theory methodology and investigates the case of volunteers in English associational golf clubs. The research gathered rich empirical data through observation and document analysis in four associational golf clubs and semi-structured interviews with 28 golf club volunteers. Data were analysed using grounded theory coding techniques to construct an abstract rendering of volunteers’ experiences and their feelings towards their golf club. This thesis makes three main contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it constructs club socialisation as a new concept for understanding how club members become volunteers. Club socialisation involves a process whereby individuals transition from new members into established members and then into volunteers. Secondly, this thesis constructs volunteer-member discussions as a new concept to represent a form of informal democracy within voluntary sports clubs. Where discussions are constructive and deliberative, they create a supportive environment for volunteering. Thirdly, this thesis proposes the concept of affective club commitment for sports club volunteers, which builds in layers over time and principally comprises a sense of belonging to other members, a feeling of involvement from voluntary efforts made and pride in the organisation as a whole. Research findings illustrate how club socialisation and volunteer-member discussions shape its development. Finally, this thesis uses the constructed grounded theory as a framework to identify practical actions that associational golf clubs can take to develop affective club commitment among their volunteers.

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