Calling All Men

I came across a pretty interesting piece on the Chronicle of Higher Education about motivating men to volunteer. If you are having difficulty getting men to volunteer or want to do a better job of inspiring men in their work, you may want to take a look at this.

As you might imagine from the source, the article is about motivating college men to volunteer more frequently and is a result of a $600,000 grant to study the issue on 14 campuses. However, one of scholars quoted near the end of the piece suggests, as with so many things, that the root behaviors and attitudes about involving oneself in service learning activities were developed as young boys. I am sure there are similarities for the way men react to a call for aid in post-collegiate life too.

Among the tactics the different participants identified as useful were enlisting peer leaders to promote opportunities and have people extend personal invitations. On the whole, they found that male students were externally motivated and would become involved when it was a requirement or a project of a group with which they were associated.

Language use also appeared important. The article notes that when an instructor shifted to more action oriented language- “‘Social Justice: A Service-Based Exploration” to “Working Toward Social Justice.”

‘She saw a pretty spontaneous increase in the number of men enrolled,’ Mr. Chesbrough said. ‘That plays to gender stereotypes, but those words were more likely to catch men’s attention.'”

This piece is too short to be making decisions that will reshape your volunteer recruitment and training. The book talking about the study is due out this summer if you really feel you need to make an effort to involve more men in your organization. There are also a few other books on the subject.

My only caveat is to be skeptical about some of the generalizations about gender you may come across. I have seen enough debunkings of methodology on similar studies to have a cautious approach. I don’t deny people are motivated to volunteer for different reasons. In my experience there just isn’t any straightforward consistency in them.

Just the same, I have never really thought that we might be attracting or losing male volunteers based on the way we structured the appeal and volunteering experience so the concept is something to consider.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment