A perversion of the voluntary sector? An empirical analysis of FDF and URK

Amalie Kyndesen & Vibeke Svenningsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


From our voluntary engagement in FDF and URK, we came to discuss the conflicting tendencies in the voluntary sector and we wondered if the voluntary sector, as we know it today, was about to be destructed. Our argument that the voluntary sector is heading towards a perversion has to be understood as a development at several levels. The first change has happened at individual level where the original perception of the volunteer has to be re-evaluated. We discard the traditional perception of volunteers as values seeking. Volunteers’ primary motive to engage in voluntary work is not values. Instead, we propose that all volunteers have to be understood as universal volunteers. Universal volunteers have the potential to become volunteers in any voluntary organisation, and coincidence, timing and network is determining for where the universal volunteer engages. After being attached to a voluntary organisation, a socialisation process begins ,where the universal volunteer is transforming into an organisation specific volunteer. This entails adopting values of the organisation, but the organisation is also shaped by the volunteer’s values and this results in the second change; at organisational level. From the empirical analysis, we drew a picture of two opposite organisations; FDF, a self-sufficient organisation that has become decoupled from society and URK, a hyper adaptive organisation that has professionalised to an extent, where it resembles a business. A market logic has become predominant in our society and this brings a change in the volunteers, who cause a change in some of the organisations, and this results in a change at sector level. We see that the voluntary sector is about to become dominated by the institutional logic of capitalism. URK has adapted to this logic whereas FDF, as an enclave in society, has maintained the family logic that originally belonged to the civil and voluntary sector. In this way, they define the poles in the voluntary sector. We fear that FDF is becoming a family more than an association and URK is becoming a business rather than an association. This means that no one will resist the market logic dominating the voluntary sector. The feared consequence of this, is a loss of the voluntary sector’s finest task of formation.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages126