Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Greenhaw, Laura L.

Committee Member

Akers, Ryan C.

Committee Member

Smith, Cade M.

Committee Member

Newman, Michael E.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Agricultural and Extension Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


School of Human Sciences


Volunteer leaders are an underutilized resource in nonprofit organizations. However, as volunteer directors are stretched to their capacity, others in the organization must provide leadership to volunteers. One way for nonprofit organizations to increase their capacity is to develop the leadership skills of identified volunteer leaders. Because time and resources are limited in nonprofit organizations, the purpose of this study was to determine if identifying and training volunteer leaders is beneficial to the outreach of organizations they serve. This study was conducted in three parts. A Delphi study, was conducted with volunteer directors in the community to identify leadership competencies for volunteer leaders. At the conclusion of three rounds of iteration, 42 competencies were identified. A volunteer leader training and assessment instrument was developed based on those 42 competencies. Next, social network analysis was used to identify volunteer leaders in three groups at a nonprofit organization. ForceAtlas2 analysis was used to generate networks of nodes (volunteers) and edges (connections) to determine leaders within each group. The identified leaders were compared to leaders identified by the volunteer director of the organization. Overall, the volunteer leaders selected by the director matched those identified by the social network analysis with the exception of one outlier in one of the volunteer groups. Lastly, the identified volunteer leaders were invited to the volunteer leader training developed from the competencies identified by the Delphi. Participants were assessed prior-to, and following, the training by their peer volunteers based on their ability to demonstrate the identified competencies. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to determine if a there was a difference between the participants’ demonstration of the competencies after the training compared to before. The results of the analysis indicated there was no statistically significant increase in participant’s ability to demonstrate the leadership competencies and skills as a result of the workshop. However, there was an overall increase for participants’ ability to demonstrate 31 of the competencies covered in the training. The researcher suggests revising the workshop into a comprehensive series of shorter trainings and replicating the study to determine if additional competencies can be improved upon.