Adhocracy Defined: A Better Volunteer “Mousetrap”

Adhocracy is a term for volunteers coined by (some say by Nancy Macduff of Volunteer Today) about the late 80s for a trend towards episodic volunteering – that is volunteering in short, one-up stints. It became more popular in the association circles with the publishing of Decision To Volunteer.

Despite its popularity as a term, its adoption has been slow. There are likely many reasons – after all associations are not known for quick changes. First and foremost it requires turning our concept of volunteering upside down. That’s tough in part because:


  • Prevalence of baby boomers in the leadership ranks who are both clinging to the titles and privileges and resisting the new workflows.
  • Overall sense of security in the buttoned-up world of the hierarchy, formal decision-making and succession ladders. It’s predictable and safe. It minimizes risk on several levels.
  • Fear of the messiness of decentralized work and decision-making.
  • Avoidance of conflict. As we’re finding in our work with a couple of national groups that are trying on various aspects of adhocracy, there is backlash and disgruntlement from seasoned leaders. It’s darn hard to change and sometimes you have to carry your members kicking and screaming.
  • Probably the biggest – we just don’t know enough.

Well we can work together to change the last item and maybe in doing so address the four above. I started an entry over on Associapedia where we can explore this thing called “volunteer adhocracy.” A related page is the beginning of a resource list of adhoc volunteer positions. I send out an invitation to join the conversation, share your examples and questions. Add resources and ideas.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of resources that I found interesting: