volunteerism; volunteer leadership; volunteer characteristics; professional involvement
Objective: To identify characteristics of dietitians who serve as leaders in the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and their managers, and to compare them to registered dietitians not in volunteer leadership roles and their managers. Design: A cross-sectional survey of volunteer leaders and those who have never volunteered as leaders in ADA. Subjects/setting The study sample included elected officers in ADA and executive board members of ADA state affiliates (volunteer leaders) (n=259) and their managers (n=115), as well as a sample of registered dietitians not in ADA leadership roles (control) (n=273) and their managers (n=221). Statistical analyses performed: The variables examined include employment, personal, and professional demographics, as well as leadership characteristics and manager support. Professional Enrichment and Manager Support Scores were calculated by summing responses to pertinent questions. Descriptive statistics, General Linear Model, and Chi Square tests were used to examine relationships between variables of interest. Results: A significantly greater number of volunteer leaders had advanced degrees, were employed as university/college faculty, and were over the age of 45 compared with the control group (x^2, p<0.0001). Two-thirds of volunteer leaders (64.1%), but only 40.5% of the control group had between one and four children (x^2, p<0.0001). Volunteer leaders perceived higher managerial support to be professionally involved than did registered dietitians in the control group (GLM, p<0.0001). Conclusions: Although there were significant demographic differences between volunteer leaders and the control group in areas of education, employment setting, and age, there are no indications that these differences make it inherently more difficult to volunteer. Having a family does not seem to negatively affect the ability of people to volunteer in ADA. Managers of volunteer leaders verbally or nonverbally show support for their employees to spend time volunteering. Volunteer leaders seem to have a desire to volunteer which cannot be explained by demographic differences from those who choose not to volunteer.