Calls to investigate leadership development in the nonprofit and voluntary sector have been put forth as concerns about leadership succession have increased. To respond to this call to investigate this under-researched area, this design-based, multiple case study provides rich, thick descriptions of the development of the mentoring relationships, between mentor and mentee pairs, over the course of a virtual mentoring program for volunteer leadership development, in a Catholic nonprofit. I explored how participants’ perceptions of their online interactions shaped their experiences and the development of their mentoring relationships while examining the extent to which mentoring contributed to a greater willingness, on the part of mentees, to accept volunteer leadership opportunities. The findings of this study lay the groundwork for future research into virtual mentoring environments for volunteer leadership development.The experiences of seven mentor-mentee case pairs were examined to explore the development of their mentoring relationships. Each pair’s online interactions were observed for six months, from the initial orientation session until the final note was posted. Participants were interviewed two months, four months, and six months into their participation. Data from online communications, weekly logs, and questionnaires were triangulated against mentor and mentee perceptions that emerged within the context of virtual mentoring for volunteer leadership. The compatibility between mentor and mentee expectations, with respect to mentoring approach and mentoring environment, contributed to perceptions about the quality of the mentoring relationship. The CLM was generally perceived by mentees to contribute to leader development, although relationships in which the mentor used a contribution-oriented approach, rather than a guidance-oriented approach, was found to be more complementary to the supports offered by the program. Design considerations include mitigating communication delays and determining whether social media and mobile platforms, which were found to contribute to positive perceptions about the mentoring experience, can forward program goals. The findings have implications for leadership, based on notions of social participation, in which the meaning of willingness to lead shifts from that of formal acceptance of a leadership position to greater participation in leadership activities.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Kevin
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