Developing volunteer leaders

Developing volunteer leaders: A quasi-experimental trial of leader development among paid and volunteer leaders

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Scholarship in the field of leadership, while increasingly popular and prominent, is focused almost exclusively on paid leaders who hold substantive, managerial roles and lead teams of paid employees. But, in Tasmania, the largest sector by involvement is volunteering, meaning that far more people lead and are led in a voluntary (unpaid) capacity than in a paid capacity. Throughout Tasmania and around the world, volunteers deliver essential services such as community care, emergency response, animal welfare, sport and recreation, and environmental stewardship. And yet, almost no resources are invested to understand how to develop leadership in this vital sector.

Volunteer leadership receives sparse scholarly attention and scant resources for organisational development and capacity building. The vast majority of leadership development research and resources are directed at paid leaders in large organisations, which leaves a glaring gap of knowledge and opportunity to develop the capacity of individuals who volunteer their time to lead in the volunteer sector. This PhD project seeks to fill this gap.

The successful candidate will use the new UTAS Behavioural Economics Lab to empirically establish the difference(s) between volunteer leadership and paid leadership. In the experiment, equivalent volunteer leaders and paid leaders will be engaged in a leadership development program with a focus on understanding the differences in performance between the two groups. Once key differences are established, the candidate will explore possible theoretical explanations for the identified differences before testing propositions to establish evidenced ways to develop the leadership capacity of volunteer leaders. Further experiments will be used to validate leadership development strategies tailored to the volunteer sector in Tasmania and beyond.

The successful candidate will be supervised by leadership and behavioural and experimental economics experts and will join a growing team of scholars and doctoral candidates researching volunteer leadership within the University of Tasmania.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Toby Newstead


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Academic writing skills to complete a thesis that incorporates publications
  • Social and communication skills required to build connections within the Tasmanian and Australian volunteering sectors
  • Advanced knowledge quantitative, some knowledge of qualitative, and preferred knowledge in experimental methods
  • A willingness to live in Tasmania (including relocation)
  • Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Related industry experience

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Toby Newstead, to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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