Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Angela Kline, PhD

Committee Member

Kristen Crossney, PhD

Committee Member

Mia Ocean, PhD


Volunteerism has become so commonplace in the United States that it is often considered the third sector of our economy. To maximize output and stretch every dollar, many nonprofit agencies rely on volunteers to assist with the provision of their direct services. This unfettered access to their service population, without the same trainings and safeguards as implemented with paid staff, potentially create the opportunity for these volunteers to violate the dignity of the nonprofit consumer, either intentionally or unintentionally. The purpose of this study is to explore this phenomenon and determine if it is in fact a shared experience. Through a mixed methods approach and a critical theory framework, the study finds that this experience is in fact a shared one among health and human services nonprofit agencies in the greater Scranton area. It finds that these dignity violations occur in seven common ways (privacy invasion, negative communications, overstepping boundaries, value misalignment, judgement, violated autonomy, and confrontation), caused or allowed by deficiencies in four operational areas (communication, staff, volunteer roles, and training), and effects are felt across all stakeholders (the agency, staff, and volunteers). The discussion offers an alternative approach to public administration theory and an operational framework administrators may use to limit future occurrences of this phenomenon. With a more pointed focus on equity in public administration, future research should confirm the common occurrence of consumer dignity violation, measure its impact on the consumers themselves, and develop best practices to minimize its incidence.