Read the case study, “A Match Made of Mission.” In the Discussion, your initial post should address the following questions:
- Relate the main characters of this case study and their roles with L-NEAT. Describe what motivates each character and who are considered stakeholders.
- Compare Ella Starr and Craig King as board members and followers for L-NEAT. Distinguish the ways their actions affect the overall successes and failures of L-NEAT.
- Consider the role of the board of directors and staff in relation to the rising tension between L-NEAT and NEAT. Analyze what is occurring within L-NEAT to promote the disequilibrium.
- Jason Young appears to be the L-NEAT hero. Examine his actions. To what extent did his actions contribute to the successes or failures of the followers and the organization? To what extent did the actions of the followers contribute to Young’s successes or failures?
- Distinguish the different roles that mission-driven and leader-driven followers played at L-NEAT. Examine the actions of those followers and their effects on the outcome of the case study.
- Use the follower typology of either Kelley or Kellerman to categorize the characters in the case study.
A Match Made of Mission
Jason Young, Community Leadership Program (CLP) graduate and recently appointed
executive director of L-NEAT, the local chapter of the nonprofit National Emergency Assistance
Team (NEAT), was tasked with finding new volunteer board members for his complacent
organization. He looked to CLP for new board members. Ella Starr, CLP director, joined the
board not knowing the mission of L-NEAT. She could not refuse Young’s charismatic
recruitment effort. Starr believed in Young’s leadership style as well as the passion and vibrancy
he brought to the organization. Craig King, Deputy Fire Chief and CLP graduate, was also asked
by Young to join the board. King agreed because he believed in the organization’s mission of
community disaster preparedness, fire safety, and fire prevention. King knew how important L-
NEAT was in his community and he thought working with Young was a bonus.
With new board members in place to energize the board, Young began to grow the
nonprofit through fundraisers and community outreach. Starr’s connections helped Young use
his community leadership network to revamp the annual golf tournament, add a wine tasting
party at a local winery, and create a motorcycle ride which included an untapped resource of
bikers. With new funds, Young worked with King to provide additional fire safety and health
programs for the community.
Through Young’s leadership, previous volunteers returned to help L-NEAT while the
board of directors maintained an active presence in fiscal policy and program decisions. His
predecessor practically begged to get enough board members for quorum; Young simply worried
about what to do with too many volunteers. Starting an internship program, Young realized the
value of using college students as interns and the potential of a renewing volunteer base. The
old, established L-NEAT became a youthful and dynamic force for change.
The board was thrilled with the organization’s growth and popularity in the community.
When Young asked for assistance, Starr willingly helped out although she did not initiate
volunteer activities. King eagerly worked with L-NEAT to promote fire safety. Board members
regularly attended meetings, served on committees and participated in fundraisers, although little
time was spent on board development. Staff capacity was expanded to handle more programs
and activities. Increased visibility in the community brought more volunteers and funders to
support the organization.
Many severe national disasters left NEAT in a financial deficit and organizational
restructuring crept into the success of day to day activities. Responsibilities were regionally
consolidated and soon local employees were working region-wide and reporting to other
managers besides Young. With control now highly centralized, L-NEAT was caught in the
middle. Inevitably, Young was wooed away by his alma mater, leaving the organization and the
empire he created, just as it faced a major crisis.
Rose Hill, a registered nurse, was an inexperienced board member who became board
chair, expecting to be guided by Young. Instead, she faced her first board leadership challenge
of hiring a director without Young by her side. The NEAT reorganization gave Regional
Director Robert Thomas authority to hire an outsider with limited nonprofit management
experience over the local favorite which left L-NEAT board members grumbling. That newly
hired director left after only six months, frustrating Hill’s and Young’s painstaking effort to
introduce the new director to key stakeholders and orient her to the community. Once again, the
board, with Hill as the board chair, was without an executive director. With added pressure from
the regional office and less autonomy for L-NEAT, the board began the hiring process. When
Thomas shifted responsibilities to the regional office, L-NEAT finally realized the board had
quietly and unintentionally transitioned to an advisory committee. Local control of L-NEAT was
being lost to regional management of NEAT.
In the parking lot and at other meetings, board members questioned the leadership of the
Rose Hill and NEAT; however, they did not question their own actions or motivations at L-
NEAT. No one thought about their personal values and reasons for joining the L-NEAT board
or how those values would now affect the leadership of L-NEAT. It was all too easy to blame
changes on NEAT and not consider what was happening at L-NEAT or with individual board
members. Questions of board member motivation, whether board members were driven by the
mission or the leader, did not arise. Instead, Thomas and NEAT stepped in to provide
supervision and staff support which dictated new standard operating procedures to the struggling
L-NEAT. Within a year after Young’s departure, the recently reinvigorated agency languished.
Broken hearted by Young’s departure, Starr could not bring herself to fight for L-NEAT.
She tried a couple of times, but Hill and Thomas made it so difficult, she wondered if it was
worth the effort. After all, she thought, it was really Young who drove the organization and she
only joined the board because Young had asked. Without Young as the leader of L-NEAT, Starr
decided to put her efforts toward other organizations where she believed in the mission. In doing
so, Starr ignored email pleas and quietly disappeared from the board without actually resigning.
Craig King, was not about to give up on the L-NEAT presence in his community. When
Young asked King to join the board, he agreed because he believed in the organization’s
mission. In L-NEAT, King found an organization which supported his work in the community.
Without L-NEAT, he knew people would be homeless after emergencies. He believed in L-
NEAT so much, King decided to throw the full support of his department behind keeping it
Two years after Young’s departure, only two of the other eighteen board members whom
he recruited remained active. Those were Hill and King. All other board members had either
been recruited by Young’s predecessor, or they had since resigned or disengaged. They were
board members in name only. Despite Thomas’s takeover efforts from the regional office, four
active board members remained. They are collectively determined to keep L-NEAT alive in
their community because they believed in the mission of the L-NEAT and the people the
Active, engaged, and independent followers are critical to the success of organizations.
Using community volunteers as a type of follower, this case study examines how follower
motivation—mission-driven or leader-driven—contributes to the success or failure of an
organization. Some followers engage in activities believing in an organization’s mission while
others engage because of the organization’s leader (Keim 2014). By examining follower
motivation in the citizen engagement arena through nonprofit and civic organizations, the
potential for a successful mission match between followers and nonprofit and civic organizations
becomes more apparent.
Nonprofit and civic organizations utilize volunteers on projects, committees and boards
to link followership and civic engagement through emerging follower motivation: mission-
oriented and leader-oriented. The star followers (Kelley 2008) and active followers (Chaleff
2009) are more likely to be mission-driven while the sheep (Kelley 2008) and bystanders
(Kellerman 2008) are more likely to be leader-driven. For organizations challenged with
recruiting or retaining followers (volunteers), understanding that mission-driven followers
become more involved and stay involved because of the organization’s mission provides
nonprofit and civic leaders with important mission match information to consider for volunteer
recruitment and retention efforts (Brudney and Meijs 2009). This could be a new approach to
attract and keep volunteers over time.
The case study of L-NEAT investigates the motivation of two new volunteer board
members who were brought on to energize a board that had become complacent. When Jason
Young, the charismatic and forceful leader, convinced Ella Starr to join the board of directors,
she said yes because she was asked by the leader. On paper, Starr was quite a catch for the board
of directors with her community connections and proven ability to fundraise. Early on, Starr
participated in events and activities when prompted by Young rather than promoting L-NEAT in
the community. While Young did not confront her, Starr’s lack of enthusiasm was probably a
disappointment to Young who had observed Starr using her social network to engage in many
other community activities. Rather, Starr appeared unwilling to use her vast social capital of
trust and reciprocity, gained over time in the community, to benefit L-NEAT (Putnam 2000). In
this case, Starr is considered a leader-driven follower (Keim 2014) who did not completely buy
into the mission of L-NEAT. Use of her social network was limited and happened only when
Young asked. When the leader departed the organization, Starr checked out. In the end, Starr
was not an active, engaged, star follower (Chaleff 2009; Kelley 2008), rather she behaved more
like a sheep (Kelley 2009) or bystander (Kellerman 2008).
A firefighter at heart, Craig King was willing to join the L-NEAT board and immediately
became active in fire safety and emergency assistance programming. He used his position and
social capital, on the board and as a fire captain, to reach out into the community for donations
and involve the fire department in the community-wide smoke detector installation and
replacement blitz. King was willing to use his social network for the benefit of L-NEAT and the
community (Putnam 2000). King’s actions centered around his belief in the mission of the
organization. Young did not have to ask King for assistance, King was internally motivated to
promote the L-NEAT mission in any way he could. After Young left, King continued to work
diligently for L-NEAT and is one of the few board members who continues to loyally serve the
organization. King is considered a mission-driven follower (Keim 2014) who firmly believes in
the mission of L-NEAT. He continues to be an active, engaged, star follower (Chaleff 2009;
Starr and King demonstrate the stark difference in follower motivation between mission-
driven and leader-driven followers. As Keim (2014) describes, mission-driven followers believe
in the mission of the organization and are more likely to stay involved during leadership changes.
To them, the leader is insignificant compared to the mission of the organization. Leaders come
and go, but the mission and the organization remain. Leader-driven followers are more likely to
become involved only because the leader asks. For them, the mission may not be as important as
the leader who is involved with the organization. With the leader present, the followers can rally
around supporting the leader. When the leader exits, the focus of the leader-driven followers
Had Young realized the difference between the mission-driven and leader-driven board
members, he may have recruited volunteers differently, considered follower motivation and
chosen different board members—those who were more mission-driven—to reach a better
balance of mission-driven and leader-driven followers for the board of directors. As it turns out,
there were many more leader-driven followers than mission-driven followers on the L-NEAT
board. When the leader left, the majority of the board members also departed. Mission-driven
followers would be more likely to stay and make a stronger stand against NEAT, preserving
Young’s hard work in growing the L-NEAT organization.
Young did not expect drastic national changes at NEAT and he most likely did not expect
to leave L-NEAT, given he did not plan for long term board leadership stability. Had more
purposeful consideration been given to board leadership and organizational sustainability, Young
and the board could have chosen a more experienced board member as chair of the board. Hill’s
board leadership inexperience coupled with Young’s departure did not provide organizational
sustainability or security for L-NEAT in the face of major organizational changes. Instead,
Young and the board were riding a wave of popularity in the community and were focused on
programming and fundraising without considering the future sustainability of L-NEAT.
Nonprofit and civic organizations, such as L-NEAT, are continuously charged with
recruiting volunteers. Retaining those volunteers saves considerable staff time and precious
funds (Hager and Brudney 2004). As Keim (2014) indicates, organizations which rely heavily
on volunteers could attract mission-driven followers by emphasizing the purpose and goals of the
organization instead of relying on the difficult process of continually asking leader-driven
followers for support. Volunteers who believe in the organization’s mission and want to make it
better may be more likely actively engaged in the organizations that they choose to support.
Those mission-driven followers may also provide stability and continuity to nonprofit and civic
organizations and their volunteer leadership.
The disconnect between volunteer follower motivation and the mission of the
organization may result in failure, regardless of leader engagement within the organization
(Hager and Brudney 2004; Brudney and Meijs 2009). Organizations able to perfect the match of
mission and follower motivation will enhance overall follower motivation. This match between
mission and follower motivation enables organizations to recruit volunteers who care about the
mission of the organization and actively choose to volunteer, instead of those who say yes simply
because the leader asks. This creates a more positive environment for engaged volunteers and
saves costs in time and resources organizations use for recruiting and training volunteers.
In the case of Starr and King, Starr’s leader-driven followership did little overall to
enhance L-NEAT. As soon as the leader left the organization, Starr was not motivated to help L-
NEAT in any way. On the other hand, King’s mission-driven followership left a legacy for L-
NEAT. King still believes in the mission of L-NEAT and continues to work to keep the
organization alive in his community.
1. Who are the main characters in this case study? What are their roles with L-NEAT?
Describe what motivates each character. Which characters are considered stakeholders
2. Explore the similarities and differences of Ella Starr and Craig King as board members
and followers for L-NEAT. In what ways do their similarities and differences affect the
overall successes and failures of L-NEAT?
3. Consider the role of board of directors and staff of L-NEAT in relation to the rising
tension between L-NEAT and NEAT. What is occurring within L-NEAT to promote the
4. Jason Young appears to be the L-NEAT hero. Examine his actions. To what extent did
his actions contribute to the successes or failures of the followers and the organization?
To what extent did the actions of the followers contribute to Young’s successes or
5. Describe the different roles that mission-driven and leader-driven followers played at L-
NEAT? How may their actions affect the outcome of this case study?
6. To create a more sustainable organization, what actions could have been taken by Young,
the board chair, and the board of directors (followers) to protect the future of L-NEAT?
Brudney, J. L., & Meijs, L. (2009). It ain’t natural: Toward a new (natural) resource
conceptualization for volunteer management. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38,
Chaleff, I. (2009). The courageous follower. San Francisco, CA: Barrett-Koehler.
Hager, M. A., & Brudney, J. L. (2004, June). Volunteer management practices and retention of
volunteers. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
Kelley, R.E. (2008) Rethinking followership. In R. E. Riggio, I. Chaleff, & J. Lipman-Blumen
(Eds.), The art of followership: How great followers create great leaders and
organizations (pp.5-15). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Keim, S. (2014). Mission-driven followership and civic engagement: a different sustainable
energy. Journal of Leadership Education, 4, 76-87.
Kellerman, B. (2008). Followership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Putman, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.