The purpose of this report is to:
· Analyse selected literature to highlight factors affecting the willingness of people to volunteer.
· Test various findings within the literature through use of survey. Specifically getting individuals who have already volunteered to respond to various questions.
· Analyse the findings from the survey to see if there are any similarities or differences in the emergent themes whilst also drawing connections with issues within the literature.
· Reflect on what was learnt from the interviews and the assignment overall.
2 Literature Review
This literature review provides a comprehensive investigation of selected literature concerning the willingness of people to volunteer. Specifically the review examines five categories of themes: motivators for volunteering, background, employment obligations, social status and income.
The literature review further suggests that determinants for volunteer participation are multivariate although motivators and personal identity are more implicative as being the greater influencer for volunteers to partake in programs and gain experience.
Further to this the findings in the literature show a need for some of the findings to be validated through a set of questions to be answered by various volunteers. This is also to test the strength of the authors’ research and studies however it is also to determine what makes volunteers part take in various volunteering programs.
2.2 Motivators for Volunteering
Motivators were seen to be a prerequisite for volunteers who participated in various programs within the literature. This was mainly due to volunteers seeing value in participating through forms of benefit and self improvement (Cnaan, et al 1996). In particular benefit was seen to be the main motivator for a volunteer regardless of the individual’s income. (Tidwell 2005) argues that for those who have lower wages or are not working their motivation is still based around self fulfilling benefits. Respectively these individuals benefit as they get an opportunity to share their expertise whilst also recognising that they are aiding the goals of a volunteering organisation.
(Zappala and Burrel 2001) found that for those who were motivated to volunteer, they fell into a particular demographic profile such as socio economic and behaviour. An example of this is corporate workers who have been suggested to fit in the higher socio economic bracket. According to (Zappala and Burrel 2001) these types of workers are seen to be mostly motivated, by organisations rather than themselves. Specifically they are targeted through a functional approach which entails that their needs be met thus motivating them to get involved. This means that organisations consider the message, which they convey such as the positives that volunteering can bring. The outcome for this according to (Zappala and Burrel 2001) is that volunteers are more motivated to put in a higher amount of hours whilst at the same time they are satisfied. It is here that the question emerges:
Interview Question: What has been your main motivator for wanting to volunteer?
(Pancer, et al 2002) found that most individuals would volunteer when they saw that they have a variety of options and ones that will also benefit themselves through forms of recognition and so forth. This again confirms benefits as a main motivator for volunteering whilst it also raises another question.
Interview Question: If you have volunteered more than once, what has motivated you to do so?
(Zappala and Burrel 2001) claim that a key finding was that volunteers became more motivated to volunteer again as it boosted their career function whilst also improving their employment prospects. Whilst at the same time it also enabled volunteers to explore different career options. It could be said here that motivation is more closely linked to those in better positions or who are more wanting of a better outcome for themselves although the literature has failed to provide conclusive evidence in this regard.
Through the literature it was found that the background of volunteers played an important role in the person’s decision to volunteer. This came through notable themes such as religion, ethnicity and personal identity. In particular these themes highlighted that every individual is unique thus determining their decision of where he / she is to volunteer unless if otherwise coerced by various peers.
Religion is a cultural system that creates powerful and long-lasting meaning, by establishing symbols that relate humanity to truths and values. Religions exhibit a range of traditional values and beliefs of which its believers follow and adhere to (Wikipedia 2011). As such religion influences an individuals beliefs and a person’s decision to volunteer whilst it can also determine where an individual may volunteer (Jackson et al 1995); cited by (Zappala and Burrel 2001)
(Zappala and Burrel 2001) found that those who are heavily influenced by religion and part take in religious activities are more likely to volunteer for various organisations such as charitable organisations whilst being more involved with community related volunteering also. This can be supported by the many religious groups that teach and encourage people to care for each other, or its congregation, and as such will have an influence on the remainder of the group to provide the same level of support and willingness in return (Wikipedia 2011).
(Dolnicar and Randle 2007) found that those who are more interactive with their religion are more likely to help out those who are less fortunate then them such as the elderly and their neighbours. At the same time their religion influences their views ‘in terms of what they feel is acceptable social behaviour’ Dolnicar and Randle (2007, p. 358). Religion also places those who accept it for its value in the core group of volunteers and as such highlights its significance to volunteering (Reed and Selbee 2001). The literature therefore suggests that religion is influential to a person’s decision to become or partake in volunteering activities.
Ethnicity within the literature was identified as a barrier to volunteering. Specifically it suggested that individuals deriving from a poorer background were less likely to volunteer, as opposed to someone from a wealthier socioeconomic background (Sundeen, et al 2007).
(Sundeen, et al 2007) argues that people from ethnic minorities have lower volunteer participation rates as a result of their lower socioeconomic status rather than as a result of any intrinsic cultural characteristic. This statement suggests that an individual’s economic status has a higher weighing in determining if an individual is likely to volunteer, then of the culture from which they may came from. Sundeen, et al claim is further supported by the fact that ‘people born in Australia were more likely to undertake voluntary work than those born elsewhere, 36% and 29% respectively’ Australian bureau of statistics (2007, p. 14).
Although the literature clearly identifies ethnicity as an issue/factor influencing an individual’s likelihood to volunteer, it does not provide evidence of the root cause of this and its contributors and thus fails to answer the following questions:
- Do you feel as if your own family beliefs, culture and nationality have affected your choice in choosing to become a volunteer?
- Did you ever feel as if there were any restrictions when volunteering?
2.3.3 Personal identity
Personal identity within the literature was noted to play an important role in volunteering, mainly as it influenced an individual’s willingness to volunteer. This compliments (Smith 1994) cited by: (Zappala and Burrel 2001) claim that those who usually did volunteer were characterised to be socially accepted, held a dominant status such as a higher form of education, higher income, were middle age, currently married, spent a longer time within the community and had at least one child under eighteen in the household.
Based on these findings it is believed that a person’s identity plays a great factoring role in their decision to volunteer. In particular it determines their placement for volunteering whilst also providing one with a means to volunteer. At the same time these findings also pose questions on whether personal identity is the key motive for, volunteering?
- Do you feel as if your motivation has come from within or has it been based on incentives and so forth?
Overall do you feel as if you have benefited from volunteering?
2.4 Employment Obligations
Employment obligations throughout the literature was, expressed as needing to volunteer due to being coerced in one of many different ways.
Respectively it was found that when individuals are pressured into volunteering certain characteristics associated to volunteering stop being valid. This is mainly due to the initial mixed feelings that people undergo during the negotiating process when it comes to being asked to volunteer (Pancer, et al 2002). Specifically volunteers who may be competent instead find themselves not being able to give it their best when committing to volunteering duties as they are overworked, already emotionally drained and lack a sense of need. Other reasons for this are based on an individual’s inability to connect the goals and vision the organisation is trying to communicate (Pancer, et al 2002).
At the same time this doesn’t necessarily prevent one from gaining personal values, benefits, gaining the power to influence others and respect from the organisation (Pancer, et al 2002). Based on this it is recognised that for those who do volunteer based on their organisations request they are in a position to benefit although at the same it does pose questions about volunteers. Specifically how valid is volunteering by request and if one is asked to volunteer should they not be treated well in doing so?
- Why were you open to volunteering for the recent organisation that you did work for? And what was the organisation that you did work for?
- Did you get treated fairly by the organisation that you did volunteer work for?
2.5 Social Status
Social status within volunteering is an influencer for a volunteer whilst at the same time it can also work as a motivator. Specifically it plays a role in an individual’s outcome to volunteer as they may be influenced to volunteer for an organisation that is more socially acceptable than others. At the same time colleagues or other types of people who a person may wish to be closely associated to may play a role in the person’s decision to volunteer. It was found within the literature that this theme also played a role in getting people to volunteer who may not otherwise do so. Again this was namely due to being influenced by social peers or an individual desiring a specific placement within society.
It was found that social status mainly influenced those who were within the higher socio economic bracket. Specifically those who held higher positions such as managers and other professionals felt a great deal of responsibility to volunteer. This was mainly due to wanting to uphold a certain image (Australian bureau of statistics 2007).
Whilst those from other brackets were influenced by the positive social identity derived from volunteering (Tidwell 2005). Again this raises questions on the position of volunteers, is it they who decide if they are to volunteer or is it others and does their experience even count to them and the organisation they volunteered for?
- Did anyone influence you to volunteer or do you feel as if it was your own initiative? Also what was it that influenced you?
- Do you feel as if your contribution was significant for the organisation which you did volunteer work for?
Income within volunteering literature was identified to play a critical role in a person’s ability to volunteer. This was mainly due to individuals stemming from various backgrounds such as lower and higher socio economic backgrounds. In particular those who came from poorer backgrounds were less inclined to volunteer due to their own concerns and poorer wellbeing whilst those in higher positions were in a more fortunate position to help out others through monetary value and various easily accessible resources (Tyler and Gotz 2006).
It was also noted that for those who were in a wealthier position their income determined what class of volunteering they may be associated to whilst it also forced them to have greater responsibility towards society in that a certain image needed to be upheld which came through volunteering (Zappala and Burrel 2001).
Other issues within the literature were apparent however as those who may be in the medium income bracket were still prevented from volunteering as basic costs weren’t covered for (Tyler and Gotz 2006). This example highlights an ongoing issue within volunteering and one that is seen to be a great deterrent for those who wish to volunteer. At the same time it also raises the question of what could volunteering organisations do better in respect to those who have volunteered.
What could volunteer organisations do better based on your personal experiences with them?
The findings from the survey responses showed that individuals got involved in volunteering due to:
· Making a personal choice;
· Being influenced by personal experiences;
· Recognising that volunteering is rewarding;
· Wanting to influence outcomes;
· Being influenced by their culture and background.
The interviewees that were interviewed for this report stemmed from various different backgrounds whilst their reason for volunteering also ranged. Specifically their background was:
Type of Volunteering Medical aid
Volunteering Organisation St Johns Ambulance
Type of Volunteering Campaigning / Promotions
Volunteering Organisation Greenpeace
Type of Volunteering Youth aid
Volunteering Organisation Father Chris Riley’s - Youth Off The Streets
Type of Volunteering Work on an archaeological site
Volunteering Organisation Federally funded social sciences agency in Canada
Type of Volunteering Graphics workshop coordinator
Volunteering Organisation Pixifoto Foundation
3.2 Personal choice
The findings showed that personal choice was one of the main motives for volunteering. Respectively people who were happy with their own thoughts and beliefs were more inclined to volunteer where as those who were influenced by external sources were non responsive to volunteering again. This supports (Pancer, et al 2002) claim that volunteering needs to be a personal choice otherwise it doesn’t become sustainable.
The findings also showed that various motivators influenced an individual’s choice to volunteer, such as it benefiting their career or it was something they felt they could do a good job of. This was conclusive with (Zappala and Burrel 2001) claims.
3.3 Volunteering is influenced by personal experiences
Volunteering amongst the interviewees found that they were influenced by personal experiences. Specifically interviewees highlighted that their own personal experiences played some form of role in their decision to volunteer.
In particular this response was found to be in line with (Zappala and Burrel 2001) claim that volunteers usually get involved due to wanting to resolve personal issues which they may have endured. Interviewee 3 recalled how his troubled childhood influenced him to volunteer for Chris Riley’s Youth off the streets program whilst other interviewees found that they were influenced to ‘set thing’s straight’ or ‘do the right thing.’
3.4 Volunteering is rewarding
Volunteering amongst the interviewees was found to be rewarding. Respectively those who volunteered were driven by various factors such as rewards and other benefits, which are associated to volunteering. It was found that this was in line with (Pancer, et al 2002) earlier claims about individuals seeking to volunteer due to it being rewarding through various different forms.
It was also found that for each of the interviewees different reasons existed for why they found their volunteering experience to be rewarding. For some interviewees their reward was on par with reaching a particular goal such as career enhancement or in line with their beliefs of wanting to set things right or doing a good deed for a good cause. This was on par with (Inglis and Cleave 2006) findings that volunteers were motivated by self interests whilst at the same time it making them, feel good.
3.5 Volunteers believe in influencing outcomes
Interviewees found that they were able to influence outcomes when it came to volunteering. In particular they found that they were truly able to make a difference to the organisation they were doing volunteer work for or they found that their contribution was impacting even if they only made a minor one. For example interviewee 4 found that due to having already his own training and research for his role on an archaeological site he was able to make a significant contribution.
At the same time although some acknowledged they made an influential contribution they felt as if its meaning wasn’t as strong. Specifically interviewee 5 used the tense hope to identity her feelings towards her contribution. This differed from (Inglis and Cleave 2006) findings that individuals found opportunity in volunteering to help out others, opportunity meaning to benefit others. Based on this it is right to assume that individuals will always think differently of their own input.
3.6 Volunteering is influenced by culture and background
The responses by the interviewees also indicated that they were, influenced by culture and their background. In particular interviewee 1 found that due to his Filipino up bringing he was influenced to volunteer as he was taught from a young age to be caring towards others and to be kind natured.
Reasons for this may be due to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds being encouraged to help one another out around the communities and as such would be more inclined to volunteer although the interviewee failed to identity this as a motive. The interviewee’s response however was conclusive with (Volunteering Australia 2006) in that they also recognised culture to play a critical role in a person’s decision to volunteer.
Other reasons interviewees gave for being influenced by their culture and background to volunteer was due to having trust in their own beliefs. In particular interviewee 2 identified that she felt as if her own beliefs had something to do with her joining Greenpeace.
This report has investigated various themes associated to volunteering whilst trying to identify which themes are most influential to an individuals’ decision to volunteer and re-volunteer. In particular it was found that some of the main reasons for why individuals volunteered were due to: being driven by motives and benefits, wanting to help out others, being influenced by their own culture and beliefs.
The report also learnt that external influencers didn’t necessarily influence a persons’ decision to volunteer rather it was more of their own thinking or personal interests which influenced them to do volunteer work. In particular they also found themselves to be more inclined to volunteer again based on this basis. Although the responses did suggest that some interviewees weren’t overly happy with their treatment they were still happy to re-volunteer.
Through the literature and interview with the 5 volunteers I further found that volunteering plays a critical role in society. Specifically I found that it has a lot of merit as it is able to benefit individuals in many different ways, most notably through rewards and personal development.
Respectively I also found a negative side to volunteering was that it can be interpreted in many different ways thus influencing where support is going. In this regard help isn’t distributed evenly and those who have better intentions of supporting various projects fail to get the support they deserve.
Through the literature I also found that an individuals’ background plays a great motive in volunteering, i.e. beliefs motivate an individual whilst religion and other factors such as identity also play a role. Further to this ethnicity plays a mixed role, i.e. for who an individual will help. As such this can also be interpreted as another negative of volunteering although I found that this was quite logical in that a person will help out his / her own before helping others.
Overall I found the interviewee responses to be conclusive with what the literature stated although some responses did vary to what was being said. Reasons for this I found was due to the year of publication in the articles whilst it also looked at specific classes of people and made very general assumptions which were only relative to a few countries.
Having identified the main reasons and issues associated to volunteering I believe I have gained better insight to volunteering whilst at the same time I feel as if it has benefited me overall in terms of recognising how others behave. As such this has over ridden my previous assumptions which I held on volunteering whilst it has also opened up my mind to thinking about the society which we live in differently.
Appendix 1 –List of Interviewees
Type of volunteering: Medical aid at events
Volunteered organisation: St John Ambulance Australia
Type of volunteering: Campaigning / Promotions
Volunteered organisation: Greenpeace
Type of volunteering: Assisting young people on the streets
Volunteered organisation: Father Chris Riley’s – Youth off The Streets
Type of volunteering: Work on an Archaeological site
Volunteered organisation: Federally funded social sciences agency in Alaska
Type of volunteering: Web development / Graphics workshop coordinator / Door knocking
Volunteered organisations: PixiFoto foundation / Beacon Foundation / Salvation Army
Appendix 2 – The experiences of volunteers - Survey
Section 1 - Personal background in respect to volunteering
1. Why were you open to volunteering for the recent organisation that you did work for? And what was the organisation that you did work for?
2. Do you feel as if your own family beliefs, culture and nationality have affected your choice in choosing to become a volunteer?
3. Did anyone influence you to volunteer or do you feel as if it was your own initiative? Also what was it that influenced you?
Section2 – Motivation for volunteering
4. What has been your main motivator for wanting to volunteer?
5. If you have volunteered more than once, what has motivated you to do so?
6. Do you feel as if your motivation has come from within or has it been based on incentives and so forth?
Section 3 – Reflection on volunteering experience
7. What could volunteer organisations do better based on your personal experiences with them?
8. Overall do you feel as if you have benefited from volunteering?
9. Do you feel as if your contribution was significant for the organisation which you did volunteer work for?
10. Did you get treated fairly by the organisation that you did volunteer work for?
11. Did you ever feel as if there were any restrictions when volunteering?
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