BOURNEMOUTH, UK- Charities and non-profit organizations can face many challenges when recruiting and retaining volunteers. Often, individuals will claim they have work or family commitments that impede them from donating their time. However, once an individual has been recruited to volunteer, the next challenge for the volunteer manager is get the volunteer to exert the highest level of effort possible and to reduce the volunteer’s turnover rates.
As part of the Organizational Analysis Research Cluster, Dr. Fabian Homberg, Dr. Davide Secchi and I addressed these challenged by exploring the relation between Public Service Motivation (PSM) and volunteering intensity. With the help of Community First New Forest, we conducted a survey in November 2014 examining volunteer habits, attitudes and behaviour of individuals who expressed an interest in volunteering. Findings were initially presented at the Bournemouth University Post-Graduate conference in January. However, we then had two public engagement opportunities to present the findings to members of Community First New Forest, local volunteer managers and CSV Centre volunteer coordinators from Hampshire and surrounding areas.
The study investigated predisposition or underlying attitudes towards public service through key attitudes towards civic duty, social justice, self-sacrifice, and compassion, commitment to public interest and attraction to policy. Volunteering intensity, or perceived mental, emotional and physical effort exerted by volunteers, was compared to attitudes towards public service. We found that when there were high levels of public service, New Forest volunteers reported exerting a greater effort.
In order to help volunteer managers to predict turnover rates, the study examined the match between an individual’s goals, skills and values and those of the organization. Those who volunteered monthly had the highest score when asked if their values and goals were similar to the goals of the organization they volunteered with. Whereas, weekly volunteers had a stronger sense of belonging to the volunteer organization and felt strongly that what the volunteer organization stands for is important to them. One respondent said they were made to feel a value team member and it is important to them that they use their talents appropriately. Overall, those who volunteered more frequently reported they felt there was a better match.
While the study provided valuable insights into public service motivation as a driver for volunteer behaviour, the questions and feedback from the volunteer managers and coordinators raised questions that they experienced with their direct contact with volunteers. Issues such as examining if different volunteer roles influenced the relation between motivation and behaviour was brought up as well what factors encourage a one-off volunteer to engage in future volunteering as a result of the experience. Additionally, volunteer managers challenged the academic stances that as baby boomers begin to retire that they will have more time to volunteer.
This study provides volunteer managers with valuable insight into volunteer motivation and how it influences behaviour. Additionally, the lessons learned showed the importance that public engagement opportunities can provide an indispensable two-way flow of information. By understanding the needs of volunteer managers and coordinators, academics can be in a better position to answer their practical needs.