Monday, 31 October 2016

What motivates you to volunteer?

This is an excerpt from a post that I first wrote and posted to Linked in. 

[This post appeared on Linkedin on 18 October 2016]

Do you volunteer your time, skills, and resources to assist others either in an informal ad hoc way or via a more formalised group or association? Have you stopped to think what motivates you to do so?

According to an article, written over 38 years ago, people volunteer for a psychological pay off. The person expects to receive something in return for contributing as a volunteer (Anderson and Moore, 1978). They may for example expect to develop skills, meet new people, obtain a career advantage, or to feel a sense of self-worth as they have done something to help others.  
Cary and Snyder (1999) found six main functions served by volunteering which equate with the findings of Anderson and Moore (1978). The six functions were listed as values, understanding, enhancement, career, social and protective. A person may volunteer because they feel it is important to help others or to participate in their community. Some volunteers may be motivated to understand more about their community or learn through hands-on experience. Others may volunteer as they feel the work will develop or enhance them as a person and help them to feel better about themselves.  Some people may volunteer as it they feel it will assist them to gain the career or promotion they desire. People may volunteer for social reasons, they may wish to network with people who share common goals or gain new friends. Lastly people may volunteer to help protect themselves by reducing their own negative feelings or to have temporary escape from their own problems (Cary and Snyder, 1999).
More recent research groups these motivations into two main areas, whereby people volunteer because of a symbolic sociological reason and/or a functional psychological reason (Wilson, 2000). A sociologic motivation may inspire people with strong values and beliefs to give their time and resources free to assist others, whereas a functional psychological motivation relates to a person’s psychological needs being met by volunteering.
A study by Thoits and Hewitt (2001) found that volunteering contributes to improved well-being including better self-esteem, psychological health, and happiness. Given the assertions of Anderson and Moore (1978) that people volunteer for a psychological pay off are these factors discussed by Thoits and Hewitt (2001) also motivators to volunteer or are they serendipitous byproducts of volunteering and not part of the initiating motivators?
Do your motivations for volunteering equate to any or all of these? Do you have different views on what motivates you to volunteer? What are your experiences with volunteering?
Anderson, J. C., & Moore, L. F. (1978). The motivation to volunteer.Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly7(3), 120-129.
Clary, E. G., & Snyder, M. (1999). The motivations to volunteer theoretical and practical considerations. Current directions in psychological science,8(5), 156-159.
Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of health and social behavior, 115-131.
Wilson, J. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 215-40.