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The Psychology of Volunteering: The Interplay of People, their Motives and the Social Environments Gil Clary College of St. Catherine December 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "The Psychology of Volunteering: The Interplay of People, their Motives and the Social Environments Gil Clary College of St. Catherine December 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Psychology of Volunteering: The Interplay of People, their Motives and the Social Environments Gil Clary College of St. Catherine December 2008

2 Clary’s Network Habitat for Humanity ARNOVA Search Institute

3 Volunteerism defined “An activity which takes place through not for profit organizations or projects and is undertaken: -- to be of benefit to the community; -- of the volunteer’s own free will and without coercion; -- for no financial payment; -- in designated volunteer positions only.” (Volunteer Australia) “Any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization.” (Wilson, 2000, p. 215)

4 What do Volunteers do? Areas of Volunteering Arts & Culture Museums, orchestras Education Tutoring Environment Wildlife sanctuaries Health Hospitals, clinics Human Services Counseling, homeless International/Foreign Disaster relief Political Organizations Political parties Public/Society Benefit Political advocacy Recreation (adult) Sports clubs Youth Development Scouts, sports leagues

5 Volunteerism – A World-wide phenomenon Salamon & Sokololwski (2001) 24 countries surveyed – Western, Central, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Japan, Israel, Australia, United States Formal volunteering and excluding volunteering for governments, certain religious volunteering (if not comparable to secular volunteering), and informal volunteering Calculating the Full-Time Equivalent Volunteers as a percentage of Non-agricultural employment: 2.5% (ranging from 0.2% to 8%)

6 Volunteering Organizations - Two Examples Australia: estimated 700,000 nonprofit organisations, over half are incorporated; 35,000 employ staff; $33.5 billion dollars in total revenue United States: estimated 1,600,000 organizations 400,000 member serving organizations (e.g., professional, political, labor unions) 1,200,000 public serving organizations (e.g., service providers, action agencies, religious congregations, funding intermediaries) Even more (2:1?, 5-10:1?) grassroots organizations (e.g., self-help, neighborhood, choral, dance, quilt- making)

7 What’s Intriguing about Volunteering? Questions regarding Altruism The gap between belief and behavior Inaction in the face of significant social problems Social change – moving from inaction to action Multi-disciplinary/Interdisciplinary – Sociology, Economics, Public Policy/Admin, History, Business, Psychology, Philosophy, Religion Intersection of Academic and Practice

8 Volunteers in Action (and Intergenerational, Social capital) Minneapolis St Paul MN Habitat for Humanity House building project by College of St Catherine alumna, students, faculty, staff, friends, May – September 2005 Volunteers 17 – 70s Bonding & Bridging







15 The Functional Approach to Volunteerism (Clary, Snyder et al. 1998) People are purposeful, planful, goal-directed Different people may do similar things for different reasons Any one individual may be motivated by more than one need or goal Assessment: Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) Outcomes depend on the matching of needs and goals to the opportunities afforded by the environment

16 Values Function or Motive the person is volunteering in order to express or act on important values, such as humanitarianism and helping the less fortunate I feel it is important to help others I feel compassion toward people in need.

17 Understanding Function the volunteer is seeking to learn more about the world and/or exercise skills that are often unused I can learn more about the cause for which I am working. I can learn how to deal with a variety of people.

18 Career Function the volunteer has the goal of gaining career-related experience through volunteering Volunteering can help me get my foot in the door at a place where I’d like to work Volunteering experience will look good on my resume.

19 Social Function volunteering allows the person to strengthen one’s social relationships people I’m close to want me to volunteer. others with whom I am close place a high value on community service.

20 Enhancement Function the individual is seeking to grow and develop psychologically through involvement in volunteering Volunteering increases my self-esteem Volunteering makes me feel better about myself.

21 Protective Function the individual uses volunteering to reduce negative feelings, such as guilt, or to address personal problems No matter how bad I’ve been feeling, volunteering helps me to forget about it. Doing volunteer work relieves me of some of the guilt over being more fortunate than others.

22 Summary: Volunteer Functions or Motives Act on important values (e.g., humanitarianism) Learn more about the world, use skills Grow and develop psychologically Strengthen one’s social relationships Reduce negative feelings or address problems Gain career experience VALUES UNDERSTANDING ENHANCEMENT SOCIAL PROTECTIVE CAREER

23 AdultStudents ElderlyAdult Volunteers Volunteers Volunteers (early 1990s)(early 1990s) (mid 1990s) (early 2000s) N = 465 N = 534N = 61 N = 1350 VFI Scale Values 5.82 5.37 6.04 5.61 Understanding 4.91 5.13 4.36 4.52 Enhancement 4.27 4.64 4.98 4.03 Career 2.74 4.54 1.42 2.31 Protective 2.61 3.25 3.92 2.76 Social 2.59 2.95 3.90 2.98

24 Volunteer Environment Functionally-relevant Benefits/Affordances Personality of the Volunteer Environment Structured Environments (Strong vs. Weak Situation) Cohesion Key Idea: match, fit, interplay

25 Functionally-Relevant Benefits I am meeting my humanitarian obligations through my volunteer work at this organization (Value) I have learned how to deal with a greater variety of people through volunteering at this organization (Understand) I feel more positive about myself and my place in the world as a result of my volunteer work (Enhance) My family &/or friends would be disappointed if I stopped volunteering at this organization (Social) By volunteering at this organization, I have been able to work through some of my own personal problems (Protect) I have learned skills that help me in my paid work (Career)

26 High Low

27 Measuring the Personality of the Volunteer Environment (Stukas, Worth, Clary, & Snyder, in press) Findings from 83 organizations that utilize volunteers, and their volunteers (N = 1388) Organization categories Arts, Culture, & Humanities (museums) Education(adult education) Environment (cleaning/maintaining river valleys) Health (empowering people with physical disabilities) Human services (crisis nursery) Public/Society Benefit (prevent domestic abuse) Youth Development (mentoring)

28 Key Measures Motives assessed by Volunteer Functions Inventory Function-relevant Benefits or Affordances Function-relevant Barriers (e.g., to what extent does this organization provide obstacles to personal changes or growth) Features of the organization (e.g., volunteer director, volunteer handbook, formal training, regular performance evaluations)



31 Structured Environment Defined Proscribe behavior via strong norms Presence of social pressures regarding behavior Bind volunteers to them Social contacts with others who uphold norms Provide structured channels for behavior For Less Structured Environments, the match of motives and motive satisfaction better predicts outcomes

32 Structured Environment Measured Volunteer coordinator Performance Evaluations Worked directly with clients Worked with other volunteers Worked with paid staff


34 Social Capital (Putnam, 2000 ) “connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (p. 19). “Frequent interaction among a diverse set of people tends to produce a norm of generalized reciprocity” (p. 21). Generalised Trust Scale (Yamagishi & Yamagishi, 1994): assesses trust in other people


36 Conclusions Importance of individual Volunteers -- needs and goals (motives) Importance of Volunteer Environments -- affordances, Structured-ness Importance of the match or interplay of volunteers and environments -- Benefits to the Volunteer -- Benefits to the Organization -- Benefits to Society

37 Cautions Good intentions may not result in good outcomes Some Volunteers may have bad intentions Pressure to Volunteer may be counter- productive in the long-run

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