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Executive
Summary

 

Understanding the experiences of volunteers is critical to
the effective management of non-profit organisations. Many organisations
benefit greatly from the work of volunteers; however, little is known about the
interest of occasional volunteers in repeating their experience. Our research
aims to understand occasional volunteers and their intention to repeat the
experience. To achieve this objective, it is essential to understand
volunteers’ motivations and the influence of volunteers’ previous experiences
in motivations. At the same time, it is necessary to know how these factors may
impact satisfaction and therefore, the intention to repeat the experience in
the future. 

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Few community projects will be successful without the
combination of leaders who envision and plan the event (Key Volunteers) and
event-day volunteers who do the work (Episodic Volunteers). Key volunteers are
critical to the success of project-based volunteerism. They often come from
those closest to your organisation: current and former board members, unpaid
volunteer staff, and donors. They may also come from other organizations with
an affinity to your project, such as non-profits or government agencies.

One emerging trend is for volunteers who prefer short term
volunteering assignments or specific projects, sometimes referred to as
episodic volunteers (Hustinx and Lammertyn, 2003; Auld, 2004; Styers 2004).
Whilst substantial literature exists on the retention of traditional lifelong
volunteers (Gidron, 1984; Clary, Snyder and Ridge, 1992; Mesch, Tschirhart,
Perry and Lee, 1998; Cuskelly and Brosnan, 2001), there is a gap in the
literature about retention of episodic volunteers to ‘bounce-back’ or return to
multiple assignments with the organisation. This gap has implications for
volunteer managers who must determine whether their current programs and
practices are suitable for the cross-section of their volunteers.

This exploratory study uses qualitative method to examine
the views and experiences of episodic volunteers in a general events based
environment. Its aim is to investigate whether traditional retention methods
and practices are applicable when bouncing-back episodic volunteers.

Previous findings have suggested that episodic volunteers
do differ from traditional volunteers and that many of the traditional
retention strategies and practices do not feature prominently in bouncing-back
episodic environmental volunteers. Further, episodic volunteers may be
difficult to identify, even by group leaders who are knowledgeable about their
volunteers. A complicating factor is that episodic volunteers appear to be
indecisive along a scale between long term (traditional) and short term
(episodic) volunteering, as their availability to volunteer to the group
changes.

Findings show episodic volunteers can be predominantly
motivated by self-sacrifice, in this case contributing to environmental
preservation, with egotistic motivations such as enjoying the social interaction
of the group, secondary. Having their needs satisfied in these areas,
particularly perceiving an impact that their efforts had in their local
environment, was vital to their bouncing back. Some differences were identified
between episodic volunteers; for example, males with professional backgrounds
were less interested than others in social benefits and often worked on an
independent basis when it better suited their schedules.

 

 

Table
of Contents

 

Executive
Summary

1.0  Introduction

1.1 The
Research Rationale

1.2 The
Purpose of this Study

1.3 The
Organisation of the Study

 

2.0 Literature Review

2.1  The
Importance of Volunteers

2.2  The
Retention of Volunteers

2.3  Motivational Factors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1 The Research Rationale

 

In recent years the concept of volunteering for community
service welfare organisations has undergone dramatic change resulting in a
shift in the way organisations are utilising volunteers. According to Getz,
1997, almost all motivation theory rests on the belief that humans have basic
needs that motivate their behaviour. Event managers are requiring to have an understanding
of the various motivational theories, however, it must be remembered that
theories are just that – theories – and what may work to motivate one volunteer
may not work for another. Silver, 2004 believes that event managers should establish
a motivational environment using rewards and incentives, both tangible and
intangible. Tangible can be financial and intangible can be purely being
appreciated, having an interesting task and being shown support and loyalty.

One of the trends in volunteering that is gaining
popularity is the notion of episodic volunteering (Independent Sector, 1999,
2001; ABS 2000; Points of Light Foundation, 2004; The Prime Minister’s
Community Business Partnership, 2005; Wilson, Spoehr and McLean, 2005). This
style of volunteering means that volunteers prefer to have short term
volunteering assignments or discrete task-specific volunteering projects rather
than the traditional long term volunteering opportunities (Hustinx and
Lammertyn, 2003; Auld, 2004; Styers, 2004). If other countries follows the US,
then volunteer-involving organisations in this country could be faced with more
volunteers giving less time.

Naturally this has implications for non-profit
organisations: volunteer managers must determine whether their current programs
and practices are suitable for both the traditional as well as the modern
episodic volunteer. Whilst an excess of literature exists for volunteer
managers on how they can retain their traditional volunteers, little is known
about the episodic volunteer and what needs to be done in order to successfully
‘bounce-back’ or return a volunteer for further volunteering tasks. Thus, this
exploratory research probes episodic volunteer experiences in one volunteer
setting Frampton Country Fair. The organisation is a non-profit organisation in
its own right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1 The Purpose of this Study

 

The research was designed as an investigative study to consider
whether there are any critical success factors for satisfying traditional
volunteers and are they applicable and appropriate for bouncing-back episodic
volunteers. To achieve this, the following research questions were developed:

1. What are the critical success factors for bouncing back
episodic volunteers?

2. How do these factors compare to the retention factors of
traditional volunteers?

The purpose of addressing these research questions is to
generate theories relating to the occurrence of bounce-back volunteering, not
to test them, as is appropriate for a comparatively under-researched topic.

 

1.2 The Organisation of the Study

Chapter 2 reviews some of the existing literature across a
number of different areas including the importance of volunteers. It then
reviews selected literature regarding the traditional volunteers and finally it
looks into what is known about episodic volunteers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2      Literature
Review

 

This chapter begins by discussing the vital contribution
that volunteers make to non-profit organisations. It then reviews the issues of
volunteer retention where propositions have been made that retention is the
result of four key factors: motivational, organisational, demographic and
psychological. It aims to highlight a gap in the literature where most discuss
traditional volunteers and not episodic volunteers. It considers volunteering literature
and comments on trends of volunteering. It also concludes that although
episodic volunteering is researched and discussed during this study, little theoretical
research has informed the understanding of the subject in question.

 

2.1
The Importance of Volunteers

For many years now, non-profit organisations have been
utilising the services of volunteers to assist in carrying out their activities
and serve their cause (Knight, 2002:1). Volunteers provide some much needed
support for many events in all areas of their activities. Perrino states that not
only do ‘volunteers complete essential work and help organisations carry out
their missions’, but they are a ‘potentially invaluable resource’ (Perrino, 1998:1).
Many volunteers carry out a comprehensive range of tasks including
administration, client and staffing support and service delivery. The NCVO
define volunteering as ‘any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing
something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or
groups) but centrally to this volunteering must be a choice freely made by each
individual. Considering this definition and the active role volunteers play in
non-profit organisations, it would be easy to assume that volunteering is
limited to the third sector. This is not the case however. Volunteers make a
vital contribution to other sectors such as; arts, health and welfare, sport
and recreation and many community events. Given the crucial contribution that
volunteers make across many areas of organisations, it is clear that more
effort is required to retain its volunteer work force and have many repeating
their experiences, this can reduce the time and cost recruiting and training replacement
volunteers (Cuskelly and Brosnan, 2001:104).

 

2.2
Retention of Volunteers

During the past two decades there has been many studies exploring
how and why volunteers remain with organisations. There are noted factors which
occur within these studies that show such influences as welfare, aged care, motivational,
organisational, demographic and psychological factors have a significant impact
on whether individuals continue volunteering with an organisation. The absence
of theoretical research bout episodic volunteering makes it difficult to assess
their applicability to this occurrence.  

 

2.3 Motivational
Factors

Bowden et al. (2001) say that ‘the ability to motivate
other staff members is a fundamental component of the event managers skills’.
Without motivation the employees / volunteers can lack the enthusiasm to
achieve the organisations end goal.

Motivations for volunteering are diverse but can be
classified into two types: altruistic and egotistic reasons. A person who is Altruistic will have a desire to help
others, have self-sacrifice, compassion for others less fortunate than
themselves (Rubin and Thorelli, 1984:228). An egotistic person will have
motives that relate more towards the self-interest of the volunteer and will
include wanting to learn new skills in preparation for employment, egotistical
volunteers use the experience as a reason to socialise (Mesch et al 1998:6). Although,
Warburton and Oppenheimer (2000:32-43) suggest that there is a growing trend
towards volunteers growing and obtaining skills through their experiences that
can be used in the workplace. It is thought that most volunteers have a mix of
both altruistic and egoistic reasons behind repeat volunteering (Rubin and
Thorelli, 1984; Mesch et al, 1998, Lucas and Williams, 2000; Melville, 2002;
Soupourmas and Ironmonger, 2002).

People motivate themselves, and sometimes management do not
understand this, all a management team can do is provide an environment that is
encouraging and self-motivating. However, it should also be made aware that not
all volunteers would have worked together before and an event may not have
occurred before. A classic approach is to arrange some team building before
reaching the event itself. Shone and Parry (2004) claim that this approach ‘supposes
that there is sufficient time to create teams and to socialise’.

Motivational theorists Lashley and Lee-Ross (2003) explain
that content theories seek to ‘explain motivation by considering individuals’
requirements and what must be present in their workplace to satisfy them’. One
of the best know theories is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow (1943)
claimed that people have five levels of needs (Figure 1), however Maslow did
admit that each level did not have to be fully covered before the next level
can be addressed.

Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs

Getting the best out of people can be achieved by a
combination of:

·        
Making sure the people in the organisation have
the necessary materials and equipment to do the job

·        
Making sure staff know what to do and how to do
it

·        
Encouraging self-motivation and development

These points are supported by Griffin (2000) who suggests
that an individual’s performance is generally determined by three factors:

·        
Motivation to do the job

·        
Ability to do the job

·        
Resources to do the job

Many volunteers in the event industry enjoy contact with
the public and generally prefer to be happy and cheerful (Tum et al. 2006).
These people as volunteers are more likely to give good service and will even
have this positive attitude when not being remunerated financially. The
motivation to succeed on behalf of an organisation and feel good about the job
that they have achieved, feel appreciated and feel good about themselves is
enough for them.

There is no evidence that suggests that event volunteers
specifically are any different from other volunteers (Tum et al. 2006), however,
Getz 1997, suggests that they may be some traits that are unique to event
volunteers:

·        
May lack experience

·        
May want to have fun

·        
May prefer short term responsibility

·        
They may be more artistically creative than
technically

·        
They know the event and are enthusiastic about
volunteering for it

·        
They may be full of good intentions but leave
things to chance, or possibly expect others to do the work whilst they enjoy
themselves (egotistical motivation)

Tum et al. (2006) claim that many event volunteers offer
their time and expertise for free and usually in exchange for attendance to the
event itself and do not expect remuneration, however Bowden et al. (2001) argue
that an event manager should conscientiously get to know the motives of each
individual, where possible, to build up and appropriate system of reward and recognition
which can act as motivators for the volunteer workforce.

Many volunteers are motivated by their own skillset and
look to offer these to an event, many also utilise skills and knowledge learnt
from volunteering at other events to their benefit and that of the event
managers. In order for these people to be useful, event managers should ensure
they have a detailed background knowledge of each volunteer to ensure they are
using the right person in the best area for the event (Tum et al. 2006).

What seems apparent for all of the research, is that there
is an abundance of literature regarding the traditional volunteer, but not necessarily
the episodic one.

 2.4 Operational Factors

 

Previous studies over the last twenty years have indicated
that volunteer retention is related to organisational factors such as:

·        
Utilisation of volunteer skills (Francis, 1983;
Saxon and Sayer, 1984);

·        
Volunteer preparation and training for the role
they have been assigned (Gidron, 1984);

·        
The appreciation and support received (Cnaan
and Goldberg-Glen, 1990; Stevens, 1991; Perrion, 1998); and

·        
Supervisor / event manager feedback (Paull,
2000).

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