Essay on Retention of Volunteers in the Context of Motivation Theory

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Volunteer Retention in the Context of Motivation Theory
Margaret Naylor, RN, MRCNA, AMPA, M Ed, M Internet Comm, B A, B Nurs.
St John Ambulance Australia [ACT]
May 2012

This paper examines the literature addressing the underlying factors in long term commitment of volunteers to community service organisations. It places the reasons given by volunteers for both joining and staying, into the context of motivation theory. It is motivation theory that provides a foundation for understanding what attracts volunteers to community service, what factors encourage them to stay long term and what causes them to leave. The paper concludes that when those factors are interpreted from the perspective of motivation theory, managers of
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Comparisons are made amongst organisations based on how many of a list of “good management practices” are established and implemented, usually by the paid executive staff, in the organisations (Hager and Brudney 2004, Zappala 2001, Ellis 1996).
In some organisations, only a few roles require particular skills and a high percentage of volunteers will be performing tasks most people could do without formal training [eg running sausage sizzles for Rotary, selling badges for Legacy, sorting donated books for Lifeline]. If members leave, new recruits can carry on with little delay between entry and effective action, so these organisations concentrate on recruitment as their ongoing focus. In other organisations there are fewer roles that can be filled by someone who has not had specific training and the loss of an experienced volunteer has a detrimental effect on the service the organisation can offer [eg surf lifesaving, volunteer emergency and rescue services, first aid]. Community organisations that provide skilled services depend for their survival not only on a continuous supply of volunteers to join the organisation, but also on their willingness to sustain a long term involvement. Maintaining a supply of new members is important for these organisations, but retention of experienced members is perhaps an even higher priority.
Graff [2001] predicts that episodic volunteering will become more and more common in the future. Her study
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