The Act of Giving: Involvement, Habitual Giving, and Motives of Volunteerism

Gary Gregory, University of New South Wales

The Act of Giving: Involvement, Habitual Giving, and Motives of Volunteerism

Gary Gregory

School of Marketing

University of New South Wales

Sydney, NSW 2052

Australia

g.gregory@unsw.edu.au

 

The question of how and why people give is crucial in helping non-profit organizations attract and retain donors and volunteers. The purpose of this study is to explore the ability of reasoned influences (e.g., attitudes, values, involvement and motives), unreasoned influences (e.g., habitual giving), and situational influences (e.g., income, education, etc.) to predict volunteer and donating behavior.

 

The results show that attitudes and personal values were poor predictors in discriminating between volunteers and non-volunteers. Further evidence suggests that there may be a trade-off in how contributors decide on what they are going to give (time vs. money). Involvement, habitual giving tendencies, and motives to volunteer appear to serve as important predictors in volunteer versus donating behavior. Future research investigating such trade-offs in a repeated behavior framework is encouraged.


The Act of Giving: Involvement, Habitual Giving, and Motives of Volunteerism

Charitable organizations are under constant pressure to increase both financial and non-financial contributions. The question of how and why people give is crucial in helping non-profit organizations attract and retain donors and volunteers. Although the literature is rich in studies on helping behavior (c.f. Bendapudi, Singh and Bendapudi, 1996), research in consumer behavior provides little guidance in helping us understand motives of volunteerism (Fisher and Ackerman, 1998). Given that the number of voluntary organizations has increased in recent years, marketing techniques are playing an ever more important role in helping organizations recruit and retain volunteers (Bussell and Forbes, 2002). Understanding the psychological and behavioral aspects of volunteerism helps charities to identify characteristics of those most likely to volunteer, as well as target volunteer recruiting campaigns more effectively.

The purpose of this study is to explore relations between various psychological and behavioral aspects and volunteerism. Specifically, reasoned influences (e.g., attitudes, values, involvement and motives), unreasoned influences (e.g., habitual giving), and situational influences (e.g., income, education, etc.) are used to predict volunteer behavior. Extending existing theory in social psychology, Ronis et al.’s (1989) repeated behavior model is adapted to the study of volunteer behavior. The adapted model allows for measuring the effects of reasoned processes, unreasoned processes, and situational factors on volunteer behavior. Ouellette and Wood (1998) were able to demonstrate that repetitive past-behavior (habits) directly affects future behavior, independently of cognitions (attitudes, subjective norms, intentions, and perceived control). Although recent research has shown the influence of social norms on volunteerism (Fisher and Ackerman, 1998), there is evidence to indicate that there may be additional functions (or motives) served by volunteering (Clary et al., 1998).

Survey data were collected from members belonging to The Cancer Council Australia (TCCA), Australia’s national non-government cancer control organization. Surveys were mailed to 1000 randomly selected members in the TCCA database, with 418 completed surveys returned (42% response rate). TCCA members include those that have contributed either time through volunteering and/or made financial contributions to the organization in the past. The first step was to determine if existing scales measuring attitudes towards helping others (AHO) and attitudes towards charitable organizations (ACO) (Webb, Green and Brashear, 2000), and volunteer motives (Clary et al., 1998) could be replicated in Australia. Consistent with Webb et al., (2000), the four items measuring AHO and the five items measuring ACO loaded on two factors, respectively. Similarly, the factor analysis on the 30 items in the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) was consistent with prior scale development by Clary et al. (1998). The results produced six factors representing various functions served by volunteering (protective, values, career, social, understanding and enhancement). Based on the ability of these scales to capture the dimensions intended, composite measures were developed for each of the two attitude scales (AHO and ACO) (Webb et al., 2000), as well as for each of the six volunteer functions (protective, values, career, social, understanding and enhancement) (Terrell et al., 2004). In order to test the adapted repeated behavior model, additional independent measures were gathered: involvement (number of activities supported, type of support provided (financial/non-financial), degree of support to other non-profits); habits (length of time supporting specific events, degree of habitual support of charity days, volitional/automatic support of charities in general); values (Schwartz’s 27 universal values (1992): altruism, equality, etc.); and, situational/enabling factors (employer involvement with TCCA (2 items), age, income, education).

To identify significant predictors of volunteer behavior, stepwise multiple discriminant analysis (SMDA) was performed using a model consisting of 46 variables: attitude (2), volunteer motives (6), involvement (3), habitual giving behavior (3), values (27), and situational variables (5). Two groups were created, based on whether members volunteered for the organization or gave monetary donations or other financial contributions (e.g., purchased merchandise). The SMDA resulted in an 11-step model. Based on minimum Mahalanobis D2 and Wilks’ Lambda values, the 11 variables included in the final discriminant model, based on their loading order, were: Total number of activities involved in with TCCA (involvement), Employer involvement with charity (situational/enabler), Length of time supported special charity event (habit), Support provided to other non-profits (involvement), Employer matches donation (situational/enabler), Values (motive to volunteer), Social (motive to volunteer), Routine involvement in special charity events (habit), Enhancement (motive to volunteer),  Age (situational), and INCOME (situational). Together, these 11 variables made up a discriminant function that was able to correctly classify just over 74% of TCCA members.  

A summary of the findings suggests that attitudes (AHO, ACO) were poor predictors in discriminating between volunteers and non-volunteers. Similarly, personal values (e.g., altruism, helping, etc) were not able to explain variation between volunteers and non-volunteers. One of the best predictors of volunteerism was involvement. Those that consistently showed prior support to TCCA through greater number of activities (breadth of support) were volunteers. Interestingly, those that showed greater involvement in other non-profit organizations were non-volunteers, suggesting volunteers were loyal to TCCA.  Habits were also a significant predictor of volunteerism. The amount of prior time supporting TCCA’s special charity events significantly predicted tendency towards volunteering. Similarly, routinely supporting the special charity event through financial means also was a significant predictor of volunteerism. Consistent with past research (Clary et al., 1998), three of the six volunteer motives (values, social, and enhancement functions) were able to significantly predict volunteer tendencies. Although personal values (Schwartz’s values) were not able to directly predict tendencies towards volunteering, they appear to manifest themselves in one’s specific motives to volunteer. Factors that were able to predict non-volunteers are also meaningful. Non-volunteers were significantly influenced by their employer’s involvement with TCCA, suggesting that situational enablers help facilitate and encourage donation behavior. Furthermore, donors tended to be younger and have a higher income, perhaps influencing their decision to donate money versus time. And as expected, donors tended to make greater financial contributions to other non-profit organizations than did volunteers. These findings suggest that there may be a trade-off in how members of non-profit organizations decide on what they are going to give. Involvement, habitual giving tendencies, and motives to volunteer appear to serve as important predictors of why members tend to volunteer versus donate. Future research investigating such trade-offs in a repeated behavior framework are encouraged.
[ to cite ]:
Gary Gregory (2006) ,"The Act of Giving: Involvement, Habitual Giving, and Motives of Volunteerism", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 33, eds. Connie Pechmann and Linda Price, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 286-288.