Study title
Promoting Volunteer Work
Ref study 11787
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Social policy
  • Volunteer work
Geographical space
With the demographic changes in our modern societies and the economic pressures to reform the welfare state, volunteer work to provide social services has increased in importance. From several studies we know, however, that work for volunteer organizations is in decline. Thus, the question of "what motivates volunteers?" will gain in importance over time. While a series of studies has already addressed this question by using surveys and experiments, we still fail to have ?rm knowledge of the motivation of volunteers. More precisely, recent work suggests that volunteer work can be stimulated most successfully if incentives o?ered to volunteers are tailored to the latter's initial motivation in joining a volunteer organization. Studies employing surveys of volunteers can, however, because of problems of self-selection, hardly yield definite conclusions on the varying effects of incentives offered to volunteers. Similarly, they fail to allow for studying the long term effects of motivations and incentives. Lab experiments, on the other hand, often suffer from a lack of external validity. The goal of the proposed research project is to gain a firmer understanding how motivations and incentives for volunteer work interact. Of crucial interest will be the question, what role egotistical and altruistic motivations play during the recruitment process and long term in a volunteer's career. The use of a field experiment in collaboration with volunteer organizations will allow us to overcome the shortcomings of existing work. In this field experiment, we first wish to assess the effect of persuasive motivational messages on potential volunteers. In a second step, selective incentives will be used in order to test their effect on volunteer commitment and volunteer satisfaction. Parallel to the field experiment, a lab experiment will be conducted in order to reduce possible motivational bias due to the exposure to persuasive messages prior to motivational assessment. Given the experimental setting we will be able to precisely trace the effect of incentives on volunteer work and follow also the induced changes in motivations. The insights gained will not only close an important gap in the literature, but also be of practical value to third sector organizations in order recruit and retain volunteers.
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) SNSF
Date created 12.11.2014
Date modified 12.11.2014
Start - End date 01.02.2008 - 31.07.2009