Volunteer recruitment and retention in not-for-profit – Market and competition for volunteers

One spectrum of studies that was considered for inclusion for review is that which evaluated characteristics of volunteer market. These studies offer guidelines on how nonprofit organizations can orient their recruitment practices to the market characteristics to attract volunteers. Bussell and Forbes (2002) in this respect, through a review of literature, highlight the definition of volunteerism, places where people volunteer, characteristics of individuals who volunteer, and why individuals engage in voluntary services. Through their review the author’s propose a model consisting of four Ws (what, where, who and why), that may be used to understand the volunteer market.

In highlighting what volunteerism consists of, Bussell and Forbes (2002) reinforce the lack of a clear definition of volunteerism. Contributing to such ambiguity, as noted by the authors, is the lack of standard practice in volunteering and diversity of activities and groups or individuals engaged in volunteerism. Additionally whether volunteering involves economic consideration of costs and benefits thus arising out of ones free will or obligation, and motives for volunteering impact on the definition of volunteering. The context in which individuals or groups volunteer also varies widely as noted by Bussell and Forbes (2002). For instance, volunteering could be a part-time activity carried out in form of a corporate program or during ones leisure time or such volunteering could be a full time activity either out of an individual’s choosing or necessitated by a desire to gain skills to advance their marketability for various jobs (Bussell & Forbes, 2002). Similarly, Bose and Forbes (2002) highlight the population of individuals who are likely to volunteer, implying that organizations could target their recruitment marketing towards a particular market. For instance, the authors note that gender, economic status, and age of individuals influence their volunteering activities. In this respect, women are for instance are noted to be more probable volunteers than men unless in cases of political volunteering, elderly individuals more than 50 years also are indicated to volunteer more than young individuals, and individuals with better incomes are suggested to be more likely to volunteer than those with lower incomes. Such perspectives have also been reinforced in the survey conducted in England and Wales (nfpSynergy, 2011).

Finally, Bose and Forbes (2002) highlight different motives that are behind the volunteering activities. Although altruism is suggested as the most credible motive that should define a volunteer, other motives such as supporting organizations where family members may be benefiting to avoid closure of such organizations is noted in many volunteering activities. Wilson (2000) also highlights existence of a wide range of motives that inform volunteering. Through these perspectives, organizations get information on how they can structure their services to attract various individuals to their organizations.

Another study on the market for volunteering highlights the aspect of competition by evaluating characteristics of individuals who volunteer in different organizations. In this study, Dolnicar and Randle (2006) aim to provide market information that could help organizations to restructure their mission to lessen the competition for particular groups of volunteers. The study used data from World Values Survey that highlights “worldwide socio-cultural and political change and includes information on personal values and attitudes” (Dolnicar & Randle, 2006, p. 356). From this data, the study sampled 25445 respondents who had indicated that they performed unpaid voluntary activities for an organization (p. 354). A second sample (of 6270 respondents) drawn from the larger sample was of those individuals who indicated that they volunteered for at least three organizations (p. 354). Through this second sample, the authors were able to evaluate the types of organizations that might be in competition for the same pool of volunteers.

Through their study, Dolnicar and Randle (2006) identified four dimensions that characterized the involvement of individuals in volunteer work; these dimensions explained as much as 40% of the variance noted in volunteering. Firstly, an altruism-informed volunteerism was noted in such volunteer organizations as those dealing with health, welfare for the elderly, animal rights and human rights. Secondly, organizations dealing with voluntary work in sports, recreation, cultural and youth activities, were noted to exhibit leisure-supported volunteerism. A political dimension, on the other hand, explained volunteering in organizations such as labor unions and professional affiliations, whereas religious organizations where noted to exhibit volunteerism based on religion, which Dolnicar and Randle (2006), labeled as “church” (p. 355). By building positioning maps, the authors also demonstrated the proximity among various types of organizations in terms of characteristics of volunteers who were more likely to be attracted by the organization’s missions. For instance, based on a continuum from altruistic to leisure based volunteerism, Donilcar and Randle (2006) identify organizations dealing with sports or recreation, those dealing with youth wok and those addressing cultural activities, to be more likely to compete for volunteers (p. 357). Such likelihood of competition is also noted for political parties, labor unions and professional associations, and for organizations dealing with environment, animal and human rights, local political issues, elderly welfare and health (p. 357). Through a detailed profile of segments that portray the dimensions used, the authors present important information through which organizations rendering services based on voluntary human capital can re-orient their missions to attract a specific group of volunteers. Go to HRM approaches.

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