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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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4.2 Motivation

So why is motivation (or, as some organisations now call it, ‘engagement’) important? As with paid work, volunteers will generally want to carry out activities they find satisfying and rewarding.

Understanding the volunteers’ motivations is important: volunteers are not dependent on the organisation they work for, and are not tied by a formal employment contract. As a result, volunteers are usually freer than employees to pick and choose the organisation to which they give their time and efforts. If organisations do not provide an appealing environment and motivating work, they are likely to experience problems in recruiting and retaining their volunteers.

Activity 8 What motivates you?

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

List at least four factors that have persuaded you to work hard and enthusiastically (in either a paid or an unpaid capacity), and four that have discouraged you and made you work less energetically and less willingly.

Table 1 Your motivations
Motivating factorsDemotivating factors
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Comment

There are dozens of possible factors that could be listed here. The purpose of this activity is to reveal the complexity of motivation and the range of factors that can influence it.

If you are in paid work, would it be true to say that although pay might have been listed, it was not necessarily the dominant factor? Probably the really important factors related to the nature of the work itself and how you felt about it – things like the ‘buzz’ that you got from doing the work or feeling you were contributing to a worthwhile service.

Similarly, you may have found that the demotivating factors were less related to pay than to the circumstances in which you were expected to work. For example, being fed up with being ‘messed around’, not liking the way things were going, or feeling a lack of support from colleagues. Or perhaps you felt that your contribution was not being recognised and acknowledged.

If you work in an unpaid capacity, you may have written down similar issues, so perhaps motivation between volunteers and paid staff is not so different?

Last week you explored expectations in relation to role. You will now move on to think more deeply about the relationship and expectations that exist between an organisation and its staff (and/or volunteers) – the ‘psychological contract’. It will help you when thinking about how your own volunteering (or work) is managed, as well as help you to assess how an organisation or a group you are interested in approaches volunteer retention.