THE THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’
DURATION OF SERVICE
Fernando ChaCón, María Luisa VeCina, and María CeLeste dáViLa
Complutense University, Madrid, Spain
The main objective of this paper was to describe the latest results of a longitudinal study
carried out by our research team with a sample of social work volunteers, whose one-year
follow-up has just been completed, allowing us to draw up what we have called the “Three-
stage model of volunteers’ duration”. Use of this model overcomes some of the apparent
contradictions between the different models of volunteerism. For example, for the Functional
Model, motivations, and more specifically their satisfaction, would be the best predictors of
service duration, however, for the Role Identity Model, what best predicts service duration
would be role identity. We assume that in the initial phase of volunteerism, motivations
and their satisfaction are more closely related to service duration than role identity.
Nevertheless, to predict longer duration of service and greater involvement, the fundamental
variable is organizational commitment. Finally, the Role Identity Model is that which best
explains sustained volunteerism. Instruments used included the Organizational Commitment
Questionnaire (Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979) reduced and adapted by Dávila & Chacón,
and The Role Identity Scale (Grube & Pilavin, 2000, adapted by Dávila & Chacón, 2004).
Keywords: volunteerism, service duration, motivations, satisfaction, organizational
commitment, role identity, behavioral intention.
Regarding volunteerism, there are two practical and important questions. First,
how do you attract volunteers to join an organization? Second, how do you keep
them for a long time? We address the second one because of the high drop-out
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2007, 35(5), 627-642
© Society for Personality Research (Inc.)
Fernando Chacón, PhD, Professor, María Luisa Vecina, PhD, Assistant Professor, and María Celeste
Dávila, PhD, Investigator, Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University, Campus de Somosaguas,
Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Maura Pozzi Ricercatore, Dipartimento di Psicologia,
Universita Cattolica di Milano, Largo Gemelli 1, Milano 20123, Italy, Email: maura.pozzi@unicatt.
Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Fernando Chacón or María Luisa Vecina,
Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University, Campus de Somosaguas 28223, Madrid, Spain.
Phone: +34 913 943097; Fax: +34 913 943189; Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
rates among volunteers and because stability is the main definitive characteristic
The number of people who freely decide to offer some kind of help or service
to others, theoretically unknown to them, without receiving or expecting
any economic reward, and in the context of formally constituted nonprofit
organizations (Cnaan & Goldberg-Glen, 1991) has undergone great expansion
in recent years, and at the same time, a high percentage of people who decide
to become volunteers do not maintain their commitment for very long, and
soon drop out of the organization they have joined. It is estimated that in Spain
only 36% of organizations maintain any sort of stability in their volunteer staff
(Cortes, Hernán, & López, 1998). Likewise, other studies speak of drop-out rates
in the first year of almost 35-40% (Dávila, 2003; Vecina, 2001).
With regard to its characteristic features, Penner has suggested that “volunteerism
has four important attributes that define it and serve to distinguish it from other
kinds of prosocial actions” (Penner, 2004, p. 646). Volunteerism is a planned
action, it is a long-term behavior, it occurs within an organizational context, and
involves “nonobligated” helping (Omoto & Snyder, 1995). The research line we
have developed is based on these assumptions and an attempt has been made
to integrate empirical results that seem to be contradictory (Chacón, Vecina, &
Dávila, 2006; Finkelstein, Penner, & Brannick, 2005; Penner, 2002).
Volunteers’ Duration of serVice is a PlanneD HelPing BeHaVior
In order to study a planned behavior, such as volunteer duration of service, we
based our approach on the existing planned behavior models, and specifically
on Fishbein and Ajzen’s theories of reasoned action and planned action (Ajzen,
1985, 1991; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). These theories
hold that the prediction of a planned behavior, on the basis of attitudinal variables,
tends to be mediated by the intention to perform that behavior. When they use
the term “behavioral intention” these authors assume that people make decisions
in a rational way, systematically employing accessible information on the costs
and benefits of the behavior and the control they have, or believe they have, over
carrying it out (Ajzen, 1985, 1991; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975).
It would seem reasonable, therefore, to assume the existence of a close
relationship between behavioral intention to remain as a volunteer and actual
duration of service. Recently, behavioral intention has been used for predicting
joining of volunteer organizations (Okun & Sloane, 2002; Warburton & Terry,
2000), hours dedicated to volunteerism (Greenslade & White, 2005), and actual
duration of service in volunteerism (Dávila, 2003; Vecina, 2001; Vecina et al.,
2001; Vecina & Chacón, 2005).
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 629
Volunteering occurs WitHin an organizational context
Volunteers do their work in an organizational context; they do not work
independently or in an isolated fashion. In many cases, duration of volunteer
service can be understood as duration of service in an organization, so that it
is logical to suppose that length of service will be influenced by organizational
variables. Although obviously non-profit-making organizations have char-
acteristics that distinguish them from other types of organization, it seems
reasonable to assume that the main variables influencing duration of service in an
organization are similar. For example, Penner pointed out that attitudes towards
the organization are determinant in “initial volunteering” (Penner, 2002).
One of the most widely studied variables is organizational commitment,
which is defined as identification and involvement with a specific organization,
and assumes strong belief in, and acceptance of, its goals and values and the
will to make considerable efforts as a member of the organization (Mowday,
Steers, & Porter, 1979). Organizational commitment has been extensively
studied within Organizational Psychology, as an essential variable related to
employees’ satisfaction and organizational efficacy. However, it has received
very little attention in studies on social and community participation. Recently,
Montero (2004) has stressed the importance of commitment in the determination
of participation levels, as well as the reciprocal influence between the two
variables. She identifies seven increasing levels of participation, beginning with
positive curiosity without commitment, up to maximum levels of participation
and commitment, characteristic of community leaders. From this perspective,
commitment is necessary for achieving medium and high levels of participation.
In two samples of social work and ecology volunteers, Dávila and Chacón
(2004) found that the best predictor of intention to remain was organizational
Volunteerism is a long-term BeHaVior
Volunteerism, like any reasonably long-term process within life, is a dynamic
process (Omoto & Snyder, 1995). The variables which influence a person’s
decision to become a volunteer are not necessarily those that lead to a person’s
continuing to be a volunteer a year later, and these may be very different from
those that convince him or her to continue when five or ten years have passed.
The very experience of volunteerism modifies volunteers’ initial motivations,
their support network, their self-concept, and so on (Snyder & Omoto, 1999).
As Penner argues: “a full understanding of sustained volunteering requires a
consideration of situational, dispositional, and structural variables and must have
a temporal and dynamic component as well” (Penner, 2004, p. 648). Thus, it is
assumed that the relevant variables (e.g., satisfaction, role identity, commitment)
are related among themselves and influence one another, and also that their
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
relationships change over time as the experience of volunteerism increases.
We propose that adopting a dynamic and temporal perspective may help to
overcome some of the apparent differences between the different approaches of
volunteerism. For example, the functional analysis of volunteers’ motivations
proposed by Snyder and his team predicts people will remain as volunteers as
long as they satisfy the motivations that are relevant for them (Clary & Snyder,
1991; Clary et al., 1998), whereas the role identity model of Piliavin and
colleagues maintains that what best predicts service duration is volunteer role
identity (Callero, Howard, & Piliavin, 1987; Charng, Piliavin, & Callero, 1988;
Grube & Piliavin, 2000; Piliavin & Callero, 1991).
It is possible to assume that in the initial phase of volunteerism, motivations and
their satisfaction are more closely related to service duration than is role identity.
A large number of those who enter volunteerism do so because of external and
circumstantial factors. Satisfaction depends partly on volunteers’ expectations,
motivations, values, and so on, prior to joining an organization, and is therefore
related to the extent to which these expectations, motivations, and so on, are
satisfied within organization (Clary et al., 1998). Therefore, at first, satisfaction
of the motivations is fundamental to duration of service. In other words, it is in
the initial phase, in which commitment is still low and volunteer identity has not
been able to develop, that the variables proposed by the Functional Model of
motivations appear to have most influence.
Moreover, when one embarks on an activity one tends to think more about the
positive aspects than the negative ones, but with the passage of time the costs
in terms of time, money, burnout, poor personal interaction, and so on, become
evident. When this happens we are more likely to find drop-outs among those
who are motivated only by external factors, since the benefits obtained may
not be sufficient to compensate for the costs that have now become clear, and
especially if there are other positive alternatives. To overcome this first phase it
is essential that organizational commitment is generated. According to Brickman,
commitment is what makes a person assume or continue a course of action when
difficulties or positive alternatives would lead them to give it up (Brickman,
1987, p. 2); thus, to predict longer duration of service and greater involvement,
the fundamental variable is commitment – in other words, the sensation that one
should do things despite the difficulties, because one endorses the organization
and its objectives, its people, and so on. When this occurs the relationship
between satisfaction and service duration decreases.
Finally, the Role Identity Model is that which best explains sustained
volunteerism. In order to reach this stage, and likewise to reach the higher levels
of participation in an organization, it is necessary for people to integrate this
characteristic into their self-concept – to see themselves as volunteers, activists,
leaders, and so on. When the volunteer role becomes part of personal identity,
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 631
behaviors are produced and maintained independently of variables such as social
norms. In accordance with this, role identity would be more strongly related to
long-term service duration.
HyPotHesis of tHe tHree-stage moDel of Volunteers’ Duration
These ideas about what leads to sustained volunteering make up the model
called the Three-Stage Model of Volunteers’ Duration. This model can be
conceived in terms of the following hypotheses:
H1: Volunteers know better than anyone else the circumstance of their life,
and it is they who can best estimate whether they will remain in an
organization after a given length of time. This calculation will be the best
predictor of actual service duration. The variable that will best predict
actual service duration for a given length of time will be behavioral
intention to remain for that same period. This hypothesis can be broken
down into two:
H1a: Behavioral intention to remain in the short term (six months) will
be the best predictor of actual service duration in the short term (six
H1b: Behavioral intention to remain in the medium term (twelve months)
will be the best predictor of actual service duration in the medium term
H2: The three types of intention, short-, medium- and long-term (twenty-four
months), are related among themselves, though the relationships differ in
magnitude because the estimations made by volunteers include different
aspects depending on the period of reference. For example, a 20-year-
old may make a consideration based on his/her current situation (free
time between his/her examinations) when asked about his/her intention
to remain for the next 6 months, but when he/she is asked about his/her
intention to remain for two years, he/she may also include a range of
H3: This hypothesis refers to the predictors of the three types of intention to
remain in the short, medium and long term.
H3a: To have intention to remain during the early months it is necessary
to experience high doses of satisfaction with the activity in which one
is involved and its context. Satisfaction will be the best predictor of
intention to remain in the short term.
H3b: To have intention to remain during the subsequent months,
in the second stage (in which the costs involved in volunteer work
become evident) it is necessary to generate an affective link with the
organization. Organizational commitment will therefore be the best
predictor of intention to remain in the medium term (1 year).
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
H3c: A prolonged period of commitment to an organization contributes
to generating the volunteer role identity, that is, the person succeeds
in incorporating this characteristic into his or her self-concept. Role
identity will therefore be the best predictor of intention to remain in the
H4: Satisfaction, organizational commitment and role identity are variables
related among themselves.
Participants were 300 volunteers at Time 0, Time 1 (six months) and Time
2 (twelve months). They worked in 20 social organizations, and had all served
less than 18 months in the organization (previous time M = 8.42 months; SD =
4.92). The volunteers of the sample were mostly women (71% women; 29%
men) with a high educational level (50% had university qualifications: diploma,
degree or doctorate) and dedicated between 1 and 12 hours a week (M = 4.42;
SD = 2.63). Thirty-six percent of them were working; 43% were students; 10%
were unemployed; 5% were homemakers and 5% were retired. Their mean age
was 29 years (SD = 12.53). During the 12-month follow-up, 116 volunteers
(39%) dropped out, and mean service duration during the year’s follow-up was
9 months (SD = 4.05).
General group characteristics In order to examine the sociodemographic char-
acteristics of the sample, we asked about age, sex, educational level, current
employment situation, hours per week as volunteer, and previous length of time
in the organization.
Satisfaction We asked volunteers about the following aspects in a Likert-type
response format with alternatives ranging from 1 (not at all satisfied) to 7 (total
Satisfaction with the task We used an item that describes how people feel when
they are totally involved in the task carried out (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Vecina
& Chacón, 2005): “When I am working as a volunteer the time just flies by”.
Satisfaction with the management of volunteers We included an item asking
about the degree of satisfaction with the effort made by the organization to
satisfy the motivations and expectations of their volunteers: “I am satisfied with
the interest shown by the organization in fitting the available volunteer activities
to my preferences, skills and capacities”.
Personal satisfaction with the degree of self-efficacy We used the following
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 633
item: “I am satisfied with the efficacy with which I perform the tasks I am set”.
Organizational Commitment We used the Organizational Commitment
Questionnaire (OCQ), created by Mowday, Steers, and Porter (1979) in its
reduced version of 9 items and adapted to samples of volunteers (Dávila &
Chacón, 2003) (I really worry about the future of this organization; My values
and the values of the organization are very similar). The response options ranged
from 1 (totally disagree) to 7 (totally agree). The alpha coefficient of the scale
Role identity as a volunteer In order to operationalize the role identity concept
we used a translation of the scale by Grube (Grube & Piliavin, 2000). This
instrument was adapted to Spanish samples by Dávila and Chacón (2004) and
has five items, of the type Volunteerism is something I often think about or
Volunteerism is an important part of my own identity. A Likert-type response
format was used, with alternatives ranging from 1 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally
agree). The alpha coefficient for this scale was 0.70.
Intention to remain This was measured by three different items. Each item
asked the volunteers specifically about the probability of continuing with their
volunteer work within the organization after 6 months, 1 year and 2 years (scale
of 1 to 7, where 1 meant no probability and 7 meant maximum probability).
Actual duration of service Six months (Time 1) and 12 months (Time 2)
after applying the above measures (Time 0) we collected data about longevity
of service (actual duration of service). It ranged from 0 to 6 and from 0 to 12
The independent variables (satisfaction, organizational commitment, role
identity, and intention to remain) were all assessed at the same time (Time 0). Six
months (Time 1) and 12 months (Time 2) after the measures of the independent
variables were taken we carried out a telephone follow-up on actual duration of
service, in which volunteers were asked whether or not they were still with the
organization and, if not, the date on which they left it.
We carried out the analyses using SPSS for Windows (version 12.0.1) and
Amos (version 12.0). As a preliminary analysis we calculated the correlations
matrix between remaining at 6 and 12 months (actual duration service), the three
types of intention (short, medium and long term), satisfaction, commitment and
Table 1 shows that all the correlations are significant, but the highest correlations
with Actual Service Duration both at 6 months and at 1 year correspond to the
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
three types of intention. Besides, the correlation between the intention to remain
at 6 months and actual service duration at 6 months is higher than the correlation
between the intention to remain at 6 months and actual service duration at 12
months, and the correlation between the intention to remain at 12 months and
actual service duration at 12 months higher than the correlation between the
intention to remain at 12 months and actual service duration at 6 months.
correlations BetWeen actual serVice Duration at 6 anD 12 montHs anD intention to
remain, satisfaction, organizational commitment anD role iDentity
Actual Actual Intention Intention Intention Satisfaction Organizational Role
Time Time Commitment Identity
6 12 6 12 24
6 months 1 .895** .490** .502** .431** .211** .292** .220**
12 months 1 .475** .546** .504** .190** .334** .292**
Note: **p < .01.
To test Hypothesis 1a we carried out a path analysis with the three behavioral
intentions of remaining, in the short, medium and long term as predictor
variables, and actual service duration at six months as dependent variable. As can
be seen (Figure 1), intention in the short term is that which shows the strongest
relationship to actual service duration at six months. About the global indexes of
the fit of the model, the indexes point toward the goodness of fit of the model.
The statistic c2 yielded a value of 0.134 and its associated p-value, p (gl = 1) =
.247 p = .013
.263 p = .000
c2 = .134; p = .714
AGFI = .998
RMR = .007
RMSEA = .000
Figure 1. Relationship between behavioral intention to remain and actual service duration in the
short term (six months).
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 635
.0714, does not lead to rejection of the restrictions of the model. The value of the
adjusted goodness-of-fit index (AGFI) is over .95 (.998), as is the incremental
fit indexes (NNFI = .998; IFI = .998; CFI = .998). The root mean square error of
approximation (RMSEA) is .000.
To test Hypothesis 1b we repeated the same path analysis, but using remaining
at 12 months as the dependent variable. In this case (Figure 2), intention to
remain at 1 year (medium term) is that which shows the strongest relationship.
The global indexes of the fit of the model point toward the goodness of fit of the
model too (c2 = .134; p = .714; AGFI = .998; RMR = .008; RMSEA = .000).
Figure 2: Relationship between behavioral intention to remain and actual service duration in the
medium term (twelve months).
Figure 3. Alternative model of the relationship between behavioral intention to remain and actual
service duration in the medium term.
.247 p = .004
.162 p = .021
.181 p = .026
c2 = .134; p = .714
AGFI = .998
RMR = .008
RMSEA = .000
.243 p = .000
.160 p = .009
c2 = 19.33; p = .000
AGFI = .696
RMR = .128
RMSEA = .248
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
In order to confirm that behavioral intention is indeed the best predictor
of service duration, we carried out an alternative path analysis introducing
other possible variables for predicting service duration, such as satisfaction,
commitment and role identity. The indices of fit of the model were found to be
notably poorer, and the percentages of explained variance lower (c2 = 19.33; p =
.000; AGFI = .696; RMR = .128; RMSEA = .248).
The three types of intention to remain are related among themselves, as
Hypothesis 2 points out and the following correlations matrix shows. All the
relationships between intentions are high and significant at the 0.01 level.
correlations BetWeen tHe tHree tyPes of intention
Intention 6 months Intention 12 months Intention 24 months
Intention 6 1
Intention 12 .737** 1
Intention 24 .590** .812** 1
Note: **p < .01
In order to confirm all the hypotheses of the model (Hypotheses 3 and 4) we
carried out two path analyses using as the dependent variable the first duration
of service at six months (model 6 months), and subsequently duration of service
at twelve months (model 12 months) (Figures 4 and 5). The indexes of fit in both
models suggest an acceptable level of fit: Model 6 months (c2 = 33.46; p = .056;
AGFI = .952; RMR = .069; RMSEA = .042) and Model 12 months (c2 = 37.26;
p = .022; AGFI = .947; RMR = .137; RMSEA = .048).
p = .012
.264 p = .000
.074 p = .370
c2 = 33.46; p = .056
AGFI = .952
RMR = .069
RMSEA = .042
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
Figure 4: The Three-Stage Model of Volunteers’ Duration (6 months).
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 637
Analyzing the significance of the proposed relationships we can see (Figures
4 and 5) that, as hypothesized, the best predictor of service duration at 6 months
is intention at 6 months, and the best predictor of service duration at 12 months
is intention at 12 months.
Analyzing the percentages of explained variance and standardized regression
weights of the relationships between the variables, it can be seen that actual
service duration at the 6-month follow-up is explained in 28.4%, and that actual
service duration at the 12-month follow-up is explained in 31.9%. As regards
predictors of the three types of intention, it is observed that satisfaction explains
22.36% of intention to remain for 6 months, and that intention, along with
organizational commitment, explain 58% of the variance of intention to remain
for 1 year. Finally, intention to remain for 1 year and volunteer role identity
together explain 67.4% of intention to remain for 2 years.
From the results described it can be concluded that the proposed model
provides a reasonably good fit to the data from a sample of 300 social work
volunteers who had been working in their respective organizations for less than
18 months, and although many other models may also fit the data, there appear to
be sufficient indications to state that the best predictor of actual service duration
is volunteers’ own intention to remain. It is, therefore, volunteers’ own estimation
of their probability of continuing in the organization, and not other variables of
a psychological or organizational nature, that best and most directly predicts
actual longevity of service. Likewise, it would seem that, as hypothesized, the
predictors of each type of intention are different, which would indicate that the
variables influencing service duration in the short term are different from those
that influence it in the medium and long term. It appears, then, that the basic
p = .003
.163 p = .020
.180 p = .026
c2 = 37.26; p = .022
AGFI = .947
RMR = .137
RMSEA = .048
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
p = .000
Figure 5: The Three-Stage Model of Volunteers’ Duration (12 months).
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
variables related to service duration vary as the participation process advances
in the time dimension.
The data from this study show that, as in the case of other planned behaviors,
the best predictor of duration of volunteering is behavioral intention. Intention
to continue functions as a kind of catalyst capable of summarizing the influence
of different variables. It is to be expected, and it has indeed been confirmed in
this study, that each type of intention is maximally related to service duration in
the same period of time. As emerges from studies on the relationship between
attitude and behavior (Ajzen, 1985; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), measurement of
behavioral intention and of behavior itself should take place in situations of
In support of Penner’s idea (2002), a combination of the functional and
role identity approaches might explain the processes underlying helping
behavior. Integrating variables from both approaches: satisfaction, organizational
commitment and role identity, our model succeeds in predicting a large part of
volunteer service duration, both short term and long term, but this influence is
mediated by intention to remain. In line with the dynamic perspective, which
maintains that relationships between the variables are modified through the
experience of volunteerism itself, the weight of these variables differs depending
on whether we are assessing service duration in the short or the long term.
Satisfaction is more relevant for predicting duration of service in the short
term, while organizational commitment and role identity are more relevant for
predictions in relation to the medium and long term.
A review of the references reveals a fair degree of consensus on the role played
by organizational commitment, and especially by role identity (Finkelstein et al.,
2005; Grube & Piliavin, 2000), though the findings on the roles of satisfaction
and motivations, as Finkelstein et al. (2005) note, are not so clear: “Existing data
on the effect of satisfaction on volunteering are equivocal” (p. 404); moreover,
and contradicting the results of Omoto and Snyder (1995), of Clary and
colleagues (1998), and of Penner and Finkelstein (1998), Davis, Hall, and Meyer
(2003) find that motive fulfillment did predict satisfaction, but satisfaction did
not predict whether or not one persisted in volunteering. The model we present
may help to reconcile these apparently contradictory findings. According to our
data, satisfaction is not directly related to duration of service, but it is related to
behavioral intention to remain, and this is the variable that most influences actual
Moreover, with regard to the satisfaction variable and its importance for
predicting intention to remain and actual service duration, two methodological
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION 639
points should be considered. The first of these concerns the way in which
satisfaction is assessed. The role identity and commitment variables are
assessed in a similar way in the different studies. For assessing role identity,
the majority of studies use adaptations of the scale by Callero (Callero et al.,
1987; Finkelstein et al., 2005; Grube & Piliavin, 2000) with a reliability index
of between 0.77 and 0.81. Organizational commitment is usually assessed by
means of well established scales such as that of Mowday, Steers, and Porter
(1979), or Meyer and colleagues (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Dávila & Chacón, 2003;
Meyer & Allen, 1984).
However, the way in which volunteer satisfaction is assessed varies considerably.
The majority of studies have concentrated on a single dimension of satisfaction.
Omoto and Snyder (1995) assess satisfaction in volunteerism using scales 1 to 7
with adjectives (regarding, important, interesting, etc.) in a similar way to Pearce
(Smithson, Pearce, & Amato, 1983), or testing the motives fulfillment (Clary et
al., 1998). Tschirhart, Mesch, Perry, Miller, and Lee assess satisfaction with the
volunteer experience through a single item (2001). Jamison assesses satisfaction
with organizational factors by means of 20 items (2003). Other studies take into
account the multidimensional nature of volunteer satisfaction. In this line, Gidron
identifies 12 dimensions of volunteer satisfaction (1985) and Galindo-Kuhn and
Guzley developed a measure of volunteer job satisfaction that identified four
dimensions (2001). We believe the multidimensional perspective on volunteer
satisfaction to be the most appropriate, since global satisfaction is influenced
by multiple aspects, such as satisfaction with the task, satisfaction with the
organization, perceived self-efficacy, or fulfillment of personal motives (values,
social, CV improvement, etc.), and a good measure of satisfaction should include
all of them. This disparity among studies on volunteerism in the way satisfaction
is assessed may partly explain the differences found in the results.
Secondly, explanations of research data on volunteer service duration should
take more account of the influence of dispersion of the different variables.
In equal conditions, the lower the variability of the variables, the lower the
correlations and the lower their predictive capacity. This has sometimes led to
the importance of a variable for volunteers being mistakenly identified with the
predictive power of that variable. We believe something similar may occur in
the case of satisfaction. Volunteer satisfaction is important for the volunteers
who remain. Indeed, according to our research data from the one-year follow-
up, the satisfaction indices distinguish between those that give up and those that
continue (Vecina & Chacón, in press). Nevertheless, in some studies satisfaction
did not predict whether or not one persisted in volunteering. This may be due to
the fact that variability of satisfaction decreases as length of service increases.
Initially, deviation in volunteer satisfaction is high, and at that point the predictive
power of satisfaction is high. With the passage of time the volunteers with lower
THREE-STAGE MODEL OF VOLUNTEERS’ DURATION
satisfaction give up, and the dispersion decreases, reducing the predictive
power of satisfaction, but not its importance: in fact, when in our sample we
compared volunteers with more than two years’ previous service who dropped
out in the follow-up and volunteers from this group who remained, differences
in satisfaction indices still appear. We consider satisfaction to be important for
remaining as a volunteer at all stages, but that it is better for predicting duration
of service in the short term than in the long term. It would be necessary to design
studies that analyze the evolution of satisfaction from the moment volunteers
join an organization in order to properly verify this assumption.
Finally, the interest of this type of applied research resides not so much in
the prediction of the number of months and days a volunteer will remain in an
organization – a far too ambitious objective – but in the identification of those
variables that have a positive or negative influence on longevity of service. The
ultimate aim is to generate effective management strategies that remove at least
those causes of drop-out attributable to inadequacies in the way the organization
is run. From the present study, two initial strategies emerge:
1. If an organization is interested in knowing how long volunteers are going
to remain on their programs, the best solution is to ask them directly, since
they themselves have the best knowledge of their personal, employment
and family circumstances, which means they can make the most reliable
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