Contributions and challenges of studying volunteering from a subject'sPerspective: Analysis of Marta, Pozzi and Marzana's findings (2010)

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This article analyzes the results of the study Volunteers and Ex-Volunteers: Paths to Civic Engagement Through Volunteerism, by Marta, Pozzi, and Marzana (in this issue), who propose 4 types of volunteers: volunteers in action, volunteers for personal need, active citizens ex-volunteers and ex-volunteers by chance. The discussion builds upon the benefits of a multidimensional approach from the subject's perspective. To accomplish this, its contributions to the understanding of topics, such as the role of motivation in prosocial involvement, the mechanisms that promote this type of behavior, and the differentiation between causes and consequences of it, are analyzed. Some ideas are discussed, like the importance of the re-elaboration of motivations, their potential mediating role in the relationship between family and voluntary participation, and the importance of considering in future designs temporal organization that young people themselves give to their experiences. Also, some limitations of the study are identified. These are related to religious variables that could explain the results and to the difficulty of establishing whether these results are specific to this form of participation.

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In spite of a progressive institutionalisation of community-based learning into higher education, relatively little is known about the actual dynamics and correlates of volunteering by students. The study presented seeks a more in-depth understanding of the spontaneous, extracurricular involvement within a university student population. Data are drawn from a postal survey of a representative sample of third-year university students enrolled at a Flemish university (n = 744). In a first step, an exploration of the course and nature of students' volunteer involvement is provided. In a second step, an explanatory model is constructed to predict the likelihood of belonging to the categories of volunteers, former volunteers or non-volunteers. Firstly, it appears that a large group of students drop out of volunteering in transition to university, and that volunteering is rarely given priority in students' agenda. Furthermore, a bifurcated pattern of involvement with a different pace inside and outside university is identified. Finally, extensive embedding in a volunteer environment as well as the discipline of study are major predictors of volunteering by students. Gender, church practice, being encouraged to volunteer and subjective study pressure produce subsidiary effects.
The study described is part of a broader longitudinal and multi methodological research project aimed at investigating volunteerism in young people, in order to understand the reasons for the initial choice to volunteer but, more specifically, the reasons to sustain or quit voluntary involvement, as well as the effects of volunteerism. Eighteen volunteers and18 ex-volunteers, 50% male and 50% female, aged between 22 and 29 years old, from 2 regions in northern Italy (Lombardy and Emilia Romagna) participated in in-depth interviews. The paper-and-pencil analysis of the interview pointed to the emergence of several core categories: motivations to volunteer, relations within the organization, influence of family, andeffects of volunteerism, especially as related to the process of identity and citizenship construction. On the basis of these categories, 4 typologies were identified: 2 with respect to volunteers (producers of active citizenship and volunteers for personal necessity) and 2 relatedspecifically to ex-volunteers (ex-volunteers witnesses for solidarity and active citizenship and ex-volunteers by chance).
The author examine the literature on volunteer motivation to provide a conceptual framework for future studies on traits and motivations of college student volunteers. In particular, the relationship between egoistic and altruistic motivational components are considered, as well situational factors. Implications for student affairs administrators are explored.