The ABCE Model of Volunteer Motivation
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To cite this article: Butt M., Yu, H., Soomro, K.A. and
Acquadro Maran, D. (2017). The ABCE Model of Volunteer
Motivation. Journal of Social Service Research. Advanced
online publication. DOI: 10.1080/01488376.2017.1355867
The ABCE Model of Volunteer Motivation
Matti Ullah, Butt, PhD; Hou, Yu; Kamran Ahmed, Soomro, PhD; Daniela, Acquadro Maran,
*Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
To meet the growing social service needs of our societies, the social services and other
Volunteer organizations need to understand the needs and motives of their volunteers to keep
them retained. Although volunteer motivation scales are available and tested, different
organizations have to amend and add volunteering motives to best fit their organization and
environment. Furthermore, not much guidance is available to volunteer organizations to
understand or measure motivation of their volunteers raising a need for a unified model that
can be a guideline for managers. This study discusses different approaches to volunteering
motivation and links them into four areas of affiliation using an ABCE model: (A), beliefs,
(B) career development, (C) and (E) egoistic. Questionnaire was distributed to 496 volunteers
from a variety of NGOs including 239 (48.2%) from an international Faith Based
Organization (FBO). Findings show that although differences exist in volunteering motivation
the actual best fit was an ABCE model. Future research is needed on testing the scale with
different cultures and different organizations. A deeper knowledge of volunteer motivations
will enable organizations to prosper and utilize the continuous experience of the volunteers
and their engagement, thereby ensuring enhanced quality social service delivery.
Keywords: functional perspective – NGO – motivation
The ABCE Model of Volunteer Motivation
Innumerable social service organizations around the world require a number of
volunteers to meet the growing social service needs of our societies. These volunteers are a
great resource to better improve the quality of services offered, to help organizations be more
effective, to build communities, to promote equality and so on. It is challenging for the social
service organizations to retain volunteers requiring a deeper understanding of volunteer
motivational factors, and methods of retaining volunteers (as volunteers are not financially or
legally bound to serve) (Welty Peachey, Lyras, Cohen, Bruening, & Cunningham, 2014; Alfes,
Shantz, & Bailey, 2016). Volunteers may have alternate opportunities to which they might
wish to devote their time, investment and attention that could draw them away from
volunteering activities in the agencies that need them the most. According to Clary and
Snyder (1991), people volunteer until the volunteer experience satisfies their motive (or
motives) on the basis of their choices and preferences. Individuals in volunteer groups
normally devote their time because of external and circumstantial factors (Agostinho & Paço,
2012) that can include motivation, values and expectations. In the absence of monetary
compensation, volunteers do have some motive (or expected reward for volunteering) such as
personal, social or indirect economic gain (Gidron, 1978; Saksida, Alfes, & Shantz, 2016).
Ryan, Kaplan, & Grese (2001) and Gage & Thapa (2012) also write that the extrinsic and
Intrinsic motives to volunteering (Newton, Becker, & Bell, 2014) go beyond simple altruism
and can also include other factors, such as career advancement, love of the game/activity, and
Understanding, exploring and measuring volunteer motives has been a focus of many
researchers. Much of this volunteer motivation literature has been developed in social
psychology and is based on five models consisting of one (Cnaan & Goldberg-clen, 1999),
two (Frisch & Gerrard, 1981), three (Morrow-Howell & Mui, 1989), four (Neely & Lengnick-
Hall, 2013) or six (Clary et al., 1998) volunteering motives. Titmuss (1971) and Pinker (1979)
argued in their books on welfare and social policy that the commitment to help others is a
unified whole, although it might be driven by a combination of different motives. Cnaan and
Goldberg-clen (1999) also found empirical support for a unidimensional construct for
volunteer motivation. The two-factor theory came later with the concept of altruism. Batson
(1991) defined altruism as “a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another’s
welfare.” Thus various authors have divided motives for volunteering between altruistic and
non-altruistic motives in the two-factor models. Frisch and Gerrard (1981) also identified
altruistic and self-serving motives, suggesting a two-dimensional model of volunteer
motivation. Cnaan and Goldberg-clen (1999) concluded that volunteers are actually driven by
a combination of different factors; hence, they are both selfless and selfish. The three-factor
solution added a motivation factor related to socialism, as in Fitch (1987), who developed a
20-item scale to study the motivations of volunteering students and found altruism, social
obligation and selfish motives to be the main sources of motivation. Morrow-Howell and Mui
(1989) also suggested three dimensions, i.e., altruistic, social and material (gaining some
influential skills or power).
As argued by Sigmund and Hauert (2002), altruistic activity should be considered to
have occurred when it has benefitted others and harmed the person performing the activity.
Patel and Wilson (2004) underlined that altruism does not exist as a selfless act because
denying help to someone is also denying one’s sense of self and, thus, helping others can also
help oneself. The four-factor model and six-factor model of motivation are less based on
altruism, although altruism is present in them to a limited degree. The six-factor model is
based on the function theory of motivation. The functional approach of volunteer motivation
focuses on a volunteer’s motivation to satisfy one or more of his/her needs or motives. It also
implies that different individuals can have different reasons or motives for doing the same
volunteer work. In the literature, this approach seems widely used and more accepted (Stukas,
Daly & Gil Clary, 2006). Several authors have defended functional theories of motivation by
focusing on individual motives for helping and volunteering (Clary et al., 1998; Clary &
Snyder, 1999; Omoto & Snyder, 2002). Clary and Snyder (1991) and Clary et al. (1998)
created the six-dimensional model based on a functionalism approach (the same action can
serve different functions). Neely and Lengnick-Hall (2013) suggested four dimensions of
volunteering motivation that they called the unfolding model of volunteer motivation. These
two theories will be discussed in more detail.
Functional Approach to Volunteer Motivation
The functional approach to volunteering is grounded in the concept that a great deal of
human behavior is motivated by different needs and goals and that motivation varies among
individuals (Clary et al., 1998). Clary and Snyder (1991) adapted this notion in their Volunteer
Function Inventory (VFI) to study the factors that motivate volunteering. According to this
study, the decision to be an active volunteer is determined by the perceived potential of
volunteering to serve six specific functions, i.e., Enhancement (to feel useful and important
and to improve one’s self-esteem), Career (to obtain experience for a career or to benefit
one’s career), Social (to strengthen relationships with home members or others), Values (to
express humanitarian and altruistic concerns), Protective (to escape any negative feelings, to
defend the ego) and Understanding (to explore one’s own strength by volunteering, having
new experiences and undergoing skills training). The VFI has been widely used by many
researchers from different countries and in different languages. For example, the English
version was used by Stukas, Hoye, Nicholson, Brown and Aisbett (2014) in Australia. A
Spanish version was used by Dávila and Fuertes (2003) and Dávila and Ambientales (2009) in
Spain; the Chinese version was developed by Wong, Chui and Kwok (2011) in Hong Kong;
and a Portuguese Version was used by Agostinho & Paço (2012) and Ferreira, Proença, &
Proença (2012) in Portugal.
Amendments to the VFI
Although the VFI is extensively and widely applied in motivational research, there are
substantial variations in the number of functions especially when applied to specific context
and type of volunteer organizations (Erasmus & Morey, 2016). Clary et al. (1998) validated
the use of the VFI for both volunteers and non-volunteers and suggested that future studies
may indicate systematic, domain-to-domain variation in the categories of motivations as being
salient to volunteers and prospective volunteers. This suggestion further opened the door for
researchers to explore the volunteer motivation approach and discuss additional possible
motivation categories. Wilson (2000) argues that volunteering can take many forms such that
even highly generalized value questions would fail to capture this variation. Hence, different
authors have tried to add more variables to the VFI according to the type of organization and
Allison, Okun, and Dutridge (2002) interviewed 195 volunteers from a non-profit
organization and asked them to list their motivations for engaging in volunteer work.
Religiosity, enjoyment and team building were the three new variables found. A mega study
on volunteers in Western Australia by Esmond and Dunlop (2004) modified the VFI to a
Volunteer Motivation Inventory (VMI) with 10 variables and suggested also studying
religiosity, societal and governmental factors. Bierhoff, Schülken and Hoof (2007) suggested
that social and political responsibility should be included as functions in the VFI. Van Vianen,
Nijstad and Voskuijl (2008) used a motivational scale with seven motives, adding the variable
“pastime” to the VFI. Rokach and Wanklyn (2009) also found enjoyment to be a source of
motivation for some volunteers. Some researchers added area-specific items for example in
sports volunteering, Hallmann and Harms (2012) included the item “love of the game” to
study volunteer motivation. Jiranek, Kals, Humm, Strubel and Wehner (2013) added the social
justice function as a variable in the VFI. Again, Gage and Thapa (2012) included a single item
related to religion to study volunteer motivation through the VFI. It can be noticed that
although a number of authors (more recently Dennis, Scanlon, & Sellon (2017) and Erasmus
& Morey (2016) and previous mega studies like one by Garland, Myers, & Wolfer (2008))
have studied volunteering in religious organizations, the studies have not amended VFI to
include items related to believes and most of the studies have focused the factor qualitatively.
Unfolding Model of Volunteer Motivation
Neely and Lengnick-Hall (2013) used the unfolding model of turnover, the theories of
reasoned action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) and planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), and the
person-organization fit model (Kristof, 1996) to devise a theory called the unfolding model of
volunteer motivation. Based on the theory of the unfolding model of turnover (Lee, Mitchell,
& Mitchell, 1994) in which individuals have multiple paths to come to a decision to decide to
stop working for an organization, Neely and Lengnick-Hall (2013) proposed and proved that
there are multiple paths through which a person decides to volunteer in an organization. These
four paths were identified as the trigger path (any trigger event encourages an individual to
decide to volunteer), the social path, the instrument path (to gain skills and abilities) and the
religious or spiritual path.
Overview of Volunteering Motives
The functional approach of volunteerism has been widely used; however, as discussed,
a number of authors have felt the need to amend or add additional motives. The unfolding
model of volunteer motivation provided 4 directions that can lead to volunteering activity. It is
further proposed that the different functional motives also present four directions: affiliation
(A), personal values and beliefs (B), career development (C) and egoistic motives (E).
Additional motives can actually be adjusted in these directions. Along with explaining how
the VFI adjusts into these four directions, three additional motives of beliefs, organization and
socialization are also included in the directions.
Affiliation (A). People are motivated to volunteer because of their family members,
friends and the people living around them and because of a desire to socialize. This direction
can be called affiliation and can be divided into two motives, i.e., social motives as studied by
Clary et al. (1998) in the VFI and the need of an individual to socialize with people society
(socialization). Although only social motives were apparently studied in the VFI, item 29
(“volunteering is a way to make new friends”) under the enhancement motive actually
represents the socialization motive. Other researchers have also studied this motive as being
separate from the social motive; however, the two motives still fall under the same direction.
Neely & Lengnick-Hall (2013) also considered these motives to be the social path that results
in volunteering activities.
Law, Shek and Ma (2011) stated that no item in the VFI directly relates to
socialization (i.e., “getting along with peers”) motive as being one of the motives behind
volunteer service participation. Socialization, according to Law et al. (2011), is different from
the social function in VFI, which merely refers to the influence from the people around
volunteers and cannot represent the distinct socializing purpose of participants. People,
especially adolescents, spend much time with their peers, and the peer system is becoming
more important in adolescent development (Hartup, 2005). Through participation, volunteers
work and socialize with their peers. They tend to consider whether their peers will join the
service and whether they will accept or praise the activity (Law et al. 2011). In a survey by
Dworkin, Larson, and Hansen (2003), participants reported experiences of forming new peer
relationships, developing a deeper understanding of their peers and having experiences that
reflect the acquisition of social capital in youth activities. Wu, Wing Lo and Liu (2009) also
suggested that making new friends should be an additional function for the motivation of
volunteers, which is similar to the arguments of Law et al. (2011) regarding socialization.
Drawing on the above-mentioned considerations, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis 1: In relation to the established volunteer functions, it is expected that an
equality-based socialization function to emerge as an independent factor.
Beliefs (B). Personal values and beliefs are among the main sources of motivation to
volunteering that is represented by Values motive in the VFI. Although many studies (more
recently Dennis, Scanlon & Sellon (2017) and Erasmus & Morey (2016) and previously
Garland, Myers & Wolfer (2008)) have studied volunteering in religious organizations, the
studies have not amended VFI to include items related to believes. This direction, along with
values, also includes individual believes and believe in the Organization.
Given the items and functions of the VFI, it is clear that the focus of volunteer
motivation is measured by approaches that benefit the volunteers themselves (self-oriented
aspects of volunteer motivation). The values motive is the only one that is based on benefiting
others and has been found to be one of the most dominant functions (Penner & Finkelstein,
1998). The values motive is also regarded as an altruistic behavior of the volunteer; however,
Katz & Kahn (1978) argued that no one behaves for purely altruistic reasons. This may be
clearer when individual beliefs are studied with the values motive. Although the values
motive is based on benefiting others, the reason to benefit others can be based on one’s
religious beliefs and needs. Thus, the label of altruistic action is not acceptable in all cases
and can instead be called personal beliefs or being pro-social. Grant (2012) also argues that
the word “values” can sometimes be confusing, as every motive does address some values;
hence, the word pro-social has been used to capture the desire to help or benefit others (Brief
& Motowidlo, 1986; Clary & Snyder, 1991; Grant, 2007). Values are formed by the beliefs of
an individual, and thus, values motives are also expected to represent individual beliefs.
Religious organizations are also very active in promoting volunteering as religious in
general. According to Berger (2003), NGOs (especially religious NGOs) have represented a
unique hybrid of religious beliefs and sociopolitical activism at all different levels of society.
Butt, Hu and Soomro (2015) studied areas of volunteering that took religious volunteering as
a separate area as a number of volunteers indulge in faith based volunteering. They concluded
that a number of people are introduced to volunteering by local mosques in childhood. Hence,
local religious centers (such as mosques and churches) play an important role in the
promotion of volunteering. Researchers have found a positive association between religion
and volunteering because of religious norms and social networks (Watt, 1991; Curtis, Baer, &
Grabb, 2001; Lam, 2002; Ruiter & Graaf, 2006; Bekkers & Schuyt, 2008). As religious
networks make social connections, there is an increased likelihood of a person being asked to
volunteer. Similarly, religious norms emphasize the importance of helping others.
Moreover, according to Cnaan, Kasternakis, & Wineburg (1993), religious beliefs
affect an individual’s decision to engage a volunteer activity. Bennett (2015) concludes that
people with a religious affiliation volunteer more often than people with no religious
affiliation and that people who attend religious services are almost twice (1.87 times) as likely
to volunteer than are those who do not attend religious services. An investigation conducted
by Lewis, Macgregor, & Putnam (2013) underlined religiosity as positively related to multiple
civic outcomes. Taniguchi and Thomas (2011) also concluded that religious inclusiveness
increases not only religious volunteering but also secular volunteering. These studies
highlight the extensive and exclusive role of religion in motivating people to volunteer. There
is an extensive amount of literature on the importance of personal belief or religiosity as a
consistent and strong predictor of volunteering both nationally and cross-nationally (Wilson,
2000; Ruiter & Graaf, 2006; Wuthnow, 2006; Musick & Wilson, 2007; Putnam, 2012;
Bennett, 2015). However religion or belief has not been studied as a separate factor that
impacts the motivation of a volunteer, but the factor has been recommended for inclusion by
various researchers (Allison et al., 2002; Esmond & Dunlop, 2004).
Hypothesis 2: In relation to established volunteer functions, it is expected an equality-
based religion function will emerge as an independent factor.
The motivation to volunteer and to continue in volunteering activities also depends on
the function of the organization. The organization function is intended to study the volunteer’s
relationship with the organization (or volunteering activity), his/her satisfaction with
management and its effect on his/her motives. Although the “organization” function has not
been independently studied by researchers, the factor, or part of the factor, has been indirectly
addressed by different authors. Farmer and Fedor (1997) studied the role of organizations’
support in volunteer participation and turnover intentions. Esmond and Dunlop (2004) used
statements such as “being appreciated by my agency is important to me” in the VMI.
Similarly, an item about being respected by staff and volunteers has been included in the VMI
(Esmond & Dunlop, 2004). Questions regarding the importance of the cause to oneself has
been included by different researchers as well as by Clary et al. (1998) in the VFI.
Agostinho and Paço (2012) emphasized that satisfied volunteers also show higher
levels of commitment to the organization and have better relationships with their colleagues.
A volunteering organization can also play its role in keeping volunteers satisfied by providing
a good atmosphere and culture in the organization and by caring for the passion of volunteers.
A poor culture or management in the organization can affect the motivation of a volunteer,
leading her/him to either stop volunteering or change the organization (Maran & Soro, 2010;
Acquadro Maran, 2014). Willems and colleagues (2012) studied 47 items addressing reasons
to quit (a volunteer organization or volunteering) and presented the 10-Factor Solution. The
factors included “struggles with other volunteers in the group” and “lack of higher level
support,” which were related to the organization. Indeed, the organization and its
management, especially proper management policies and practices, can become a motivation
to volunteers. Hustinx and colleagues (2010) studied motivations to volunteer among students
in six countries by modifying the VFI to 15 items. The study ranked items “work for a cause
that is important” as second (out of 15) most important overall (second most important for the
USA, Canada, Finland and Belgium and 3rd and 5th in Japan and China, respectively).
Similarly, the item “learn more about the cause” ranked 7th out of 15. The results also showed
the importance of “a cause” for volunteers as a major motivation for volunteering. Hence, the
organization’s motive is important not only for volunteers but also for the volunteer
organization. Thus, it is hypothesized that
Hypothesis 3: In relation to the established volunteer functions, it is postulated that an
equality-based organization function will emerge as an independent factor.
Career Development (C). Several authors, such as Okun and Schultz (2003),
Greenslade and White (2005), and Moreno-Jiménez and Villodres (2010), found a weak or
non-significant correlation between values and career, calling the career function the most
distinct from other functions. However, for students, the career function can be a well-focused
motive for volunteering (see Afroozeh, 2012; Ghose & Kassam, 2014; Handy et al., 2010;
Holdsworth, 2010). Additionally, the understanding function appeared to be one of the most
salient functions, along with values and enhancement motives (Allison et al., 2002; Chapman
& Morley, 1999; Planalp & Trost, 2009; Widjaja, 2010). Neely and Lengnick-Hall (2013)
argued that there is an instrumental path that gives rise to the intention to volunteer. Their
investigation shows that individuals find volunteering opportunities when they want to learn
or understand something that is not afforded in their current employment. Grant (2012) also
combined these two motives into one that he called knowledge characteristics. These two
motives are linked with the concept that learning and understanding are related to the career
of an individual, and this direction can be called career development.
Egoistic (E). The fourth direction concerns the volunteer’s desires, wishes and actions
related to the individual’s ego. Individuals may volunteer to protect or enhance their ego, to
be recognized, praised or acknowledged. The VFI includes two motives that show this
direction, i.e., enhancement and protective motives. Both are related to the ego, with one
focusing on protecting one’s ego and the other on enhancing it. Planalp and Trost (2009)
investigated the motivation of 351 volunteers from 32 hospices in the western part of the
United States. They used three items for each volunteering motive of the VFI and found that
the protective and enhancement motives appear on the same factor and same was found later
by Brayley et al.(2014). When Clary et al. (1998) tested the six factors of the VFI, they found
that restricting the volunteering motives to a five-factor solution would result in enhancement
and protective motives being represented as a single factor. It is no doubt that the two motives
are actually related to ego, but in different ways.
Since the volunteers are a fundamental resource for social service (Mckeever &
Pettijohn, 2014), it is important to understand their motivation and how the organization could
(or could not) satisfy it. The aim of this study is to investigate the four hypothesized directions
of volunteer motivation and to explore how the widely used VFI and other volunteering
motives fit into the presented model. With these directions identified, different volunteering
organizations with different volunteers can focus their efforts on satisfying volunteering
motives within these directions. Similarly, based on a single scale for different volunteers,
volunteering motivation can be compared for the different nature of volunteering activities,
such as sports volunteers versus faith volunteers. This study also addresses the three
additional volunteering motives of socialization (hypothesis 1), religion (hypothesis 2), and
organization (hypothesis 3) hypothesizing that these volunteering motives appear to be
independent factors from the motives in VFI.
This study was conducted in Pakistan for several reasons. Firstly, one of the authors
has experience with volunteering in this country and was aware of the types of volunteering
behavior and motivation. Secondly, the country has a long history (of culture, customs,
behavior, religion) with other countries from the South Asia (especially India) (Thapar, 2015).
In addition, South Asia is one of the most populous regions in the world having an estimated
population of 1,823 billion (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
2015). South Asia is also enriched with religious organizations having largest population of
Hindus (98%), Sikhs (90.5%), one-third of Muslims in the World, 35 million Christians and
25 million Buddhists. With respect to volunteering, India had estimated 3.3 million NGOs in
2009 which is like one NGO for every 400 Indians (Shukla, 2010). According to the
worldwide report by Charities Aid Foundation (2016), volunteering in developing countries is
more rapidly increasing with Africa having the largest increase and Asia being the second.
The first four top countries with high percentage of volunteering are also from developing
countries (USA being at number fifth with 46% volunteering). Among 613 million people
who volunteered in the top 10 countries (by volunteering time), 419 million (68.35%) were
from Asia. Whereas this report by Charities Aid Foundation considers volunteer time given in
Organization, Butt et al., (2015) found more people engaged in informal volunteering
compared to volunteering under some organization in Pakistan. Studies conducted in this area
can be attraction for a number of researchers and NGOs due to religious inclusiveness (as
volunteering is vastly being studied with religious inclusiveness), extensive population and
NGOs and increase in the volunteering ratios. Although some research on volunteer
motivation have come up from India (like Ghose & Kassam, 2014), the other parts of South
Asia are not well studied to date (according to the knowledge of the authors). In 2010,
regarding NGOs in Pakistan, the Minister of Social Welfare and Special Education stated that
there were around 100,000 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and community-based
organizations (CBOs), 60,000 to 70,000 of which were registered (USAID, 2016) and of
course the number would be more high recently.
To generalize the scale, volunteers working in different types of volunteering areas
were targeted for participation. Since young volunteers have been found willing to take part
in volunteering activities in Pakistan (Butt et al., 2015; Soomro, Shukui, Butt, & Anand,
2016); the researchers first invited volunteers studying in a college in Sindh and three
universities in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan. Among the college and
university students, 379 general volunteers were invited into the survey, and their response
rate was 67.8% (N1=257). These volunteers were from different volunteering areas (Butt et
al., 2015) except religious/faith volunteering. The decision to include participants from
religious/faith volunteering was made in accordance to results from Butt and colleague (2015)
investigation: religious/faith volunteering is one of the volunteering areas. Thus means that
the motivation to volunteer could be/could be not linked to religious/faith motives. To include
this volunteering area, data was gathered from the volunteers of a Faith Based Organization
(FBO). Participants belonging to one of the Islamic universities under the International FBO
Dawateislami, were invited to join the survey. The organization is involved with 392 religious
universities in Pakistan and 29 internationally, and encourages volunteering among students
(Butt, 2016). Among the FBO volunteers in the Punjab Province, 321 were invited, and their
response rate was 74.4% (N2=239). The inclusion criterion required being a volunteer for a
period of one year or more. The sample was composed of 496 students. Students received
recruitment information during a class lecture.
Procedure and Data Collection
This study conformed to the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki in 1995, revised
in Edinburgh 2000 (World Medical Association., 2001). All ethical guidelines were followed,
as required for conducting human research, including adherence to the legal requirements of
Pakistan. The research project was approved by the ethics committee of the respective
universities before the study began. With the approval of the ethics committee, participants
were asked for authorization to administer the questionnaire. The cover sheet clearly
explained the research aim, the voluntary nature of participation, the anonymity of the data
and the elaboration of the findings. Thus, returning the questionnaires implied consent.
Participants volunteered in the research without receiving any reward. The data were collected
by two of the authors and by designated lecturers trained by the researchers. The participants
were contacted through their academic courses and were informed that they were participating
in a study to investigate the volunteer motivation. Moreover, students received recruitment
information through flyers. Data collection involved completion of a structured questionnaire
submitted on paper; all the participants were informed that participation was voluntary and
that their responses were anonymous. The self-reported questionnaire took, on average,
twenty-five minutes to complete and was collected immediately. All the questionnaires were
group administered to students in classrooms, with the teachers’ permission, before or after a
class lecture and were returned immediately. The study was conducted in accordance with
The VFI developed by Clary & Snyder (1998) was primarily used to measure the
Volunteer Motivation. After a pre-test of the questionnaire with 10 volunteers (aged 20-30, 9
males, 1 female), some questions were summarized and some were removed to reduce the
number of questions for the ease of respondents. Some items were also added from VMI
developed in the study by Esmond and Dunlop (2004). Any question that was felt to be
difficult for the respondents to understand was amended. New questions about religion,
socialization and organization motives were added according to the experience of one of the
authors and discussions with other volunteers of a volunteer association in the FBO
Dawateislami. All the volunteering motives were measured on a seven-point Likert scale (1 =
Strongly Disagree; 7 = Strongly Agree).
In the final inventory (see table 1), eleven motives were included that adjusted in the
four directions of volunteer motivation (as discussed in Literature). The following are the four
directions and motives within those directions
Affiliation (A): It was measured by two volunteering motives i.e. the social motive
(VFI – three items) and socialization motive (VMI – three items).
Personal Values and Beliefs (B): It was measured by three volunteering motives i.e.
pro-social motive (values as in the VFI – three items), Organization motive and Beliefs
motive. The organization motive was measured with one item regarding cause from the VFI,
one item regarding the organization’s culture from the VMI, and two new items were created.
One item in the religion motive came from the VMI, and two items were created after
discussions with volunteers from the FBO.
Career development (C): It consisted of two volunteering motives i.e. understanding
motive (four items from the VFI) and the career motive (VFI – two items; VMI – two items).
Egoistic (E): It was measured with three volunteering motives i.e. protective motive
(VFI – three items) and the enhancement motive (VFI – one item; VMI – three items).
-Table 1 about here -
The questionnaire was adapted for use with a Pakistani audience by translating it from
British English and then back-translating it (White & Elander, 1992). The translation was
performed by three specialists (in the English language, third sector and volunteerism) and
matched to agree in a final version. The translated version was useful for the volunteers in
FBO who did not study English as a major and were not that convenient with the English
The participants (N = 496) consisted of 257 (51.8%) general volunteers from different
volunteering organizations and 239 (48.2%) volunteers from the FBO (table 2). Men were
highly dominant (84.8%). Most of the participants (73.8%) ranged from 18 to 29 years of age.
Of the respondents, 23% had 1 to 3 years of volunteering experience, while 29.8% had more
than 3 years of experience. 8.7% volunteered less than 2 hours a week, 25.9% volunteered 2-4
hours per week, 29.1% volunteered 4-8 hours per week, 20.2% volunteered 8-14 hours per
week, and 9.0% volunteered more than 14 hours per week.
-Table 2 about here -
Descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and Pearson’s product-
moment correlations were obtained through SPSS (version 20). Confirmatory factor analysis
(CFA) was conducted using AMOS (version 21) (table 3). Factor analysis was applied to see
how the items from the religion, organization and socialization factors adjust the motivation
inventory for the responses. The EFA included the six motives of Clary and colleagues (1998)
and three additional motives of religion, organization and socialization. A minimum factor
loading of .30 was used as the threshold to include items within a factor. Principal-axis factor
analysis with promax rotation was used. Nine factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0 were
identified. A scree plot was also used to test the number of suitable factors. The scree plot
showed a considerable drop after the 1st and 9th variables. The religious, organization and
social interaction motives appeared as separate independent factors (supporting our three
hypotheses (H1, H2, H3). All items loaded on the predicted factors, and overall, the results
did not differ from those of previous studies.
-Table 3 about here –
To further assess the fitness of the variables, confirmatory factor analyses were
conducted using AMOS (version 21) (table 4). Nine factors in different model combinations
were also tested, finding the four-factor model be the better fit. The nine categories of
volunteer motivation were combined in the four directions as hypothesized in this study.
-Table 4 about here –
The nine- and six-factor models did not fit at all (figure 1). The four-factor model was
the hypothesized model, whereas the three-factor model followed the study of Morrow-
Howell & Mui (1989), who suggested three dimensions, i.e., altruistic, social and material. In
the one-factor model, all nine motives were combined as one factor. The one-factor model
was better than the three-factor model; however, the hypothesized four-factor model showed
the best results.
-Figure 1 about here –
Correlation and Construct Validity
With few exceptions, all the motives were positively correlated with each other.
However, the correlation was not high enough to cause a problem of multicollinearity
(Pallant, 2011). The correlations were significant among the volunteering motives in the same
direction of ABCE Model (table 5). Moreover, the “organization” motive showed a strong
correlation with enhancement, protective and career motives. The enhancement motive also
showed a high correlation with the career and understanding motives. Regarding correlations
with volunteering time, all the volunteering motives studied showed a strong correlation with
volunteering time; organization, religion and protective motives showed the strongest
correlation, and socialization, values and social motives showed the weakest (but still
-Table 5 about here –
Cronbach’s alpha is commonly used test of internal consistency reliability. A value of
less than 0.6 is generally considered poor, whereas those in the range of 0.7 are considered
acceptable, and values over 0.8 are considered good (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994; Sekaran,
2003). According to this criterion, all the variables were in an acceptable range. Moreover, the
average variance extracted is an important test for discriminant validity. The average variance
extracted measures the explained variance of the construct, and for discriminant validity, the
square root of the average variance extracted should be larger than the correlation of the
construct with any of the other constructs (Zait & Bertea, 2011). The square roots of the
average variance extracted were not very high, but they were still greater than the correlation
among the variables, thus confirming construct validity.
The ABCE Model of Volunteer Motivation summarizes the motives of volunteering
(with functional perspectives) into four directions i.e., affiliation (A), beliefs (B), career
development (C), and egoistic (E). In the use of scale, the English language is kept simple and
understandable for volunteers in areas where English was not their first language. Along with
the six motives in VFI three additional volunteering motives i.e. religious motive,
organization motive and socialization motive are studied and analyzed. The religious motive,
as theoretically discussed in earlier studies, has been included as a motivation factor. The
organization-specific motives are now considered under organization motive so different
organizations can use the same model for studying volunteer motivation. The socialization
motive has been added to show the desire of social interaction. All three new motives and the
six motives of the VFI were the best fitted in the hypothesized four-dimensional model (the
ABCE Model of Volunteer Motivation).
Retaining and keeping the volunteering motivated is challenging for social service
organizations that are heavily dependent on the work of volunteers to carry on the social work
in societies. The model prescribed by this paper can be adopted by researchers and
organizations to observe the level and degree of motivation of volunteers under different
categories or motives. As the model and the questionnaire cover broader functions, they can
be used for volunteers from different volunteering areas and organizations. The results can be
compared for volunteer motivation, training needs and volunteer retention. The categories of
volunteering in the four factors model can be a source of guidance to volunteer organizations
and NGOs for allocation of their limited resources. The task allocation of a volunteer can also
be decided according to the survey results. For example, a volunteer motivated by affiliation
can be given a task in which he/she can have social interactions with other people. It is
understandable that an NGO may not be able to allocate tasks according to the
desires/volunteering motives of the limited volunteers, and hence, training sessions and
seminars may be introduced to make volunteers aware of other social needs. Such training
sessions, if effective, could help change the motives of volunteers as per the needs of society
and the purposes of the respective NGO. The model can also be used to choose the learning
objectives of such training material to improve the organization’s operations. For example,
volunteers motivated to volunteer because of pro-social behavior (in belief direction) can be
motivated through training courses addressing how the mission of the organization can be
useful and beneficial for the community. Volunteers motivated by career development can be
taught how volunteering activities can be used to acquire knowledge and skills that can be
useful for career development.
Limitations and Future Directions
Some limits of this research should be underlined. Firstly, the literature has been
analyzed and subjective judgments have been made to minimize and summarize the number
of items. In this study, the effectiveness of the summarized items has not been compared to
the previous inventory to determine whether the summarized items are accurate enough to
represent the full inventories introduced by Clary et al. (1998), Esmond and Dunlop (2004)
and others. Future studies may help further explain the effectiveness of the summarized items
presented here compared to those in previous studies. Furthermore, relations and correlations
between different motives may help improve the model.
In addition to applying the model empirically, some interesting issues surrounding
volunteer retention remain to be studied. The relationship of volunteer retention with selected
motives can further add to the literature on volunteer motivation and retention. Religious
motives can be further improved and studies conducted in volunteer organizations
representing different faith. The organization motive needs to be tested for use of the same
scale in different types of organizations and the intensity of the need to change. The validity
and the impact of including or ignoring some volunteering motives in our model may be
tested. The possibility of combining certain variables can also be explored. Moreover the
results are not generalizable unless tested, as the study involved only volunteers in Pakistan,
the scale should thus be tested in other parts of Asia and the world.
The functional approach of volunteering motivation has been widely used, and the
work of Clary et al. (1998) is highly regarded. Clary and colleagues provided the VFI to
measure volunteer motivation in six dimensions. Although authors have also written on uni-
dimension, two-dimensional and three dimension models are present, VFI has been more
frequently used since presented in 1998. However different dimensions have been added in
VFI and amendments have been suggested by several authors (see Hallmann & Harms, 2012;
Jiranek et al., 2013) especially religion, socialization and sports related motives. In the
literature, emphasis has been placed on the importance of religion in motivating and providing
opportunities to volunteer. Religion should not be included within values or pro-social
motives, as Galen, Sharp and McNulty (2015) also concluded that religious beliefs do not
lend substantial pro-social advantages. Similarly Socialization motive has been argued to be
different from Social motive in VFI. Past researcher on volunteer motivation has been
discussed nine motives (including religion) are studied and their items are summarized to a
total of 30. EFA via SPSS confirmed nine different factors, and confirmatory factor analysis
via SPSS AMOS (version 21) suggested a four-factor model to be the best fit.
Although this paper takes into account only three additional motives and misses some
volunteering motives studied by other researchers, some motives were assumed to be part of
or closely related to the motives included in the model. For example, “pastime” (Van Vianen
et al., 2008) and enjoyment function (Allison et al., 2002; Rokach & Wanklyn, 2009) are
assumed to be well explained by organization, social interaction and protective motives. The
social justice function (Jiranek et al., 2013) is assumed to be explained by the pro-social
motive in the belief direction. The organizational or task-specific motives are assumed to be
explained by organization and social interaction motives in the model. We hope that the
ABCE model will guide and spur future research on volunteer motivation from different
volunteering areas and organizations. A deeper knowledge of volunteers’ motivation will
enable organization to grow up thanks to the continuous experience of the volunteers and their
engagement to ensure a quality social service.
We would like to thank Mr. Sabeeh Ullah Butt, Mr. Muhammad Fahad Khalid, Dr.
Muhammad Naseer Akhtar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China)
and Professor Sumeet Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management Raipur (India) for their
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