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Governance & Management believes that quality research is the cornerstone of effective practice for nonprofit organisations. This page brings you outcomes of a particular research project. The “Recent Research” page of the Board Matters newsletter always provides more research examples.

How to Enhance Volunteer Engagement

Volunteer engagement, as used in the present study, is a relatively new concept in the volunteering literature and is defined as “a unique, positive, motivational construct; volunteers who are engaged with their volunteer role are fulfilled, invested, and energised by their volunteer tasks and feel the ability to express their true selves in the performance of their volunteer work.”

This research focuses on two facets of volunteer wellbeing that have rarely been explored in previous volunteering research, namely happiness and social worth. Data from 1064 volunteers at a wildlife charity in the United Kingdom shows that organisational factors—task- and emotion-oriented support—are associated with enhanced volunteer wellbeing and retention.

The researchers state that:

  • Task-oriented support could be enhanced by providing volunteers with a thorough induction into the volunteering role, guidelines on how to carry out their role, appropriate resources, and guidance from other volunteers and paid staff.
  • Emotion-oriented support could be provided through opportunities to network and meet with other volunteers and paid staff, through feedback and appreciation, access to a mentor, and awards and recognition.

“Our study has shown that engagement is an important motivational pathway for volunteers, and that the provision of task- and emotion-oriented support to volunteers is related to higher engagement levels. We found that high levels of volunteer engagement are associated with the happiness and perceived social worth of volunteers, feelings that are likely to enhance the experience of volunteering, and are of increasing importance to national and international policy shapers.”

“Enhancing Volunteer Engagement to Achieve Desirable Outcomes: What Can Non-profit Employers Do?”
By Kerstin Alfes, Amanda Shantz and Catherine Baile in Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organisations 27(2): 595-617, April 2016