Sabine's Writing

Research Report for completion of my Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology

Note: This report has not been peer reviewed

Title of study: An exploration into the motivations underlying volunteering in a UK-based child protection charity


Sustained participation in volunteering is crucial for the running of many non-profit organisations, as volunteers provide much-needed services to the beneficiaries. The challenge lies in recruiting suitable volunteers and their continued retention and commitment. This study aims to explore the underlying motivations of volunteers to better understand how they can be recruited and retained. An integrative approach and qualitative research design was used to develop a deeper and complete understanding of the participants’ experiences. Volunteers from a British child protection charity organisation were approached, and three participants were randomly selected to partake in semi-structured interviews. After the researcher transcribed the interviews, a thematic analysis was performed to determine the common patterns and themes. The findings of the study and the literature review highlighted the following functions of motivation: Values, understanding, social, career, protective and enhancement. Other patterns which came up during the thematic analysis were commitment, the challenges related to volunteering, and the organisation’s management practices. The most significant motivations which arose during analysis were the values, social and enhancement functions, indicated by the importance the participants placed on them for the reasons they started and carry on volunteering. One theme which arose, namely the organisation’s management practices, could be of interest to explore in future research. The findings indicated the participants enjoy volunteering, see the value in it and know they are helping vulnerable children, volunteering is a way for them to build social connections and feel good about themselves. However, the challenges which arise may impact their motivation to stay.

These results give organisations an insight into volunteers’ motivations, giving them the opportunity to tailor their recruitment and management practices to the volunteers based on their motivations and hopefully improve their volunteer sustainability.

Literature Review


Volunteers remain one of the most important resources for non-profit organisations. They provide valuable labour without accruing financial costs (Prouteau & W olff, 2008). Volunteering provides services amounting to an estimated annual cost of $272 billion (Becsi & Balasubramanian, 2008, p. 173). The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program has published multiple reports on the state of volunteering in the world; how volunteers help, and how organisations, individuals and governments can assist the volunteers. All agree that volunteering is no longer simply an act of charity, but it has become an important part of life. It brings people together, forming social bonds, and plays an important role in providing vulnerable populations with the help they need (United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, 2011, 2018). However, many organisations are struggling to attract and retain volunteers (Eisner, Grimm Jr, Maynard, & Washburn, 2009). Finding volunteers can be costly, and training them takes a lot of time, consequently retaining volunteers who are best suited to the job is a high priority for organisations (Hager & Brudney, 2008). Therefore, it is critical to identify the factors which motivate individuals to engage in volunteer work as well as to evaluate the approaches used to recruit volunteers.

The focus for this exploratory study was to discover the motivations of volunteers who work at a UK-based child-protection charity delivering a program encouraging and teaching children to speak out about abuse. The second focus was to ascertain what motivated these volunteers to stay, or what they thought caused others to leave. A qualitative study will be carried out to explore motivations for volunteering and motives affecting retention. Recommendations will be proposed to improve volunteer recruitment and their experience of volunteering. One-to-one semi-structured interviews will be conducted with three participants from this organisation, allowing for participants’ personal experiences and narratives to be recorded. The interviews will be transcribed and a thematic analysis carried out on the resulting accounts. The themes and patterns will be identified, explored and evaluated against past literature, leading to the development of a detailed understanding of the present research problem.

Definition of volunteering

Volunteering may be understood differently depending on one’s perspective or point of view regarding the definition of volunteering. According to Becsi and Balasubramanian (2008), volunteering involves providing time as well as mental, and physical effort that individuals render to charitable causes to benefit others in need (p. 173). With such perspective, volunteering can be viewed both as a charitable donation and as a unique form of consumption. Yeung (2004) affirmed that volunteerism can be both the traditional and modern as well as have collective and individualistic elements (p. 22). Volunteerism is versatile, making it open to a wider perspective of understanding. Volunteerism is a manifestation of human helpfulness that involves people offering services, companionship, and other forms of help (Clary et al., 1998). Institutions such as health facilities may need volunteer work to assist during emergencies which overwhelm the existing workforce. At the same time, some outreach projects may require the input of extra resources. Volunteer work requires organisations to plan and prioritise where they need their resources boosted, and how to match the volunteers’ personal capabilities with the required work (Clary et al., 1998).

Motivations for Volunteering

One of the critical considerations about volunteering is understanding the motivations which drive individuals to engage in volunteer work. While some may find volunteer work does not interest them, others are inspired by it and will get involved. Motivations can take the form of intrinsic or extrinsic value. Intrinsic factors such as personal ideals about social responsibility may influence attitudes and behaviours towards volunteering rather than socio-economic activities (Becsi & Balasubramanian, 2008). Similarly, participation in social networks and religious organisations may act as vital drivers of volunteering. In a different perspective, Maner and Gailliot (2007) indicated that altruistic behaviour anchored on volunteerism is more manifested in the context of close (kinship) relationships rather than among strangers. From this understanding, one can argue that the motivations for volunteerism differ depending on the nature of the relationship between the volunteer and the organisation or the individuals who the volunteering helps. Again, one may engage in volunteering as a way of boosting one’s emotional state instead of enhancing the welfare of the individual in need. For Andersson and Öhlén (2005), motives behind volunteerism include helping others, gaining personal experience, fulfilling a need for self-fulfilment, benefiting from the learning opportunity, and fuelling personal growth among others. Other volunteers are motivated by the extra time they have at their disposal and the need to fill time with useful activity or internal issues such as finding meaning in dealing with personal vulnerabilities (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005).

Using functional analysis, where they ascertained the reasons and goals which motivated people to volunteer, Clary et al. (1998) compiled six functions of volunteerism. These address the most common personal motivations, which if appealed to, will help recruit people into volunteer positions. These functions are: values, understanding, social, career, protective and enhancement. Other research has supported similar understandings of motivations, and has expanded the knowledge by exploring them deeper. Values, understanding and enhancement were found to be the most significant motivators for volunteering (Allison, Okun, & Dutridge, 2002; Chapman & Morley, 1999; Clary et al., 1998).


Volunteering could be an avenue for people to express their values of altruism and humanitarianism (Clary et al., 1998; Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Their motivation lies in their desire to help those who are vulnerable or less fortunate and make their lives a bit happier (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005; Prouteau & Wolff, 2008). The value function as a motivator predicts whether volunteers will stay in the volunteering position (Clary et al., 1998).


Volunteering allows individuals to learn new skills and gain knowledge about the world as well as use their existing skills and knowledge to enhance others’ lives. Volunteerism provides an opportunity for learning experiences and a platform to practice knowledge, skills, and abilities (Clary et al., 1998). Volunteers who are motivated by the desire to understand also want to explore their strengths and they expect to gain benefits such as self-development, learning, and the opportunity to expand their perspective and life (Clary et al., 1998; Stukas & Tanti, 2005).


Motivations, according to the social function, centre around increasing social interactions, reinforcing present relationships and obtaining others’ approval (Clary et al., 1998). Many people engage in volunteering as a means of developing better relationships with both new and existing connections and to satisfy the expectations of others (Prouteau & Wolff, 2008; Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Andersson and Öhlén (2005) attributed volunteerism to the fact that everyone needs to identify with something or desires to belong to a group. For example, connecting with others is crucial for hospice volunteers as they find approval and motivation in their feelings of appreciation and whether they fit into the environment. Relationships with the recipients and the program staff may impact the degree of satisfaction, intention to stay, and overall outcomes for the volunteers (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005; Stukas & Tanti, 2005).


The need for career development may also motivate someone to engage in volunteer work. For instance, engaging in some volunteer programs allows people to explore options and might increase their chances of succeeding in a specific career path (Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Prouteau and Wolff (2008) found the inclusion of volunteering on their resume may make volunteers more employable. Clary et al. (1998) found volunteering offered many benefits related to careers, and gave volunteers the opportunity to maintain skills relevant to their careers.


People may engage in volunteer work as way of distracting themselves from personal problems. Stukas and Tanti (2005) found that the protective aspect of volunteer work allows individuals to either distract themselves or work through their issues by volunteering. Clary et al. (1998) also discovered that some people volunteer to protect their egos from negative characteristics of the self, and assuage the guilt they may have over their better circumstances, or from other issues. Volunteering offers an escape from any negative feelings (Clary et al., 1998).


Volunteering improves some individuals’ self-esteem, can help them feel important or needed and allows them to form new social networks (Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Clary et al. (1998) proposed individuals may use volunteering to maintain positive moods. It also offers them the chance to achieve personal development, growth and improve their self-esteem. Maner and Gailliot (2007) suggested that wanting self-growth and improved self-esteem is an egotistical motive, and no act is truly selfless. Ultimately, however, volunteering still has positive outcomes for others (Prouteau & Wolff, 2008).

Retention of Volunteers

Employee turnover is a common phenomenon in most organisations since individuals have different motivations in their places of work. Research shows many volunteers are discontinuing their volunteering each year (Eisner et al., 2009). Yeung (2004) indicated that volunteerism has become more individualistic and less collective, which could put volunteers’ continuity in jeopardy. Andersson & Öhlén (2005) pointed out that volunteers may feel rejected if they are not satisfied, thus necessitating the need for volunteer support. Learning about the work done in the organisations may keep volunteers motivated, as this increases their connection to the organisation and the cause (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005). Stukas and Tanti (2005) pointed out that the perceived expectations and reactions of friends and family can motivate individuals to volunteer. Therefore, organisations should look at using social motivation to attract and retain volunteers. Additionally, negative experiences during volunteering can influence the volunteers on their motivation and their decision to continue (Prouteau & Wolff, 2008). Clary et al. (1998) found that individuals engaged in volunteer work to improve their psychological well-being would continue volunteering so long as they still acquired positive benefits.

Volunteer Management Practices

Volunteer management practices are important as they determine the longevity of the programs. Andersson and Öhlén (2005) found if volunteers acquainted themselves with the purpose and goals of the organisation and develop a relationship with the organisation’s employees, there were more positive outcomes. Volunteers need some time to adjust to an organisation’s management practices, and require continuing support to maintain their commitment. It is also vital for volunteers to voice their opinions and feelings to solidify their place on the team within the organisation (Andersson & Öhlén, 2005). Prouteau and Wolff (2008) found if volunteer administrators promoted the volunteers’ accomplishments, the volunteers were more motivated to continue. Therefore, volunteers’ skills should be matched to jobs where they may succeed to keep volunteers motivated and coming back. To achieve their goals, volunteer organisations must confront the multifaceted tasks of recruiting new volunteers, satisfying their current volunteers and promoting long-term commitment (Clary et al., 1998).

Volunteerism in the United Kingdom

The number of people participating in volunteering jobs in the United Kingdom has increased in the recent years although the average time individuals spend in volunteering has reduced. According to Payne (2017), 51% of individuals aged between 16 and 24 engaged in volunteer work for 17 minutes on average each day. Students are considered the most likely to volunteer. For instance, 58% of students volunteered for more than one year and each spent an average of 16.3 minutes. On the other hand, only 42% of individuals in paid work engaged in volunteer work. The same analysis also showed that more women take part in volunteering work per day than men. These statistics show that volunteering in the United Kingdom is present and increasing, but also changing, which means organisations need to continually readjust their strategies to best attract and retain volunteers.

Research Rationale

Non-profit organisations play an important role in providing social services to vulnerable populations and individuals (Becsi & Balasubramanian, 2008; Prouteau & Wolff, 2008). These organisations rely heavily on volunteers to provide their services, time and skills for free, to keep running the projects and carry on helping people (Rochester, Paine, Howlett, Zimmeck, & Paine, 2016). They need volunteers both for economic reasons and because there are some jobs to which volunteers are better suited. Local volunteers are embedded in the community and will know the resources available in the community, the important community members, and the central challenges better than any salaried external helper. This helps the organisation keep connected to the community and allows greater insight into how the resources and projects can be put to best use (Eisner et al., 2009). Research by Eisner et al. (2009) showed that many organisations are not successful in attracting, managing and retaining the much-needed volunteers, as shown by the drop-out rate of volunteers after one year.

Understanding the motivations which compel people to volunteer and to continue volunteering beyond their first year is critical to non-profit organisations. These organisations need volunteers, as without them the projects and social service improvement programs would not be possible. The financial costs and time investment incurred during recruitment, training, and then retaining volunteers burdens their already strained resources. By developing effective strategies which help attract and retain more volunteers, organisations would be able to use less resources on constantly filling the gaps left by departing volunteers. This approach relies on fully understanding and doing extensive research on the motivations of volunteers. There have been studies on what motivates people to volunteer, however, with changing times and demographics, all further research into gaining insight into the motivations will contribute to the pool of knowledge and hopefully help volunteer and non-profit organisations to thrive.


Research Aims

Primary Research Aim

To explore what motivates people to volunteer.

Secondary Research Aim

To understand what motivates volunteers to continue volunteering.

Research Design

An interpretative approach was used in this research study to explore and understand the participants’ experiences. The interpretive paradigm involves looking at everyday language, communication and experiences, to understand our social world. This is done by respecting and appreciating that subjective experiences are people’s reality, understanding these experiences through interacting with them and listening to their narratives, and using qualitative research methods to collect and analyse the information. This approach avoids using isolating and controlling variables and measurement to understand the information (Terre Blanche, Durrheim, & Painter, 2006). The two main principles of interpretive research according to Terre Blanche et al. (2006) are, that it encourages understanding within the context, and it recognises the researcher is the principal channel through which any information is collected and analysed.

This research followed qualitative research design, which allowed the researcher to understand the cultural and social contexts and processes which create different behaviour patterns. At the root of qualitative research is the search for meaning, interpretations and perceptions (Marshall & Rossman, 2014; J. Smith, 2015). Researchers collect written and verbal accounts from participants and attempt to find meaning through analysis (J. Smith, 2015). It endeavours to produce a narrative using the perceptions of those involved, and to understand, represent and engage with the individuals’ experiences. The qualitative researcher therefore aims to describe and understand, instead of only giving explanations and predictions of human behaviour (AS. De Vos, Strydom, Fouché, & Delport, 2011). The aspiration is to produce rich and dense descriptive reports and narratives about the phenomenon being researched (J. Smith, 2015).

To achieve this, qualitative research uses a variety of data gathering methods, and finds awareness in both structured and semi-structured, in-depth data analysis which is interpretive, naturalistic, and subjective. In contrast to qualitative research which is interested in studying subjective human experiences deeply, quantitative research aims to find numerical patterns using statistical analysis. It attempts to make sense of the phenomena in terms of variables and finding ways to control them (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The purpose of quantitative research is to prove hypotheses based on causal relationships and theoretical frameworks (Creswell, 1999). However, there are circumstances when the variables or their significance are not clear, or it is not easy to measure them. In these cases the best way to engage with the phenomena is through inductive, open exploration found in qualitative research (Terre Blanche et al., 2006).

Although qualitative data is not considered as a ‘scientific’ way of doing research compared to quantitative data, it is recognised as a beneficial and meaningful complement to quantitative research, and as a way to gain deep insight into how meaning is constructed and how experiences shape people’s perceptions (J. Smith, 2015; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Compared to the quantitative researcher who is withdrawn from the data and observes as an outsider, the qualitative researcher is regarded as the main instrument of both data collection and analysis (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The researcher may bring their own biases into the research, and so must identify and acknowledge these. This can be considered one of qualitative research design’s limitations. Qualitative research methods gather data about the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of a select group of participants, and so the collected data cannot be used to generalise or make assumptions about populations outside this participant group, which is another limitation (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Qualitative research, although deep and detailed, is selective in its findings as the conclusions cannot be generalised.

One of qualitative research’s strengths is its ability to produce rich and deep explorations into the data, therefore allowing participants to outline their own perspectives and join in the exploration. (Chacón, Pérez, Flores, & Vecina, 2011; AS. De Vos et al., 2011). The researcher, participant and reader are able to better understand and relate to the phenomena because it is presented in a form in which they can fully immerse themselves, and in a form in which they may be used to experiencing it, such as a narrative rather than statistical (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Another strength is qualitative research’s ability to identify, explore and understand the meaning individuals ascribe to situations, experiences and actions in their lives (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Information Sources

The researcher approached a connection who volunteered, as the interview would be conducted outside of the organisation and would not be directly related to the work done, approaching a contact was a more practical option than going through the organisation. They found several other volunteers who were able and willing to participate in the interviews. An outline of the information and the requirements for the participants was e-mailed through to the connection and passed on to the other volunteers. A final three volunteers who were available and comfortable with the requirements were selected. All three volunteers were middle-aged women from varying backgrounds, who had been volunteering with the organisation for five years.

The interviews were conducted over Skype video call, as the three volunteers lived and worked on opposite sides of London, and due to the participants’ and the researcher’s working hours, it meant Skype was the best possible option to ensure there was enough time and privacy to conduct the interviews. The volunteers and the researcher were in a private room in their own homes for the interview, and so felt comfortable and not be interrupted. Before the interview started, the researcher ran through the informed consent form again and confirmed that the participants understood what was entailed. The researcher also gave extra background information on herself to give the participants some context and develop a comfortable rapport.

As it was a semi-structured interview, the researcher used an interview guide (Appendix I), however, if the participant brought up another topic of interest, or they had background on anything else, the interviewer would allow for this change in conversation, and would focus it back on the topic if needed. If rapport was established in the beginning, the interview went smoothly, as the conversation could flow easier and a deeper understanding of the motivations and feelings could be reached. However, encouraging interviewees to go into more detail and voice their train of thought was difficult, and often they would rather directly answer the question and not go into more detail even after prompting. This was usually the case if the interviewee was resistant to establishing rapport. However, despite these difficulties, all the participants gave insight into their motivations and thoughts about volunteering.

Brief description of participant A

Participant A, a 56-year-old woman, lives with her husband in a middle-class suburb of South- West London. She has two children, who are 26 and 29 and no longer live at home. One of them still lives in London, the other lives abroad. Outside of volunteering for the discussed organisation, she is about to start training as a counsellor for ChildLine, she visits her aging mother, walks the dog and manages the house. Mrs JS has previously participated in other volunteering projects. She works about three days a week with the child awareness organisation at different schools. She works alongside other volunteers in order to present an awareness programme to children.

Brief description of participant B

Participant B is 48 and lives in a suburb in South London. Her three children are 17, 20 and 22, the youngest still lives at home, while the other two are resident at university but come home during holidays. In her day-to-day life she is a director for her husband’s property development company, she keeps active and takes her dogs for walks. She also manages the house and looks after her youngest, school-going child. She volunteers with the organisation between two to three times a week, depending on her schedule. Her job there includes actively presenting the awareness programme to the children.

Brief description of participant C

Participant C is in her early 50s and lives with her husband in a middle-class suburb of South-East London. She has 24-year-old twin boys who no longer live at home. She is a play therapist three days a week, and also volunteers with ChildLine as she is passionate about helping children in whatever capacity she can. She also enjoys socialising with friends, and cooking. She also spends time with her family and travels when she can. She volunteers once a week depending on her schedule, presenting the awareness programme to children from different schools.

Data Gathering

Each of the participants were contacted via text and e-mail to find the best day and time for the interview. At the agreed time, the researcher contacted the participants over Skype. Once the researcher ran through the informed consent and the other information, they informed the participant that the Skype call would be recorded using an iPhone. As mentioned, the semi- structured interviews were used to gather data from the participants. Interviewing allows researchers to gain knowledge from and about individuals and their experiences (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Participants are given the opportunity to speak about their perceptions, feelings and points of view on a topic. It allows the researcher to build up a description of a given phenomena based on the participant’s experiences (Plas & Kvale, 1996; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Semi-structured interviews allow for an open framework which facilitates a focused, yet bidirectional conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee. The interview guide (Appendix I) includes the framework on which the conversation will be based, however, the researcher is able to ask other questions and probe further, based on the participant’s responses (Terre Blanche et al., 2006).

The same questions in Appendix I were posed to all three participants. The order of questions was not always the same, as some answers led to different questions in the conversational format. The researcher chose not to take notes during the interview and instead paid full attention to the interviewee, therefore the interview was recorded for later transcription. The interviews were between 35 and 60 minutes each and were conducted in English. The interviews were each transcribed verbatim by the researcher within 3 days of each interview to ensure the researcher could recall any parts of the conversation which were not clearly recorded.

Reliability and Validity of the Data Gathering Process

The reliability and validity of data gathering is an important factor to take into consideration during the process. Reliability is the dependability and consistency of the measures, and whether the measurements measure what they are supposed to. Validity in qualitative research is considered as the quality of the measurements and whether it gives what would be considered the ‘correct’ answer, and is able to be generalised (Golafshani, 2003; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The data collected during research should portray the meaning of the researcher’s observations, which in the case of interpretive qualitative studies is the language used by participants (Terre Blanche et al., 2006).


For the reliability of this study, the researcher needed to look at whether the interviews were able to consistently measure the research aims. Administrative errors which arise with the use of non-standardised assessment procedures can influence the interview’s reliability (Foxcroft & Roodt, 2009). This was minimised by the researcher looking at past research during the literature review on interviews done with volunteers, and running a mock interview with a colleague to ensure the chosen questions were appropriate for answering the research aims, and that the interviewee would interpret them in the correct way. Questions were adjusted and added if needed. This ensured the final interview guide focused on answering the research aims and ensuring reliability of the interview.


Ensuring the validity for this study required the researcher to make sure that the results were generalisable within reason, not influenced by the researcher’s bias, and the results are replicable by other researchers looking at the same aims (Foxcroft & Roodt, 2009; Golafshani, 2003; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The mock interview allowed the researcher to receive feedback from the colleague and ensure no biases were present. By recording the interviews, the researcher could revisit the data and remain true to what the interviewees answered. The same open-ended questions were used with each participant as a guide to explore the topic. This gave the interviews some focus and allowed the researcher to validate the meanings of each of the participants’ answers. Allowing the participants to go in depth and explore details freely, without being led by the interviewer, also results in a process which is valid (Foxcroft & Roodt, 2009; Terre Blanche et al., 2006).

Data Analysis

Thematic Analysis

Thematic analysis is a qualitative method used to identify, analyse and record patterns and themes in qualitative data. The data set is organised and described in detail; thematic analysis often goes further and offers interpretation into aspects of the research topic (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Thematic analysis provides a deep, detailed description of data, making it a useful research tool. Themes are patterns which are pinpointed within the data set, and are significant to phenomena’s description and are related to a research question (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Strengths and Limitations of Thematic Analysis

Thematic analysis’s strengths include: the flexibility of its methods permitting an extensive range of analytic options; the speed and ease with which it can be understood and conducted; its availability to researchers with limited knowledge on qualitative research; and the fact that results are largely accessible to educated populations. When working in participatory research, paradigm thematic analysis is particularly useful, as researchers can summarise the main aspects of a large data set and present a rich account of it, while the participants also act as collaborators (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Thematic analysis allows the researchers to highlight the data sets’ similarities and differences, producing unpredicted and detailed insights. Social and psychological interpretations of the data are possible with this method – valuable for creating qualitative analysis suitable for informing the development of policies (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Thematic analysis’s limitations include its wide range of descriptions, interpretations and ideas about the data which make it difficult to develop specific guidelines for more in-depth analysis and can result in the researcher feeling confused about where exactly to focus, on the data. If there is not an overarching theoretical framework, then thematic analysis’s interpretative abilities and power are inadequate beyond basic descriptions (Braun & Clarke, 2006). There is no continuity and contradiction in an individual story, as the researcher cannot isolate the different accounts. Assertions about language use, and talk’s detailed functionality are not possible in thematic analysis. As an analytic method, it is not held in high esteem, often being overlooked and disregarded (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

Phases of Thematic Analysis

There are six phases of thematic analysis which the data went through, ending in a full report of the analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). These are:

  • Familiarisation with the data: Data is transcribed, read and re-read, and initial ideas are documented.
  • Generating initial codes: Notable characteristics from across the data are coded and organised, and data relevant to each code is collated.
  • Searching for themes: Codes are assembled into possible themes, and the relevant data is gathered under each theme.
  • Reviewing themes: The themes’ relevance to the coded extracts and the complete data set is examined, and a thematic ‘map’ showing the analysis is generated.
  • Defining and naming themes: Analysis continues to expand and refine the specifics of the themes as well as the whole narrative communicated by the analysis, clear names and definitions for each of the themes are created.
  • Writing up the report: The data extracts and analytic narrative are integrated, extract examples which offer a rich, convincing perspective are selected and go through a final analysis, drawing back to the research question and literature, resulting in an academic report being produced.
Thematic Analysis and this Study

The benefits of thematic analysis motivated its use in this study. The researcher listened to and then transcribed verbatim the participant interview recordings. The transcripts were then read through numerous times so the researcher could fully immerse themselves in the data, while making note of initial thoughts and ideas. Terre Blanche et al. (2006) recommended the researcher remember that becoming engaged in the data and being in a place of empathetic understanding to interpret the data are fundamental aspects of good interpretative analysis.

Initial codes were assembled by the researcher, which identified interesting characteristics of the data. Deeply understanding the data let the researcher discover themes which were at the core of the data. AS De Vos, Strydom, Fouche, and Delport (2002) advised the researcher to search for cases which confirm or disconfirm the initial themes, thus increasing the research conclusion’s creditability. Data from the whole dataset was collated and coded. The researcher then categorised all the data into possible themes under which coded extracts were organised. The themes were extensively reviewed, followed by the generation of a thematic map and the naming and defining of the themes.

The researcher was careful during the process of thematic analysis to avoid letting the analysis of the data be influenced by subjective interpretations. Bracketing was used: a process where everything we know and understand about a phenomenon is disregarded temporarily in order to concentrate on what the phenomenon expresses in the present (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Lastly, the themes were compared with the outlined theories and models discussed in the literature review to determine whether similarities and differences were present between the results of past research and this study.


Quantitative studies aim for control over all the possible variables that could confound the research design’s validity, whereas in qualitative studies we will accept and consider the variables as part of the context and attempt to incorporate them into the study (Golafshani, 2003; S. Smith, 2006; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Stiles (1993) explained that in the context of the validity of qualitative data’s interpretations, reliability and validity are associated with trustworthiness. Reliability is concerned with the trustworthiness of data or their observations, while validity is concerned with the trustworthiness of the interpretations or conclusions which are reached. Methods which ensure trustworthiness include: triangulation, uncovering self- evidence, coherence, testimonial validity, replication, reflexive validity and catalytic validity (Stiles, 1993). Quantitative researchers critically rely on the aspects of reliability and validity, qualitative researchers will use the terms trustworthy and credible instead, as they are not preoccupied with precise measurement. One of the best ways to guarantee trustworthiness in qualitative research involves using the lenses of different theories to view the data, and offering a detailed and comprehensive discussion on all the steps taken (Wagner, Kawulich, & Garner, 2012). According to Lincoln and Guba (1985), a research study’s trustworthiness is significant to assessing its worth. They propose four criteria which can ensure the data’s trustworthiness: credibility, which is certainty in the accuracy of the findings; transferability, which demonstrates the applicability of findings in different contexts; dependability shows the consistency and the repeatability of the findings; and confirmability, which is the level of impartiality, or the degree that the findings are produced from participants rather than research bias (AS De Vos et al., 2002; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Credibility is among the most significant influences on trustworthiness, and to achieve this, the researcher must establish whether the participant’s views match how the researcher represented them. (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). To meet this requirement, this study’s researcher supplied detailed and accurate accounts and depictions of the data produced from the participants’ views.

Qualitative research regards data and its interpretations as being valid and thus transferable only within the particular circumstances of the specific project, during a specific time and place (S. Smith, 2006). It was therefore challenging to demonstrate that this study’s outcomes and conclusions were relevant to different populations and situations. However, as the researcher referred to relevant theoretical frameworks to demonstrate that the data collection and analysis were directed by applicable concepts and models, the transferability of the study was shown. To ensure dependability, the study’s processes were reported accurately and in detail allowing future researchers to repeat the study. The detailed descriptions also provide readers to evaluate whether the study followed correct research practices. The researcher made sure that all the research stages were discussed and reviewed in detail, which helped ensure confirmability. The researcher made sure to stay objective during the research by regularly evaluating and reflecting on their interpretations, insights and views.

Ethical Considerations

Ethics is an important aspect of all research, it is about doing good and preventing harm, and is of the utmost importance when considering the protection of participants. Ethical principles help researchers avoid or diminish any harm, as all research includes ethical issues (Corey, 2015; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Qualitative research is often wrongly assumed to be exempt from any ethical issues and concerns, when in fact, these participants are eligible to receive the same respect and protection as quantitative research participants. Qualitative interviews pose a greater risk to participant’s personal suffering compared to quantitative methods (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Risk in qualitative research is subtle and constant, especially due to the unstructured and in-depth nature of the research, where the potential for emotional risk can be anticipated, however, the actual emotional outcomes of an interview cannot (Ritchie, Lewis, Nicholls, & Ormston, 2013). The researcher must be heedful of the impact their research may have on participants and take steps to reduce the associated risks (Terre Blanche et al., 2006).

Qualitative research should only be undertaken with informed consent, confidentiality agreements, and while using analytical processes which are meticulously designed to produce valid and justifiable conclusions. Four philosophical principles promoting ethical behaviour are considered applicable to research: autonomy and respect for the dignity of persons, non- maleficence, beneficence and justice (Corey, 2015; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). This principle of Autonomy and Respect for the Dignity of Persons is related to voluntary informed consent and safeguarding of the participants’ confidentiality (Corey, 2015; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The researcher in this study first approached an acquaintance who volunteered and provided them with an email with basic information to pass on to any volunteers who had expressed interest in helping. This e-mail explained the purpose of the research, and that they were free to decide whether they wanted to participate or not. Three participants who were willing to help were selected randomly and were contacted via e-mail to discuss the study’s aim and purpose in more detail. The e-mail explained that their participation was completely voluntary and if they wished to withdraw at any time they could without any consequences. At the time of the interview this was discussed again and the researcher obtained verbal and written consent. All the volunteers were older than 21 years and could therefore sign the consent form legally.

To preserve the participants’ confidentiality and anonymity, the researcher stored the consent forms in a safe place and was the only person to see the forms. Participants’ names and any identifying information were guaranteed to be kept completely confidential. The interviews were conducted over Skype, while the researcher and the participants were in a private room in their respective homes, so there was no chance of fellow volunteers knowing they were participating, or risk of passers-by overhearing. The interview recordings and transcripts were saved anonymously, and password protected whereby only the researcher had access. Pseudonyms for the participants were also used in the research report.

The principle of non-maleficence requires that the researcher takes all possible safeguarding precautions to ensure the participants experience no harm as a direct or indirect consequence of the research (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). This study had no foreseeable risk of psychological, physical or emotional harm, as the participants could all choose to participate and were able to withdraw at any point. The researcher was wary of any subtle risks or emotional concerns during the interview, and was mindful of the research’s possible impact on the participant, and was wary of exploring too deeply in questioning when participants raised issues.

The beneficence principle requires the researcher to ensure the possible benefits to participants are maximised (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). The participants of this study were allowed to take a couple of days to consider what their motives for volunteering were and were given the space during the interviews to express their thoughts and feelings on their volunteering experiences. The discussion around their personal involvement in volunteering gave them the opportunity to gain new insight about their motives. The beneficence principle also necessitates that society benefits from the research, thus this study endeavoured to produce rich and detailed understanding of the motivations behind volunteering. This would help organisations who rely on volunteers to develop the best strategies to attract and retain volunteers.

The justice principle stipulates participants must be treated with fairness and equity during the research process (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). No individuals were excluded from the chance to participate in the study based on any of these aspects: race, ethnicity, gender, culture, language, disability, religion, or sexual orientation. The only exclusions for participation were, age as they needed to be 21 years or older; and if the length of volunteering was longer than one year.


The participants found volunteering had different functions within their lives. They each described slightly different motives for volunteering. One theme which was not found in the literature was the role the organisation and its management played in both motivating people to volunteer and retaining them. The key motivations lined up with the functions determined by Clary et al. (1998) and were: values, understanding, social, protective, and enhancement. Other themes which arose included commitment, the challenges volunteers faced and the influence of the organisation. Subthemes were used to explore each theme further and capture the nuances of motivation and volunteering. In terms of the secondary aim - to investigate what motivates volunteers to continue volunteering - the participants all brought up common themes, touching on the way the organisation is run, and how they feel good about themselves.


An analysis of the interviews shed light on what motivated volunteering, especially in the case of awareness programmes for children in the United Kingdom. Themes were identified in the participants’ accounts, and the following were the most significant, using excerpts from the volunteers’ narratives to concretize and enhance understanding:


The participants made statements related to the value function, which relates to altruism and illustrates a concern for others (Clary et al., 1998; Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Values predict whether volunteers will fulfil their time commitment to volunteering (Clary et al., 1998).

Helping children

All three participants felt that helping children was an important factor in their volunteering.

“It’s wanting to help and do something good. Fundamentally I think all children have a right to as safe and as happy as possible childhood”

- Participant A

“Just by being there and connecting with the children you do feel it’s a worthwhile thing to do”

- Participant B

“The fact that something is missing: Children today don't get listened to. At home everyone's busy. At school, teachers can be really stressed. With the internet and kids on their phones all the time, the bullying can be all-consuming and never ending, 24/7 (..). It's just going back to basics, what we do”

- Participant B

“You can see the impact it has on the children”

- Participant C

“This child whose life’s been really, really crap basically and they’ve been able to tell you and you get it sorted for them and you can actually see the relief that they’ve unburdened.”

- Participant C

“It's seeing that the children got the message, they've understood the message”

- Participant C

“I work with children who suffered abuse, so at the time I thought there must be some way they can get help before they get to me.”

- Participant C

Doing good

“It was something that really appealed to me because I enjoy working with children. And it was such a good cause”

- Participant B

“You come away feeling like you've actually done something worthwhile”

- Participant C

The participants all believed volunteering allowed them to practice their skills and put their knowledge to good use. They also received training in relevant skills which they appreciated, and felt their volunteering could help others, like their own children, gain a better understanding of the world. These outcomes relate to the understanding function (Clary et al., 1998).

Using their skills

“the requirement is a lot of presenting... and I had just done an awful lot of presentation work to serious academics. I thought, I quite like doing that... this is something actually really useful I can turn my skills to do something useful.”

- Participant A

“I keep going back and doing it because ... know I'm good at it.”

- Participant B

Training and learning

“we have refresher training.”

- Participant A

“There's online training, some face-to-face training”

- Participant A

Because when you've been doing something a long time you do pick up on things and you do have a gut feeling about things.”

- Participant B

“I can...make them aware of the situations people are in and how lucky they are... it has been beneficial to them.” - Participant B, talking about her children seeing her volunteering

“The initial training is very good.”

- Participant C

Social interaction was a common motivation for volunteering with the participants. They spoke of wanting to have regular interactions with people, which they might miss in their day to day life as their children have left home. They mentioned the expectations or opinions of other people influenced their decision to volunteer. They also spoke of how working with other people with whom they did not connect could sometimes be a deterrent to volunteering.

“The friendship and support of the fellow volunteers.”

- Participant A

“I like working with children: They’re fun and vulnerable and quirky.”

- Participant A

“Because we work in teams there is always somebody there... to turn to.”

- Participant A

“Meeting other people is a really good highpoint. So the camaraderie that comes with working with others is good, because obviously you miss interaction with people”

- Participant B

“It’s a really nice bonus that you find like-minded people, that you enjoy each other's company and go into a nice social scene ... and yeah it's lovely.”

- Participant B

“It makes all the difference, working with good people.”

- Participant B

“If I didn’t connect with the kids and I thought I wasn’t getting the message across in the right way, then I wouldn’t do it”

- Participant B

“People do think that if you don't work or do anything that you can feel judged by that.”

- Participant B

“We actually meet the children” - Participant C, working with school-based service vs ChildLine

“Sometimes you don’t gel with other volunteers.”

- Participant C

“It’s different at work [where] you can go and have a moment without someone but when you’re volunteering you kind of have to suck it up, don’t ya’”

- Participant C

“A list comes through and sometimes you look at the list and you think [grimaces and laughs] and you think, hmmm, don't really fancy doing that one... But then there's other people and you think - Yes! You'd definitely be happy to work, and again that ... that can sway as to whether you put your name down or not at that particular school.” - Participant C, on volunteer lists

“Something I find interesting is if you are overvalued... that can come across false.... I don’t want somebody to keep telling me I’m wonderful. I want someone now and again saying yeah great job and next week we’re doing this not keep saying how wonderful you all are, because then you think I don’t believe that.”

- Participant A

Although volunteering was only directly related to one participant’s career, the other two participants touched on building a new path in volunteering, and using skills originally developed for a past career within their volunteering.

“I am about to start training for the ChildLine help line.”

- Participant A

“I also volunteer for ChildLine”

- Participant B

“I already work with children as I'm a play therapist...”

- Participant C

“It just ties in with my work... they sort of dovetail into each other, so it definitely does help” - Participant C, on how her work and volunteering help each other


The participants spoke of volunteering as a way for either themselves or others to work through past trauma or personal issues, which relates to the protective function (Clary et al., 1998).

“You find quite a few people have suffered abuse themselves as children. So I think that motivates a lot of the adults because they don’t want what happened to them, happening to other children.”

- Participant C

“Within our own personal family... I lost a [family member]... [they’d] been badly bullied at school.” - Anonymous participant


The participants all expressed how volunteering made them feel good, boosted their mood, gave them a chance to work on their self-development and made them feel valued, linking to the enhancement function (Clary et al., 1998).

“We come away feeling good”

- Participant A

“Do it for the right reasons but it actually gives us almost a high”

- Participant A

“Making a donation is great but if you are the type of personality that can do something practical don’t be ashamed of saying: actually, that made me feel good.”

- Participant A

“I’ve found it makes me happier”

- Participant B

“Not being motivated by money all the time and just doing something good makes you feel good.”

- Participant B

“It’s quite addictive doing something for other people. You do get so many benefits from it. It makes me feel happy and valued and I'm doing something worthwhile.”

- Participant B

“[a low point is] Possibly when people ask what do you do and you say, it's a voluntary thing... people don't think it's worthwhile.”

- Participant B

“I think it's nice that my kids see me doing something positive. Not being motivated by money all the time and just doing something good makes you feel good.”

- Participant B

“It makes you feel good about yourself”

- Participant C

“I feel quite proud [smiles] very proud actually [laughs and smiles]” - Participant C, on telling other people she volunteers

“Could probably be why people do stop volunteering... A lot of volunteers as well do get a bit fed up with the way they’re treated. They don’t feel very valued”

- Participant C

“They wouldn’t carry on volunteering if they weren’t getting something back.” - Participant C, on other volunteers


The participants all spoke of their commitment to the programme and what kept them going. They also mentioned what influenced people to stop volunteering. The flexibility was important, as was the commitment required. This theme relates to the secondary aim of looking at what motivated volunteers to carry on in their roles.

Facilitated their committed

“It’s linked with the schools, we get the long holidays”

- Participant A

“This keeps us allows us to have our own lives around that.”

- Participant A

“The flexibility is really important.”

- Participant A

"It’s good that this fits into my day. I can pick and choose the times.”

- Participant B

“It's never the same(..) And that's another positive thing about it: You can never get bored of doing it because every child's different and every school's different.”

- Participant B

Hindered their commitment

“Volunteer fatigue... it’s at about the two year point”

- Participant A

“If you don’t feel valued and supported then you will not carry on because some days are difficult.”

- Participant A

“They might find that the work isn’t what they thought it would be or what they hoped it would be.”

- Participant A

“I don’t know what causes volunteer fatigue? Lack of support? Boredom?”

- Participant A

“That's why I stuck with it for so long because I do think it's very beneficial - but only the way that we do it. If it changes, then you lose the whole essence of the interaction and the key reason why we are motivated to do it in the first place.” - Participant B, on stricter script guidelines

“It's hard because so many people are motivated by money, and stuff. It's difficult for people, sometimes, because they are so caught up with that and don't have spare time”

- Participant B

“I hadn’t got the time and commitment, because it’ a lot of training... that’s it and they’re gone. So I think you need to know that you can have that commitment to stay."

- Participant C

“It’s just time isn't it. Whether it's School, or uni, or working or if you do get any free time you want to go out partying really” - Participant C, on young people volunteering


Challenges to volunteering brought up by the participants were related to practical issues, as well as emotional concerns. They believed the challenges had varying impacts on the retention of volunteers in their organisation.

Practical issues

“We can have issues about getting to school. The trains are all messed up and or you get to school and ... the school is completely changed your timetable or they’re not expecting you and if you then don’t have the support behind you-you get [throws hands up] ah, I just can’t be bothered, I can’t deal with this”

- Participant A

“Getting to where we’re supposed to be on time... transport challenges.”

- Participant A

“The attitude of the school and the staff... if teachers aren’t managing their children...we’re not classroom managers.”

- Participant A

“I just feel you might as well put a video on and let the kids sit and watch that, as opposed to having the one-to-one. It's so prohibitive. You have to be so careful of everything you say.” - Participant B, on the scripts

“It is so difficult when it goes to court”

- Participant B

“They’re asking people to do this training but if you can’t access the training [website], how can you do the training”

- Participant C

Emotional concerns

“challenging behaviour from children or if a child says something and you think I have no idea how to answer that... and sometimes what we hear is challenging. If a child has a problem. It can be challenging to hear that in terms of resilience in our own emotional reaction.”

- Participant A

“A lot of people feel that their problems should be kept in their head and that if a child has to call ChildLine that’s a failure.”

- Participant A

“You're talking to a couple of hundred children at an assembly ... they come out with all sorts of different things and interpretations on what you're asking them, they can go off on a different track, it's difficult to stick to the script... it’s been brought in that you’re not allowed to deviate from it and have to say only exactly what is on the script”

- Participant B

“I find it difficult because I think the important factor is that the kids are looking at you and they trust you and they can tell that what you're saying comes from the heart, rather than you standing there, reading a script.”

- Participant B

“It can be exhausting because they can sometimes be boisterous and not want to sit and listen to you.”

- Participant B
Organisation’s Management Practices

The way the organisation was run and how the volunteers were treated was important to the participants. If the organisation is run well and the managers are receptive and good, then the participants found this to be a motivating factor to stay (Stukas & Tanti, 2005). Equally, if the treatment was not what they expected, this was a demotivating factor.

“I believe in the program we run... it’s well-structured, it’s directed in the right way and it works”

- Participant A

“Our coordinator is good and he’s a good people manager and understands the makeup of the volunteers that they’re working with... makes a huge difference”

- Participant A

“Then if we want to talk about it, there is always somebody that can talk about it afterwards.” - Participant A, on supervising and support

“Listening to us when [we have] input into something, to actually listen, and not disregard what we say because we are the ones on the ground.”

- Participant A

“We’re very clear we need their support. If we don’t have the support then we can take that further up the line...”

- Participant A

“I think as an organisation, I feel they’re quite good. But depending on personalities of people that are directly in charge or supervising, it can make a big difference to how you feel it’s going.”

- Participant B

“Every organisation needs volunteers and if it wasn’t for volunteers a lot of charities would just collapse and fold.”

- Participant C

“Their organisation skills, not skills but [sigh] they don’t always get everything going as it should get going. They could do a bit more organisation further up”

- Participant C

“I don't think [the organisation] actually values the volunteers as much sometimes as they should do, I think sometimes they just take you for granted.”

- Participant C

“You sort of think well I’m giving up my time, and the least they could do is um get things in place and sorted.”

- Participant C

The Researcher Reflexivity

Reflexivity is an important process the researcher must go through. It is the acknowledgment and exploration of the researcher’s position and influence on the research process, and an insight into how their beliefs, biases and frames of reference may impact their research (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). In line with the nature of qualitative research, the researcher needed to be aware of their effect on the research, its outcomes and on the participants.

I have done a lot of volunteering growing up, through school, university and of my own volition, and I have also worked with children in school situations. I felt these experiences would be beneficial within the research and would help enrich my understanding and connection with the participants. This would help me reach deeper and more complex insights in the results.

The process of this research was a positive experience for me. Although I was nervous before the first interview, I was lucky that the first participant was easy to chat to and was happy to talk and give me deeper insights into their experience. This first positive experience helped me feel more confident with the next interviews where I had to be more proactive in encouraging the dialogue. The interviews allowed me to practice my active listening skills as well as learn how to connect empathetically with participants even in the short period of time. I have gained a better understanding of the interview and research process, and recognise the value of thematic analysis and its contribution to creating knowledge. I enjoyed speaking to the participants and giving them the space to communicate their thoughts and feelings on their motivations to volunteer – a topic most of them had not deeply considered before.



Volunteering is a widespread and important resource, where people give their time, energy and skills to causes they believe in and to vulnerable people. Understanding the motivations essential to volunteerism is becoming more necessary with the growing importance and need for volunteers in non-profit organisations. Identifying volunteers’ motivations allows organisations to create effective recruitment programs and find the best ways to retain their existing volunteers. This study’s aim was to explore the motivations behind volunteering. Participants highlighted several of the motivations related to their volunteering experiences.

Summary of Research Findings

This research and the analysis of the participants’ experiences revealed the values function was a prominent motivation for volunteers. All three participants reported that the reason they started volunteering, and carried on, was because it was for a good cause. Research by Clary et al. (1998) also supports this for the larger population. The social motive was also a good predictor of the participants’ motivation to volunteer and continue volunteering. They all spoke of how they loved meeting the other volunteers, interacting with the children, and really appreciated the support they received from the group of volunteers they worked with. Likewise, the enhancement function was a big motivator for volunteers, as they all mentioned how happy volunteering made them feel, and the importance of feeling good and valued in their motivation to stay. These findings are inconsistent with the previous research which found the significant motivators to be values, understanding and enhancement (Allison et al., 2002; Chapman & Morley, 1999; Clary et al., 1998). The understanding function did not feature strongly, however, the values and enhancement functions were noticeable in this study.

The career and protective functions also did not feature prominently in this study. Other research supports this underperformance of the protective function, as it does tend to be a weaker or less common motivator (Allison et al., 2002; Chapman & Morley, 1999). The other themes which arose, pertaining to how the organisation was run, what influenced the volunteers’ commitment, and the challenges they faced, although not previously explicitly discussed, did link to aspects of past research. The treatment of volunteers by the organisation was discussed by Andersson and Öhlén (2005), and was shown to have a large impact on whether volunteers continued, a theme which also arose with the participants of this study.

Significance of Research Findings

This study’s findings confirm the most important motivations to potential volunteers. Organisations should use this information to ensure their recruitment and retention messages for volunteers focus on the three most prominent motivations: values, social and enhancement.

Organisations should ensure they share the positive outcomes of volunteering, outlining how the volunteers can help others and society, appealing to their need to ‘do good’. They should also encourage current volunteers to promote volunteering to their friends and family, using the social function as a motivation to volunteer. They could also promote volunteering as a way to meet people, appealing to those who are searching out these opportunities. Lastly, the organisation could give the volunteers a platform where they can celebrate their successes, and encourage them to embrace the outcome of ‘feeling good’ after their volunteering, linking to the enhancement function.

Furthermore, relating to the other themes raised with respect to motivation and retention, organisations should ensure their coordinators and administrators treat the volunteers with respect and acknowledge their value. They should evaluate their management practices, as it is important to ensure the volunteers are happy with the work they are doing and the work the organisation is doing. As an example, Participant B was very demotivated to carry on volunteering if the organisation enforced a stricter adherence to the scripts, which she felt would hinder the work they did. The organisation would also boost their volunteer retention if they found ways to minimise the challenges involved in getting to volunteering placements, and made sure the time commitment for volunteers is flexible.

In conclusion, understanding the motivations which drive volunteers to start and carry on volunteering offers organisations unique insights into the most effective ways to promote participation, create positions which satisfy volunteers’ interests, and improve the volunteers’ longevity.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

The use of a qualitative research design for this study is considered as a strength, as the research could investigate the topic in enough depth to gain a proper understanding of the phenomena and produce meaningful results (Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Open-ended questions benefited the study, as the participants’ narratives and thoughts regarding their motives were completely genuine, rather than being suggested responses found in questionnaires, allowing for true consideration of the participants’ statements. The semi-structured open questions gave the researcher the freedom to ask follow up questions, allowing for a more in-depth look into the participants’ perspectives (Chacón et al., 2011; Terre Blanche et al., 2006). Thematic analysis’s flexibility enhanced the strength of the study, as the researcher had the chance to use different types of research questions relating to the participants’ views, and perceptions in addition to questions digging deeper into understanding, representation and creating meaning (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The small size and nature of the study could also be considered a strength, as having only three participants ensured the study was cost effective and was not time consuming.

The study’s size was also a limitation, three participants from one volunteer organisation is considered a small sample, meaning the findings cannot be generalised to other organisations. The participants were also all female, in the age bracket of 45 – 60 years old, and ethnically and culturally British, which is the common specification of volunteers in the organisation, does not take into account the perspectives of the many other volunteers differing in age, culture and gender. Further research should be done to gather information from a larger sample and a bigger variety of volunteers. Finally, although some motivations were mentioned more often by the participants, a qualitative study does not measure the strength of the motivations, and so a quantitative study would be more appropriate to evaluate the motivations’ strengths.

Recommendations of Future Research

Future research should focus on how these findings can be translated into actionable steps to motivate and retain volunteers. Qualitative studies could be done to explore volunteers’ motives further, and quantitative studies could be used to further analyse the motivations. Examples could be a comprehensive qualitative gathering of volunteers’ experiences, and a quantitative analysis of how these experiences affect motivation and retention. Research should be done into how the organisation’s management practices affect volunteers’ motivation, as this does have an impact on retention. As mentioned, a more extensive study including more volunteers from different genders, ages, ethnicities and cultures should be done, in order to create more generalisable results and recommendations.

As this study focused on volunteers in the United Kingdom, due to the researcher’s circumstances, it could be worth looking into how motivations differed between the United Kingdom and South Africa. Individuals’ daily experiences and what they are exposed to differ between the two countries, and between contexts all over the world. It might be interesting to see whether the setting one lives in will impact one’s motivation to volunteer. In South Africa, one is constantly confronted with true poverty and vulnerability, while in the United Kingdom, these aspects of life can be avoided. Research into how the environment can influence one’s motivations to volunteer could help organisations better tailor their volunteer programs. Although this study had its limitations, it has contributed to our understanding of volunteers’ motivations. Continued research on this topic is important, and will assist organisations and charities in helping as many vulnerable populations as possible.


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Appendix I: Questions

Unstructured Interview Questions
  1. Please tell me what motivates you to do volunteer work?
  2. For how long have you been volunteering?
  3. Why did you start volunteering?
  4. Why do you keep on doing this work?
  5. What are some of the low and high points of your voluntary work?
  6. What have been some of the challenges you have faced whilst doing voluntary work and how did you cope with these challenges?
  7. How do you feel when you do this voluntary work?
  8. Why did you choose this particular organisation?
  9. What do you get out of this voluntary work?
  10. Will you encourage other people to also do this and why?