Research & Insights

Volunteers Stay When They See the Difference They Make

Many organizations survive off of the support from their volunteers.

Showing volunteers exactly how their work benefits the people they serve can keep them committed over the long term, according to a study published in the December 2015 journal Voluntas.

The study, conducted by researchers Kerstin Alfes, Amanda Shantaz and Tina Saksida, involved survey data from over five hundred volunteers in the UK.

In addition to demographic information, participants provided information about their volunteering habits, sense of connection to the organization they work with and intentions to quit volunteering. They also noted the degree to which they believed their volunteering efforts actively aided the people their organization sets out to help.

Alfes and her colleagues found that volunteers who felt a strong sense of helping others through their work spent more time volunteering. The research suggests that this happens because volunteers who believe they are helping others are more committed to the people they serve than volunteers who believe their efforts aren’t making a difference.

To keep volunteers involved, the study suggests making sure they can see the difference they are making in the lives of others. For some volunteers who have regular contact with the people and communities they serve, this is already happening.

But managers can take extra steps to help other volunteers who are engaged in activities – like fundraising – that do not allow them to directly see the benefits of their hard work. Creating regular newsletters with updates about the organization’s beneficiaries is one such solution.


Kerstin Alfes, Tilburg University, The Netherlands
Amanda Shantaz, IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS), Socle de la Grande Arche, 1 Parvis de la Défense, France
Tina Saksida, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

Posted: April 28, 2016
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