A Study of the Relationships between Volunteers' Commitments to Organizations and Beneficiaries and Turnover Intentions

By Valéau, Patrick; Vandenberghe, Christian et al. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, April 2013 | Go to article overview

A Study of the Relationships between Volunteers' Commitments to Organizations and Beneficiaries and Turnover Intentions


Valéau, Patrick, Vandenberghe, Christian, Mignonac, Karim, Turnau, Anne-Laure Gatignon, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


We used the three-component model of commitment that includes affective, normative, and continuance components to study the commitment of volunteer workers to their organisation and beneficiaries, and examine how these components independently and jointly related to volunteers' turnover intentions. Based on a sample of 343 volunteers from various organisations, we found affective and normative organisational commitment and normative commitment to beneficiaries to be uniquely related to turnover intentions. In addition, we found two statistically significant cross-foci interactions among the components. Namely, affective and normative commitments to beneficiaries were more strongly related to turnover intentions when affective organisational commitment was low. The implications of these findings for future research on volunteers' multiple commitments are discussed.

Keywords: volunteer, commitment, organisation, beneficiaries, turnover intentions

Volunteer attitudes and behaviours have attracted increased research attention during the last few years (e.g., Boezeman & Ellemers, 2007; Dawley, Stephens, & Stephens, 2005; van Vuuren, de Jong, & Seydel, 2008). Current figures report that 44% of the adult population in the United States volunteers, for an overall estimated dollar value of $239 billion, representing the equivalent of 9 million full-time employees (Independent Sector, 2009). Volunteering represents a distinctive form of contribution to work compared with paid work: Volunteers are individuals who give their time, skills, and expertise without financial compensation nor obligation to do so (Cnaan, Handy, & Wadsworth, 1996), and often deliver services to strangers within a formal organisational context (Penner, 2002). As volunteers freely decide to help others within an organisational context, we need to know whether constructs elaborated for understanding the psychology of paid workers apply to volunteering. Moreover, as volunteer organisations need to attract and retain volunteers, and as volunteers wish to gain satisfaction from their activities, notions such as organisational commitment and commitment to beneficiaries may be important.

Past research has shown that the extent to which volunteers' motivations are met (Omoto & Snyder, 1995) and whether volunteering serves basic human functions (Clary et al., 1998) contribute to intentions to pursue volunteering and service duration. Similarly, research has also emphasised the importance of role identities as potential predictors of sustained volunteerism (Penner, 2002). It has been found that both general role identity as a volunteer and organisation-specific role identity are significant predictors of service duration and intention to leave (Chacon, Vecina, & Davila, 2007; Grube & Piliavin, 2000).

Our primary purpose in this paper is to look at volunteers' turnover intentions through the lens of organisational commitment theory. Organisational commitment is a strong predictor of turnover among paid workers (Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Mowday, 1998), and commitment theory has established the relevance of different components that all contribute to employee retention (Meyer & Allen, 1991). Moreover, recent theoretical (Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001) and empirical (Stinglhamber, Bentein, & Vandenberghe, 2002; Vandenberghe, Bentein, & Stinglhamber, 2004) work has demonstrated that forms and targets of commitment can combine to better explain turnover. Following this perspective, findings confirmed that stronger affective commitment is associated with reduced withdrawal tendencies among volunteers (e.g., Boezeman & Ellemers, 2007; Dailey, 1986; Laczo & Hanisch, 1999; Miller, Powell, & Seltzer, 1990; van Vuuren et al., 2008; Vecina, Chacon, Sueiro, & Barron, 201 1), persistence in volunteering activities (Penner & Finkelstein, 1998; Vecina Jiménez, Chacon, & Sueiro, 2010), and more role fulfillment (Dawley et al. …

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