Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Factors in Volunteer Turnover at Nonprofit Organizations: A Study of Lifeline in Taiwan

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Factors in Volunteer Turnover at Nonprofit Organizations: A Study of Lifeline in Taiwan

Article excerpt


Volunteers are a group of people willing to provide services and work without pay. The lack of financial incentives and benefits may cause the volunteers to leave at anytime. Most non-profit organizations invest large amounts of time and money to train the volunteers before they come on board; therefore the turnover of volunteers will cause a significant loss for the organization.

This paper is a study on Lifeline in Taiwan; it explores the major reasons for turnover by using a survey on volunteers at 10 Lifeline branches. The results show that although the volunteers have different characteristics, there is no significant difference in the turnover factors or intentions. Through regression, the three factors, leadership style, volunteer assistance programs, incentive programs, have no significant effect on the turnover intention. Finally, this paper makes some practical management suggestions.

Keywords: leadership style, volunteer assistance programs, incentive programs, turnover intention

1. Introduction

Volunteers are persons who contribute their personal professional knowledge, ability, labor, experience, skill and time to public affairs and social benefits. The main difference between volunteers and employees is salary/payment. Therefore, it is very possible for volunteers to leave as there is no binding contract or financial incentive. In the United States, one out of two people have been volunteers (Silverberg, et al., 2001). In Taiwan, about 15% of the population has been involved in the volunteer services at some time. The trend shown is one of increasing numbers of volunteers and their increasing importance.

No matter whether it is in the private or public sectors, many organizations rely on the assistance of volunteers, especially the public sector which faces a shortage of human resources and financial resources. Many of the government sectors have started to train volunteers to complete a variety of tasks. Volunteers can not only maintain or even provide more services, but also save resources in the organization. On the other hand, the departure of volunteers will cause losses for the organization. Generally speaking, turnover usually causes a negative impact on the organization, and the cost of employees voluntarily leaving is up to two times their annual salaries (Philips, 1990). Since there is no payment or binding contract for volunteers, the turnover rate is higher. In order not to reduce the impact of volunteers leaving, management should know more about the reasons for their departure.

There are many reasons for leaving a job, such as worker dissatisfaction (Lu, White and Louise, 2005) and personal reasons (Lee, 2005). Are the reasons for leaving the same for volunteers as they are for general employees? For example, personal reasons: in Lifeline, volunteers mainly play the role of the psychological consular, but still have their own personal issues, such as family, marriage, work and feelings. These are also important factors for consideration by volunteer management.

Among all the factors of turnover discussed in this study, leadership (which has been the common turnover factor in general organizations), volunteer assistance programs and the incentive program require greater consideration. Management of volunteers should be different from general employee management.

We chose Lifeline Taiwan as the study target, and explored the causes of leaving, as well as the correlations of factors. Lifeline Taiwan is an organization providing 24-hour services, 7 days per week. It needs many volunteers to assist in its operation. However, the training takes a long time, a significant amount of effort and much human capital. The whole training process contains four phases and takes about nine months. Therefore, the turnover creates tangible losses as well as the invisible loss of labor relocation. From the motivation mentioned above, we would like to do more research on volunteers' thoughts and determine the causes of departure, and finally discuss how to handle and prevent it. …

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