Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Nonprofit Motivation Behavior and Satisfaction

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Nonprofit Motivation Behavior and Satisfaction

Article excerpt


Are employees of nonprofit organizations motivated differently than those in for profit organizations? The impact of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and supervisor style is examined in several nonprofit social service organizations. Surprising results indicate that intrinsically motivated employees were the least satisfied but were more likely to be able to clearly describe their supervisor's style, while extrinsically motivated employees were more satisfied with their supervisor regardless of style.


Nonprofit organizations are increasingly adopting mainstream motivation approaches for performance and satisfaction improvements. However, a growing number of studies have suggested that nonprofits differ in several respects. For example, the availability of certain motivational rewards may be limited (Boezeman & Ellemers, 2007); they may have a disproportionate number of employees that are intrinsically motivated (Leete, 2000); and nonprofit employees may respond more favorably to specific types of leader behaviors (Zeffane, 1994). Aspects of job satisfaction have also been shown to be unique (Gagne & Deci, 2005). So, if nonprofits are different, how might the interaction of motivation, leadership and satisfaction differ in this environment?

Where current understanding might not be complete is the interplay of motivation, leadership and satisfaction. Increasingly studies have focused on the effect that some psychological variables have on both extrinsic motivation (motivation caused by rewards external to the job) and intrinsic motivation (motivation caused by internal feelings and rewards offered by the job). This is particularly noteworthy given that part of the attraction to nonprofits is that the nature of the work is often intrinsically satisfying and research suggests that nonprofits attract employees that are intrinsically motivated (Leete, 2000; Zeffane, 1994). This raises questions concerning the application of techniques to motivate and retain employees in this environment. Intrinsic rewards may complicate the relationship between employees and their leader to the point that leader influence may be compromised if an inverse relationship appears between the intrinsic aspects of the reward and the control effectiveness of the leader.

This article attempts to further our understanding by examining the moderators of leader effectiveness in nonprofit organizations.


Leader Approach:

Research on variables that moderate leader effectiveness is well grounded in early theories such as Path-Goal theory (House, 1971) where initiating structure and consideration behaviors were moderating variables. Later research (Kerr & .fermier, 1978) followed with an expanded model that included several variables of the task, subordinates, and the organization. Included in the list is a person's need for independence and indifference toward organizational rewards (subordinate characteristics) and intrinsically satisfying tasks (task characteristic). Intrinsically motivating work was also identified as a potential moderator of leader effectiveness by Yukl (1981). Childers, Dubinsky and Skinner (1990) and Holdnak, Harsh and Bushardt (1993) examined leader behavior style and job satisfaction; while Anderson, Madlock and Hoffman (2006) linked leaders behavior to group satisfaction. Pool (1997) examined leader style with motivation and Zhang (2010) examined the relationship of empowering leadership and the impact on intrinsic motivation and performance. While much research contends that a supervisor's style has an effect on employee behavior, the effect of employee characteristics on this relationship and subsequent performance and satisfaction is largely unknown.

Intrinsic - Extrinsic Motivation: People engage in organizational activities for a number of reasons including monetary, self satisfaction, felt obligation, and social. While some people may enjoy the satisfaction of the process, others derive fulfillment from task accomplishment. …

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