Motivational Needs of Adolescent Volunteers

By Schondel, Connie K.; Boehm, Kathryn E. | Adolescence, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Motivational Needs of Adolescent Volunteers

Schondel, Connie K., Boehm, Kathryn E., Adolescence


This study investigated the motivational needs of adolescent volunteers. The Volunteer Needs Profile (Francies, 1982) was administered to adolescents in a variety of volunteer settings, and data were examined using factor analysis. While there were similarities between the motivations of adolescent and older volunteers, some important differences were found. The findings are explored in the context of the adolescent developmental stage, and implications are discussed.

Research on volunteer motivation has been of two types: identifying individual reasons for volunteering through questionnaires or interviews, and through factor analysis. An example of the former is the study by Hedrick (1983) in which volunteers at a mental health center were queried. The three most important motivators of volunteerism were that the task was seen as important, it was enjoyable and interesting, and that the volunteers had a good supervisor or leader. Another example is Fitch's (1987) investigation of university students; the top four reasons for volunteering were: "It gives me a good feeling or sense of satisfaction to help others"; "I am concerned about those less fortunate than me"; "The people I meet and friendships I make with other volunteers"; and "I would hope someone would help me or my family if I/we were in similar situations." In Serow's (1991) survey of college student volunteers, over half reported that gaining a sense of satisfaction from helping, becoming involved through anot her activity, and feeling that one has a duty to correct societal problems were important aspects of their participation in community service.

The results of studies employing factor analysis have been varied. Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen (1991), in their evaluation of human service volunteers, found that all the motives loaded on one factor. Bramwell (1994) noted that three factors--Altruistic, Fulfilling, and Social--motivated older adults to volunteer. Winniford, Carpenter, and Grider (1995) reported that Altruistic, Egoistic, and Social Obligation factors were influential in the initial involvement of college student volunteers. This confirmed the findings of Winniford's 1992 study. Clary, Snyder, and Ridge (1992), using their Volunteer Functions Inventory, identified six factors in a sample of college student volunteers: Social, Value, Career, Understanding, Protective, and Esteem. Trudeau and Devlin (1996), in an analysis of college student volunteers, found that the Social Obligation factor explained 24.7% of the variance, Experience Seeking explained 10.3%, Altruistic Intention explained 7.6%, and Personal Motivation explained 6.9%. Avrahami and Dar (1993), exploring the reasons Israeli high school graduates (i.e., kibbutz youth) volunteered for a year of community service prior to beginning military service, noted the following motivating factors: Egocentric Expressivism, Nonconformist Exploration, Conformist Exploration, and Altruistic Instrumentalism.

Just as Francies' (1982) research sought to uncover the motivational needs of adult volunteers in order to increase retention, the present study examined adolescent volunteers, as they are a social resource with great potential (Schondel, Boehm, Rose, & Marlowe, 1995). It was hypothesized that adolescents' motivational needs would not differ by the type of volunteer work being done and, second, that factor analysis would identify different factors for adolescents than those Francies indicated were relevant for adults.



A convenience sample of 255 adolescent volunteers was recruited from five sites. Sites 1-3 were adolescent peer listening phone services that are available in the evening for area youths who wish to talk about their concerns. The adolescent volunteers undergo intensive training prior to participation. The first site was in a Midwestern city with a population of 332,900; the second site was in a Southern town of 85,000; and the third site was in a Pacific Coast city of 3,485,400 (see Boehm, Chessare, Valko, & Sager, 1991, and Boehm, Schondel, Marlowe, & Rose, 1995, for more in-depth descriptions of these sites). …

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