What Keeps Corporate Volunteers Engaged: Extending the Volunteer Work Design Model with Self-determination Theory Insights
Despite enthusiastic claims around the benefits of corporate volunteering (CV) for the workplace and its widespread implementation, the impact of such programs for beneficiaries and non-profit organizations remains uncertain, particularly when employees’ participation is one-off. Previous research suggests that the benefits of CV for employees, businesses, and society are more likely to occur if employees internalize a volunteer identity—that is, if being a volunteer becomes a part of their self. This leads them to sustain their participation in CV over time, maximizing CV’s positive effects on all stakeholders. This study explores the factors explaining why employees internalize a volunteer identity in a corporate context. We do so by empirically testing Grant’s (Acad Manag Rev 37(4):589-615, 2012) volunteer work design (VWD) theoretical model with a sample of 619 employees involved in CV programs, and by comparing its relevance with an alternative, extended model relying on insights from self-determination theory (SDT). Whereas we find only partial and weak empirical support for the VWD model, our SDT-extended model is supported empirically. These results show that the quality of motivation that employees experience while volunteering plays a more important role than repeated participation, as it illuminates the process of how factors such as the quality of the projects, organizational support for CV, as well as the causes targeted affect the internalization of a volunteer identity. In particular, we show that employees are more likely to internalize a volunteer identity if they can choose what cause to engage for and if they feel that the projects they participate in are meaningful. Surprisingly, we also show that a prestigious cause as well as recognition and managerial support foster a controlled form of motivation for employees, which are then unlikely to internalize a volunteer identity. In doing so, we contribute to a better understanding of how CV can have lasting benefits for both business and society, and provide business leaders with actionable insights about how to design impactful CV programs.
KeywordsCorporate volunteering Internalization Self-determined motivation Volunteer role identity
Corporate social responsibility
Volunteer work design
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Bidee, J., Vantilborgh, T., Pepermans, R., Huybrechts, G., Willems, J., Jegers, M., & Hofmans, J. (2013). Autonomous motivation stimulates volunteers’ work effort: A self-determination theory approach to volunteerism. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 13(24), 32–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Caudron, S. (1994). Volunteer efforts offer low-cost training options.Google Scholar
- CECP. (2017). Giving in numbers 2017 edition. New York: The CEO Force for Good.Google Scholar
- Deloitte. (2017). 2017 Deloitte volunteerism survey. Deloitte Development LLC.Google Scholar
- Forbes. (2017, July 14). Millennials are leading a revolution in corporate volunteering efforts. Forbes.Google Scholar
- Gagné, M., Forest, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Crevier-Braud, L., van den Broeck, A., Aspeli, A. K., et al. (2015). The multidimensional work motivation scale: Validation evidence in seven languages and nine countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(2), 178–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Lukka, P. (2000). Employee volunteering: A literature review. Institute for Volunteering Research.Google Scholar
- Points of Light. (2017). Inspiring and leading in times of change: Insights and best practices from the 2017 civic 50.Google Scholar
- Pratt, M. G., & Ashforth, B. E. (2003). Fostering meaningfulness in working and at work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 309–327). San Francisco: Berrett Koehler.Google Scholar
- Rodell, J. B. (2010). Antecedents and consequences of employee volunteerism. Dissertation, University of Florida.Google Scholar
- Samuel, O., Wolf, P., & Schilling, A. (2013). Corporate volunteering: Benefits and challenges for nonprofits. Nonprofit management and leadership.Google Scholar
- Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38(5), 1442–1465.Google Scholar
- Stryker, S. (1980). Symbolic interactionism: A social structural version. Menlo Park: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- The Economist. (2010, October). Corporate volunteering: Big-hearted blue. The Economist.Google Scholar
- Wilson, A., & Hicks, F. (2010). Volunteering—the business case: The benefits of corporate volunteering programmes in education. London: City of London.Google Scholar
- Wood, E. (2007). What about me? The importance of understanding the perspective of non-managerial employees in research on corporate citizenship. In F. den Hond, F. G. A. de Bakker & P. Neergaard (Eds.), Managing corporate social responsibility in action: Talking, doing and measuring. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.Google Scholar
- Zhou, J., & George, J. M. (2001). When job dissatisfaction leads to creativity: Encouraging the expression of voice. Academy of Management Journal, 44(4), 682–696.Google Scholar