A STUDY AND ANALYSIS OF THE VARIABLES DETERMINING THE RETENTION BEHAVIOR OF VOLUNTEERS
The purpose of this dissertation is to identify those determinants of volunteer behavior which could be included in a meaningful process of planning for volunteer retention. By the comparison of the motivation for paid and unpaid for work, it was demonstrated that volunteer activity could be brought within the framework of exchange theory. The volunteers of a small, non-profit organization in the Washington Metropolitan Area were used as the data base. These subjects had tutored under the auspices of this agency during the years 1972-1978. The examination and analysis of the socio-economic characteristics of this volunteer population revealed that these variables could not be regarded as valid indicators of participation in the volunteer enterprise nor as factors determining the length of service. It was found that this volunteer population was in a state of transition and that it was becoming one more representative of the overall American population. The administration of a research instrument, developed for the purpose, to a random sample of the population studied disclosed certain themes permeating the responses of the subjects. These were conceptualized under the rubric of the four wishes of W. I. Thomas for security, new experience, response, and recognition. Five components of the satisfaction of these wishes were quantified for the responses. From these, an index was developed which was projected against the longevity of service. This resulted in the identification of the fulfillment of these needs/wishes as potent factors in the retention of volunteers. The respondents' perceptions of such wish/need fulfillment were consistently positively correlated with their length of service. Some tangible suggestions are offered for the modification of existing policy in the relationships between agencies and the volunteers affiliated with them. These include greater volunteer acceptance by staff, equality with staff, recognition, and provision for interaction among volunteers.