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What sort of volunteer are you? Ben Leeman

PhD candidate, Victoria University, <ben.leeman@research.vu.edu.au> Volunteering is a serious, enjoyable and rewarding community development activity as it provides ongoing opportunities for learning, facilitates likeminded relationships, benefits individuals as well as the community, and is provided freely. Volunteers are not isolated altruists: they are thoughtful, concerned and engaged citizens. Volunteers are not prepared to sit back: they take initiatives and become activists. Some care for and advocate on behalf of individuals. Others are active in human rights through working with indigenous Australians, Centrelink ‘beneficiaries’, refugees, and other oppressed people. Volunteers may become involved in protest activities, such as demonstrating their concern for the environment and the ongoing sustainability of our fragile ecology; for a fair go for refugees; in peaceful anti war campaigns; in fair trade campaigns and anti-globalisation forums. Volunteers are involved in a whole range of activities because they share a belief that another world where people really matter is possible: a world where the wellbeing of other people forms the basis for our own wellbeing. A world where the achievements of their children, just as of ours, are the future. If it takes a village to bring up a child, in the 21st century to ensure the sustainability of the environment, it takes the whole world as only countries working together can achieve this. The global warming consequences of pollution and unrestricted capitalism, the unsustainable consumption of non-replaceable resources, and destructive and terribly wasteful wars are areas of concern where socially aware and engaged citizens become volunteer activists. Values, beliefs and active participation Community development organisations endeavour to utilise the motivation of volunteers (who donate their time, skills and enthusiasm) to provide meaningful activities valued by the community. This is done not just to maximise the satisfaction volunteers may derive from their services so freely rendered, but primarily to enable not-for-profit organisations to provide a range of community services. Many of these services would not be provided if volunteers were paid, even at minimal rates of pay. They will not be provided unless of course, as a community, we demonstrate that we value the activities of volunteers and endeavour to reward them justly. Such a reward needs to be not only in dollars but also in appreciation for the innovative contributions they make. Often however, volunteers are taken for granted, and their sense of satisfaction relates to intrinsic values. Research suggests that there are significant changes in the motivation to volunteer between the X and Y generations. (Robert Putnam, 2000). Madeleine Bunting puts it as follows: “Patterns of volunteering have changed, and people are more reluctant to make ongoing commitments, preferring instead to give limited/one-off amount of time” (2004, p. 204). The recent publication of Australian Social Attitudes outlines how values and social attitudes have changed in significant ways. As a nation we have become more conservative, are less likely to join organisations, and whilst as a nation we may be materially better off, an increasing number have lost their sense of security. Uncertainty, inequality, exploitation and pessimism are increasingly reducing the quality of life of more and more people in Australia (Wilson, et al. 2006). Whilst increasing numbers of volunteer social activists who are taking up these community concerns, aiming to bring about radical change, more collaboration is needed with people trained in community development methods to develop more effective strategies to initiate and maintain social action campaigns. Frank Fisher uses the constructivist approach to describe what is possible: “once we know that we are responsible for the world we live in, we are compelled to take responsibility for the way we’ve constructed it . . . taking responsibility transcends pessimism because it shows we have the power to transform the world” (Frank Fisher, 2006, p. xix). In 2003 the Secretary-General and CEO of CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Kumi Naidoo, stated: “Volunteering is sometimes perceived to be solely focused on the provisions of support and services to those experiencing social problems or in dire need of welfare. The causes of this misperception that voluntarism only alleviates the symptoms of societal inequality, rather than transforming the bad policies, defective governance systems and ineffective resource distribution that lie at the heart of much social injustice. Social activists, on the other hand, are seen to be much more focused on the policy environment and more committed to fundamental social change” (Naidoo, 2003, p.50).

Activist and socially aware volunteers become engaged citizens because they not only choose the area in which to become involved, but often demonstrate a tremendous amount of initiative, creativity and determination to work towards achieving fundamental social change. Some volunteers can only ‘give’ a certain amount of time, but there are others who are prepared to ‘give’ almost everything. As engaged citizens, they are prepared to volunteer as human shields, participate in political and environmental protest, and risk being fined, sustaining injury and being imprisoned. Others form and/or join social movements to use community development strategies to achieve desirable change. Ignoring situations, like global warming and other environmental issues, is not an attitude socially aware and concerned people feel comfortable with. For an increasing number these issues motivate them into action despite the inaction of the dominant institutions– government, business and religious–of our society. According to Inglehart “ the basic values held by citizens in advanced democracies are shifting away from ‘material’ concerns about economic security towards ‘postmaterial’ concerns about the quality of life and freedom of expression” (Inglehart, 1997). Engaged citizens are “postmaterialists [who] are more attracted to join environmental and activist organisations” (Western and Tranter, 2006, p. 97). Community development and volunteers In our dynamic, competitive environment in which not-for-profit organisations operate, it is becoming increasingly important to understand volunteer motivation in order to increase volunteer retention. Voluntary effort by private citizens for the benefit of the community has a long history. Sociological literature refers positively to voluntary community work in a variety of ways, for instance in the writings of Tocqueville in the U.S.A., Durkheim in France, Tönnies and Weber in Germany and Booth and Beveridge in the U.K.


Contemporary developments in the field of volunteering show that volunteer work is increasingly located within the overlapping areas of government, business and private initiatives. Volunteers are utilised by an expanding range of organisations and for a widening range of activities. Until a few decades ago volunteers were mainly utilised by not-for-profit organisations, such as religious groups, sporting clubs and other community, largely charitable, associations. At the same time, social change volunteers contribute by taking initiative to enhance the quality of community life. This may take the form of lobbying, demonstration, direct non-violent action and other forms of political activist volunteering. Community organisers, such as Saul Alinsky, demonstrated in Rules for Radicals (1971) how to motivate volunteers to utilise a whole spectrum of activities, techniques, and community development strategies. Jim Ife however considers that “the Alinsky tactics of crystallising and essentially provoking conflict are not normally acceptable in community development” (Ife, 2002, pp. 222-223). Grassroots groups often reject such concerns and convert emotional energy into effective anti-war, anti-globalisation and pro-human rights voluntary activism. Often such activists participate on an ad-hoc basis, and are prepared to challenge injustice wherever it occurs. This is unlike many volunteers who “are selected, trained, supervised and managed by a volunteer agency to carry out predetermined activities” (Cordingley, 2000, p. 74). Social change activists, such as those involved in radical community development, do not always work ‘within the system’, knowing that change involves conflict. The undesirable alternative is passive acceptance of an undesirable situation. Often, those in authority take silence, passivity or inactivity as consent. Many religious know that praying for change is not enough: one has to act too. Even if that means breaking (unjust) laws. Conservative volunteers in community development also challenge the status quo, but unlike more radical volunteers usually do this within the framework of ‘organisationally approved activities’, and are often content to accept small incremental change as ‘progress’. Unlike the more radical activists they may discontinue their activities when asked to do so, or stop volunteering when their values become more ‘postmaterialist’ and more community oriented. The decline of active participation in traditional (member-benefit) associations, such as churches, trade unions and service clubs is increasingly mitigated by the increasingly active participation in human rights and environmental movements. (Passey and Lyons, 2006). This positive community development of socially engaged people reflects future oriented values, indicating an articulated concern for people less well off and a concern for the future sustainability of our fragile ecology, rather than the more selfish indulgence in unsustainable consumerism. Community organisations such as Amnesty, Friends of the Earth and the World Social Forums are indicative of this concern for people less well-off and for the sustainability of the environment. In organisations such as these volunteers are actively involved in promoting social change. Increasingly such movements are able to change attitudes, encourage and facilitate the active participation of an increasing number of people and be instrumental in achieving policy change. It is only since the 1970s and 1980s that the various forms of volunteering have received systematic attention from governments and, increasingly, from community organisations. This is demonstrated in Australia with the first national survey on volunteering in 1995 (ABS 1995) followed by surveus of voluntary work (‘help willingly given in the form of time, service or skills’ ABS 2001a); by the establishment of national and state volunteer coordinating organisations in the 1980s; by the progressively systematic academic research on various aspects of volunteering and more recently, by businesses encouraging staff to participate in company initiated volunteer activities. Training in community development courses, either as dedicated courses or as a component in social work courses, is declining, reflecting the increasingly conservative anti-change philosophy of the federal government. To be effective in community development, to marshal community interest to achieve desirable social and community change, requires skills and experience. It usually means challenging values of the powerful in order to promote social justice. The Australian government, like governments elsewhere, has significantly increased funding to promote volunteering in this period whilst defunding community work courses. This is done through the funding of volunteer coordinating organisations, such as the federally funded Volunteering Australia and other state funded volunteer coordinating bodies, the facilitation of research into aspects of volunteering and through campaigns to promote volunteering. This has resulted in increased competition for volunteers whilst at the same time the motivation of potential volunteers as to the type of activity and the period they are prepared to volunteer for, is changing significantly. Like all domains of human endeavour, the perception of what volunteering is and what it achieves is dynamic and changes over time and can be different for different social groups. For instance, nowadays few volunteers see themselves, as ‘do gooders ‘or ‘charity workers’. Centrelink beneficiaries, compelled to perform voluntary work to maintain their eligibility to receive benefits, are unlikely to consider volunteering to be ‘be cool’ nor do they see themselves as ‘dole-bludgers’ (Levy 2005). From a Marxist viewpoint–which favours the provision of services by the state and through paid personnel–church-based volunteering within traditional not-for-profit agencies was seen as “exploitation of women designated to keep them in a subordinate position” (Manser & Cass 1976, p.59). Other views focussed on ‘well meaning but authoritarian middle class ladies’ (such as the Ladies’ Benevolent Society) who were said sometimes to add insult to injury of the poor who were dependent upon their hand-outs. Comments such as ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘if society really wanted it done, it would pay for it’ (Pearce 1993, p.11) ignore the valuable contribution volunteers make. According to sociologist, Vellekoop-Baldock (1990), the notion of volunteering is rejected by many feminists. She comments that their sentiments are clearly outlined in a resolution of the National Organization for Women, N.O.W. This conference resolved that “women should be only ‘change-oriented’ volunteers: in other words, they should only engage in social action and lobby work which would help to bring about social change” (Quoted by Vellekoop-Baldock 1990, p. 4). Such radical views appear to have mellowed in the subsequent decade, partly due to the stronger emphasis on equality for both genders and as opportunities for employment for women not only opened up and but were, at least in the public services, actively encouraged to enable more women to enter the professions and compete for senior positions. In addition, the desirability of expensive consumer durables resulted in married women needing to enter the paid workforce, which led to fewer women being able to devote themselves to unpaid charitable work. Increasingly however two salaries are needed


just to cover basic family needs, further reducing the availability of women for volunteering activities. Ageing and religion also have significant effects, as “the time devoted to volunteering declined significantly after the ages of 55-59 for women in 1992 and 65-69 for males in 1992 and 1997” (Reed, McNeil and Blunsdon, 2006, p. 46). Religious participation is positively associated with volunteering. “The 61% of people who say they have a religion are more likely to volunteer and for more hours than the 39% who say they have no religion” (Leonard and Bellamy, 2006, pp. 34-35). Leonard and Bellamy concluded, “Those with a strong commitment are focussed on their religion with a reduced interest in wider affairs, whilst those with a moderate commitment are prompted by their beliefs to give time to many causes, including those that are purely civic” (ibid, p. 36). (The researchers apparently only considered formal volunteering and may have excluded other forms of volunteering). Volunteering is not a Single Unpaid Activity As shown above, the term volunteering, and the associated terms such as unpaid work, voluntarism, voluntaryism, voluntarist and altruism, have political and well as social connotations. In addition, volunteering has different goals depending on the objective(s) held by the volunteer. For instance, a typology of volunteering can focus on: 1. Providing a service as determined by a volunteer agency = formal volunteering 2. Helping out, assisting from time to time = informal volunteering 3. Volunteering to bring about change = social change and action-oriented volunteering 4. Altruistic actions = altruistic volunteering 5. Volunteering as demanded by a government agency = mandatory volunteering 6. Employment sponsored volunteering = corporate volunteering 7. Volunteering for a financial consideration = risk taking paid volunteering The following descriptions provide a useful clarification of the distinction between the above fields of volunteering, although volunteering practices may overlap and individuals may be involved in a variety of volunteering fields: Formal volunteering is the mainstream connotation of volunteering. These volunteers are involved in providing services through notfor-profit organisations and include a wide range of activities ranging from assisting and caring for people, to facilitating sporting events, to being a tour guide, being involved in governance, as a board or committee member, being a fire fighter, and many other activities. These volunteers are formally selected, receive orientation and some ongoing training, and are accountable to a professionally trained manager. Volunteering is undertaken at regular intervals, such as once a week for three hours and may continue for many years. Increasingly it also can involve periodic volunteering – volunteering for a single event, such as the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Also virtual volunteering – volunteer tasks completed, in whole or in part, via the Internet and on a home or work computer – can be part of formal volunteering. These volunteers are service task oriented; they seek to assist an individual or group with a practical activity at an agreed upon time. Only about one-third of volunteers are reimbursed for out of pocket expenses (Vellekoop-Baldock 1990, p.75-76). Of the above seven categories of volunteering, only formal volunteering is counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as volunteering (ABS 2000a). Formal volunteering often involves ongoing learning opportunities, which may enhance one’s career opportunities and employability through practical experience gained in career related skills (Jenner 1982). Informal volunteering is ad hoc, open ended, and probably the most common form of volunteering. It covers all unpaid assistance from minding a child, driving a sick person to the doctor, to informal tutoring. Most people are considerate, neighbourly and assist when needed. Some offer their services readily whilst others have to be asked, and thus the amount of involvement varies considerably. Informal volunteering includes helping out in the (extended) family. There is no training or supervision of informal volunteers, nor are they covered by an organisation for injuries, libel or any other risk. Most informal volunteering is probably provided without payment except when there are considerable costs involved (Warburton 2004). Informal volunteering is not recorded or measured hence there are no accurate statistics available. It is assumed that most informal volunteering is focussed on the here and now: on immediate needs. Clary et al. (1998 p. 1517) refer to this form of volunteering as spontaneous helping and contrast this with planned helping, which they classify as formal volunteering. Disappointingly, informal volunteering, although widespread, has rarely been the focus of formal study (McDonald & Warburton, 2001). Social change and action-oriented volunteering aims to bring about a change in a situation perceived as undesirable by these volunteers. Here the goal is to provide not a service to an individual, but an advocacy to change a law, practice or situation, although a particular individual may benefit from that change. Besides lobbying to improve human rights, or animal rights, it can involve campaigning for a more sustainable environment, or to end military conflicts, or for a fairer deal for refugees or for religious objectives. Whilst there are many change-oriented voluntary agencies, ranging from Right to Life and Pro Choice groups to home birth organisations and voluntary euthanasia associations, these agencies can usually call upon likeminded volunteers to participate in a campaign. Thus the bulk of their volunteers only participate when called upon, and such volunteering may involve conservative, mainstream, progressive or radical advocacy activities. The length of participation in any one activity can vary considerably and some of these activities involve risks and considerable costs. Non-violent anti-war protests, such as by human shields involve considerable risks. Training and support may be provided if it is within the means of the change oriented voluntary agency. For some social change and action-oriented volunteers, the costs in terms of time and financial commitment, and the risks are considerable, hence only some very committed people volunteer for these activities. Social change and community action-oriented “volunteering . . . remains under the radar because it is not counted” (Onyx, 2006). Social change advocacy volunteers are future oriented and aim generally to enhance the quality of life as perceived by them in the anticipation that most people


benefit from their achievements. Altruistic volunteering covers a range of unselfish acts, such as donating money to a charity for a good cause, to donating blood. Even after death one can bequest money or organs, provided suitable arrangements are made whilst one is able to do so. As some people are asset rich but time poor they may find it easier to donate money than time. (Govekar & Govekar, 2002). Yet there are some indications that relatively poor people give money more frequently and as a higher percentage of their income than more affluent people (Unger, 1991). The latter may focus on tax-deductible donations so that the government/community subsidises their donation in taxation income (Mook, 2005). Altruistic volunteers are future oriented and their donations have enabled not-for-profit organisations, ranging from international and disaster-aid organisations to organisation such as the Children’s Hospital and universities, to initiate important activities which, without that financial assistance would have been impossible. Altruistic volunteering can also involve various forms of formal volunteering, ranging from community work in a developing country to providing specialised Technical Aid for the Disabled (TAD). Mandatory volunteering is a misnomer, and as it is not a truly free activity, it is not considered to be a real form of volunteering by Volunteering Australia (Cordingley, 2000) and other organisations. The term mandatory volunteering is used to refer to two types of activities, one compulsory and the other optional, but at a heavy cost. A court may sentence an offender to a period of ‘community service’, forcing that person to do some form of unpaid work in lieu of serving time. To maintain eligibility for some types of payment from Centrelink a beneficiary may be requested to volunteer for a Centrelink approved organisation. Non-compliance can result in being ‘breached’ for weeks without any Centrelink payments. A lesser form of mandatory volunteering is an educational requirement to volunteer for a minimum number of hours in order to gain entry into, or pass a subject. Approved out-of-pocket expenditures are provided. It has been stated that mandatory volunteering gives formal volunteering a bad name and may reduce the propensity of others to volunteer (Levy, 2005). Corporate volunteering is initiated by various local businesses and municipal councils, but increasingly also by some large multinational companies, perhaps to demonstrate that they are ‘good citizens’. Employees are encouraged to participate in selected projects, sometimes on full pay. In addition the company may provide project funding and expertise so that the community or charitable organisation substantially benefits from this gesture. Whilst volunteering is generally linked, in the minds of most people, with organisations in the not-for-profit sector, business policies such as corporate volunteering, can benefit the community, through such activities as sponsored tree planting. It has also been demonstrated that company volunteering improves staff relationships as well as enhancing staff moral and positive identification with the company, increasing productivity and reducing staff turnover (Allen, 2003, Meijs and van der Voort, 2004; Zappala and McLaren, 2004). Risk taking volunteering is a very different form of volunteering and may be paid or unpaid. One may volunteer for a dangerous mission, such as to climb a steep mountain or allow oneself to be used to test a newly developed medicine in order to discover what side effects the new drug has. For instance, a pharmaceutical company may seek ‘volunteers’ who are prepared to have a drug tested on them – for a fee. However there have also been researchers who were prepared to test drugs on themselves, in the confidence that they were safe and effective. Towards defining the social construct of volunteering The difficulty in appropriately defining volunteering has resulted in comments by a number of researchers. According to Carson “Even though volunteering has been a distinguishing feature of American society since its inception, scholars continue to struggle with how to accurately describe and measure it . . . Defining what is meant by volunteering and what activities are included is not an easy task” (Carson 1999 p. 62). Therefore the Australian attempt by Annette Maher to further clarify the definition of volunteering, is welcomed, especially as she discovered that by entering ‘volunteer definition’ Google provided 8,250,000 references (Maher, 2005 p. 4). To define volunteering it would be helpful to look at some of the common elements of voluntary work, such as: 1. It is unpaid and benefits the community 2. 3. 4. 5.

It is undertaken by choice and is not obligatory It is carried out for the benefit of others, a community, or It takes place in an organised context Volunteers participate in designated volunteer positions only.

organisation (Dekker and Halman, 2003).

The national volunteer development agency for England, Volunteering England, intends to formulate a new definition of volunteering: “Concern has been expressed that [the current definitions of volunteering as outlined in Volunteering: a code of good practice] do not adequately reflect the breadth of voluntarism. That definition should include: activities by groups as well as individuals; reflect the diversity of volunteering and people’s motivation to volunteer; stress that volunteering is a ‘normal’ activity for people; make it clear that volunteering is not owned by any agency, but rather by volunteers themselves” (Strategy of Volunteering Infrastructure 2004-2014, 2004, p. 40).

Whilst the above description raises a number of issues, for the purposes of this Australian article, it is pertinent to consider the definition of Volunteering Australia. After an extensive national consultation process, eleven principles of volunteering were formulated by Cordingley to “constitute an integrated statement that the sector believes accurately describes the values characterising formal volunteering . . . these principles also provide a sound basis for informing social policy and guiding the actions of organisations involving volunteers”:


1. Volunteering benefits the community and the volunteer. 2. Volunteer work is unpaid. 3. Volunteering is always a matter of choice. 4. Volunteering is not compulsorily undertaken to maintain eligibility for a government pension or allowances 5. Volunteering is a legitimate way in which citizens can participate in the activities of their community. 6. Volunteering is a vehicle for individuals or groups to address human, environmental and social needs. 7. Volunteering is an activity performed in the non-profit sector only. 8. Volunteering is not a substitute for paid work. 9. Volunteering does not replace paid workers and does not constitute a threat to the job security of paid workers. 10. Volunteering respects the rights, dignity and culture of others. 11. Volunteering promotes human rights and equality.

(Cordingley 2000 p. 73-74)

There are however other aspects of definition of volunteering not included in the above points. Parker (1992) differentiated between ‘self help’ – mutual aid, friendship and transactional behaviour and ‘helping others’ – charity, philanthropy and caring. Pearce (1993) indicated that it is useful to differentiate between ‘pro-social’ and ‘altruistic’ concepts of volunteering. Does volunteering include ongoing lobbying, protests and demonstrations to influence government or business policy through community organisations that train, support and involve volunteers in community development and enhance social capital? Campaigns by groups such as The Friends of the ABC, supporters of recreational and sporting associations such as Soccer Australia and ecological and sustainability action groups such as GeneEthics do involve many volunteers and meet most if not all of the eleven criteria suggested by Volunteering Australia. All have formal memberships, provide training and support, benefit the community and the volunteers, and can be considered altruistic. The eight Millennium Goals adopted by the United Nations Volunteer, UNV, program for 2015 considers the contribution of volunteering as critical. The International Association for Volunteer Effort, IAVE, representing volunteering in approximately 100 countries, together with CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the United Nations Volunteering, UNV, continues to develop the Universal Declaration on Volunteering in an endeavour to further improve the volunteing infrastructure. Volunteering Australia summarised some of the critical issues facing volunteering in Australia and argued that “ significant short and long-term benefits to Australia’s economic, social and cultural future will accrue if government invests needed resources” (Volunteering Australia, p. 86-88). The 1996 Volunteering Australia consultation to consider the definition and principles of volunteering as understood and practiced in Australia (Maher, 2005, p. 3), identified only two main forms of volunteering; formal and informal. “One of the main differences between the two is that formal volunteering is carried out through a not-for-profit organisation or project, while informal volunteering is a more fluid activity that occurs without the protection of incorporation and the standards of organisational practice” (Maher, 2005, p. 3). Volunteering Australia was invited by the ABS to assist in formulating appropriate questions for the 2006 Census. This resulted for the first time in three questions on ‘unpaid time’ relating to household work and human care, and one on ‘volunteering through an organisation or group’ being included in this Australia-wide Census 2006 (ABS census form, questions 48 to 51). For the respondents no additional information was provided in the accompanying “How to complete your census form” booklet as to whether the ‘organisation or group’ was incorporated and thus it fails to support Maher’s distinction between ‘formal and informal’ volunteering. It appears that whilst this Census will provide useful data on the amount of unpaid work in Australia, the lack of distinction between formal and informal volunteering means that the Census data on volunteering need to be considered with caution and reservations. It suggests that the ABS would benefit from a more thorough knowledge of the issues relating to volunteering and how these relate to community development. Numbers of formal volunteers Australians volunteer in increasing numbers – 32% of Australians over 18 are volunteers according to an estimate by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2000. That amounts to some 4,390,000 individuals. Formal volunteers work on average over 704 hours per person a year and collectively contribute $42 billion to the Australian economy (ABS, 2002b). This is up from 24% of the adult population in 1996 (ABS, 2000) and represent a significant increase, unlike other developed countries where volunteering is stable or in decline (Cordingley, 2004). These rates of volunteering compare favourably with those for overseas in comparable countries, such as Canada, where 27% of those over 15 volunteered during 2000 (Lasby, 2004, p.2). In the USA, 28.8% of Americans of 16 years and over volunteered (US Census 2006) a rate that is the same as in 2002, but a 9% increase since 1989 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003). In Scotland 38% of those over 16 volunteered in 2006 (Volunteer Development Scotland, 2006, p.3). Significantly, informal volunteers, such as the social change action-oriented volunteers are not included in the ABS statistics. Only formal volunteers are counted by the A B S . Motivation for volunteering “Motivation”, according to Pinder, “is a set of forces, either weak or strong, to initiate, direct, and sustain work-related behaviour. It encompasses motivation to join an organisation . . . to choose activities at work, as well as how ‘hard’ to work” (Pinder, 1984 p.61). But motivation is more complex as it also can involve ambition, desire, drive, interest and other forms of learned psychosocial behaviour, such as internalised cultural norms. It is therefore not surprising that the early management theorists described motivation as “the ghost in the machine” (Bunting, 2004, p.92), and that human resource managers seek the ‘right psychological fit’. Richard Barrett of the World Bank says: “The only way to develop long-lasting commitment is to tap into an individual’s mental and spiritual motivations” (quoted by Bunting 2004, p. 93). Many people who volunteer do not fully understand why they give up their precious spare time. “Why, then, do people volunteer and what sustains voluntary helping?” (Clary, et al, 1998, p.1517).


There is overwhelming evidence that those with higher education and high socio-economic status are more likely to volunteer (CohenScali, 2003). Snyder’s (1993) functional analysis contributes to the understanding of the phenomena and processes relating to attitudes and persuasions of volunteerism. Cultural and social theory are helpful in interpreting social cognition, social relationships, and personality towards unravelling the complex motivational foundations of volunteer activity (Clary, et al, 1998, p.1517). The conceptual foundation provided by the Volunteer Functions Inventory VFI, explores six functions relating to volunteer motivation: Values, Understanding, Enhancement, Career, Social, and Protective (Clary and Snyder 1999, p.157). However, a frequent reason given why a person decided to volunteer was because they were invited to do so (Freeman, 1997; Severn, 2003). The changing motivation for volunteerism behaviour and the increasing preference for short-term time limited volunteering present additional challenges for the recruitment and retention of volunteers (Phillip, Little and Goodine, 2002). As many people are unsure why they do, or do not, become involved in volunteering and community development it may be helpful to consider some philosophical values and considerations relating to work, paid and unpaid, and why only some individuals become social change-oriented action volunteers involved in challenging community development activities. Cultural values, beliefs and the motivation to work Sartre argued that since God does not exist and therefore could not have given us values to guide us, “man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he [sic} did not make himself, yet he is nevertheless at liberty; from the moment [of coming of age] he is responsible for everything he does. The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He thinks a man is responsible for his passions” (Levenstein, 1962, p.136). Passions are not value-free but grounded in cultural values, such as the ‘Protestant work ethic’ described so convincingly by Max Weber “as the subjugation of one’s desire and the discipline of one’s efforts in an endless quest to prove one’s moral worth” (Weber, 1967). The idea of considering diligent voluntary work as a virtue, although not unique to Western culture, is not universal. In Greek and Roman culture manual work had no moral value. In Aristotle’s days, depending upon a citizen’s means and status, participation in civil duties were considered a virtue. This formed part of living well and added to the achievement of happiness or eudaimonia. Citizens were expected to volunteers for political and civic service of the city state. The Latin word for work, labour from the root labare, means work, but also “extreme effort associated with pain” (Beder, 2000, p.12), and gives some indication of the ststus of work. Even in the Middle Age people had no great love of work, nor was work considered virtuous. The traditional worker in the Middle Ages “worked when necessity demanded, ceased his labour when his wants were supplied. They would take days off when they felt like it, spend many hours socialising, work short days and move freely in and out of work and from one task to another according to personal inclination” (Marshall, 1982, quoted by Beder, 2000, p.14). Jewish/Christian beliefs, in respect of the expulsion from paradise, stressed the necessity to work, except on the Sabbath. The Catholic Church advocated the idea that personal salvation could be achieved through good works set out by the church. However, the examples provided by the clergy of that time, with their costly indulgences and exploitative lifestyle, were not convincing and provoked protest. Martin Luther argued “that religious work of the monks and priests deserved no special status and claimed that God’s grace was not restricted to the religious orders of the Church; that whatever work one’s work was, it was a way of serving God. Thus elevated, non religious work was no longer a punishment but was, in Luther’s thinking, a blessing, something sacred to be enjoyed” (Appelbaum, quoted by Beder, 2000, p.15). This resultant Reformation view also stimulated changes in the perception of work: hard work became a virtue and resulted in blessings and material rewards. Hard work served God, and demonstrated “one’s state of grace” Beder, 2000, p.15). Whilst the Reformation was not the only cause, “The rise of modern capitalism represented a complete turnaround in commonly held beliefs and attitudes from those held in earlier times” (Beder, 2000, p.10). These philosophical and cultural changes not only influenced attitudes to paid work, but in many ways also affected attitudes to voluntary community development work. That people would work for free is in some ways a paradox. “The idea that an individual would make significant personal sacrifices for another person, particularly when that person is a stranger, has long fascinated students of social behaviour” (Clary, 1998, p.1516). One outcome from this is the change from ‘collectivistic’ to individualistic’ (Eckstein, 2001), from ‘membership-based’ to ‘program based’ (Meijs and Hoogstad, 2001). “Nowadays, willingness to participate in volunteering seems to be more dependent on personal interests and needs than on service ethic and a sense of obligation to the community” (Hustinx & Lammertyn, 2003, p.168). Social capital and volunteering According Putnam (2000, p.287) “living without social capital is not easy”. He defined social capital as “connections amongst individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them (Putnam, 2000, p.19). Volunteering is seen to increase trust and therefore increase social capital (Onyx and Leonard, 2000) whilst “other aspects of trust have been eroded by the emphasis given to individualism and commercialism” (Saunders, 2002, p.8). Prosperity in Australia, and other developed countries, has benefited most but not all families. In fact the gap between the ’rich and the ‘poor’ has not disappeared and has grown on some indicators. Instead of poverty, a more convenient opposite of social capital is the concept of social exclusion. In Britain social exclusion has become a key component of the ‘Third Way’ politics “because it directs its attention to the social mechanisms that produce or sustain deprivation, shifting attention away from the relativity of resources that define poverty towards the relativity of processes that give rise to exclusion (Giddens, 2000, quoted by Saunders, 2002, p.249). In Australia, the importance of social capital, as reflected in levels of trust and engagement, was the theme of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform (McClure Report, 2000) and requires a reversal of the market supremacy in favour of achieving social objectives (Argy, 1998; Eckersley, 2004; Langmore & Quiggen, 1994; Pussey, 2003; Rees & Rodley, 1995). According to Onyx, Leonard and Hayward-Brown “volunteering can enhance social capital in four types of roles: developing services, bonding, mediating and bridging”. They observed, “volunteers should be central to the creation and maintenance of local networks of trust, reciprocity and the potential to solve problems” (Onyx, Leonard and Hayward-Brown, p. 73). But this is not always the case. Whilst there is renewed interest in social participation and civil society, made popular in 1995 by Eva Cox in the Boyer Lectures on ABC radio (Cox, 1995) there are other developments that create


barriers. Mutual Obligation, which compels one to perform unpaid work to qualify for a service or benefit (Levy 2005), the Welfare Reform Strategy – Australians Working Together (Commonwealth Family and Community Services, FaCS, 2001) and the recent federal employment contract legislation mitigate against volunteering. “Under the mutual obligation regime, part of what is involved means, in practice, an obligation to work for a voluntary organisation. This situation has created a strong tension since what is being proposed there is an apparent contradiction, namely the obligation to volunteer” (Wilkinson and Bittman, 2002, p. 33). Accepting the placement of compulsory volunteers also affects the other volunteers in those voluntary agencies. Why should these volunteer their time and skills when the government needs to place mutual obligation volunteers? Instead of building social capital, by, for example, providing assistance to unemployed, most of the very large nonprofit agencies have indicated that they do not want to participate. These agencies include Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul, and UnitingCare. The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services philosophises that “mutual obligation is about building a resilient and supportive society that depends upon a web of supportive relationships between individuals, families, communities and business and government” (FaCS, 2001, p.1). That is wishful thinking, as relationships cannot be forced, especially if the underlying values are not shared. Not-for-profit agencies, such as religiously based charities, do not play by the same rules as for-profit employment organisations with whom they are forced to compete. The former are person and social justice oriented, whilst the latter, regardless of what their brochures may say, are customer and profit oriented. Kerr and Tedmanson put this sentiment as follows: “Partnerships and participation are key concepts in this approach to third way politics, which depend on social capital formulation” (2002 p. 25). Levy concludes, “volunteering for the dole may actually weaken social capital. With the focus on giving the individual incentive, [compulsory] community work potentially compromises community mindedness and altruistic motivations which otherwise might be associated with volunteering” (Levy, 2006, p. 45). According to Kumi Naidoo “It is a challenge to locate advocacy solidly within community struggles and to force meaningful dialogue and partnerships with those working to overcome the effects of structural inequality. Unless these links are created, social activism will continue to face criticism about the correctness and representation of their advocacy” (Naidoo, 2003, p. 50). Linking community development with volunteering Community development benefits from sharing the skills of trained practitioners and the energy, enthusiasm and insights of volunteers with ‘fire in their belly’. It is not easy to balance a quest for job security–and the regular income associated with it–and responding positively to the community development challenge to make a difference. A concern for others, for social justice, for the environment and for sustainability is not enough. Change oriented action volunteers are needed to be catalysts and initiators of community action, to inspire others so that jointly we can make a difference. Engaged, concerned citizens become activists when they voluntarily participate in community action in the belief that a fairer, more humane world is possible where people really matter and collectively work towards achieving a lifestyle that is ecologically sustainable. Change oriented action volunteers often are effective in community development. 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What sort of volunteer are you?