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Most volunteers are unemployed and not remunerated, yet they use their own meagre resources to help their patients. As substantiated in Akintola (2008) volunteer caregivers devote considerable time to care work, with a substantial proportion working full-time, sometimes 7 days a week. AIDS care volunteering is also associated with significant psychological and physical burdens, including the risk of infection with HIV/AIDS/TB. Furthermore due to the high rate of unemployment and the great need for volunteers especially in the health care organizations millions of people devote their time, talents and energy to volunteering in different organizations.
There are different reasons why people do devote their time to volunteer work for no financial gain. The purpose of this essay is to understand what motivates individuals to engage in volunteering behaviours.
Helping is a human behaviour, it usually occurs when an individual makes significant personal sacrifice to help another human being. Human helpfulness can take on two types of manifestation; spontaneous and nonspontaneous help. Spontaneous helping situations often involve surprising subjects with an opportunity to help like helping people by an immediate decision, and only one relatively brief act of help. In contrast, non-spontaneous helping situations involve a process of considerably more planning, sorting of priorities and matching of personal capabilities and interests with the type of intervention like volunteering.
The defining and characteristic feature of volunteerism as voluntary is an ongoing helpfulness and it suggests that it may be productive to adopt a motivational perspective. Snyders has adopted the strategy of functional analysis and to inquire about the motivations that may dispose individuals to seek out volunteer opportunities.
Other expressions of volunteering are mutual help in the health and social welfare field, and philanthropy to others within voluntary or community organizations. Volunteers in hospitals, schools, religious organizations, sport clubs and other community organizations contribute to the breadth and effectiveness of services.
Review of literature shows that to be sure, factors uncovered by research on the helping that occurs in these kinds of contexts. Thus, volunteers (a) often actively seek out opportunities to help others; (b) may deliberate for considerable amounts of time about whether to volunteer, the extent of their involvement, and the degree to which activities fit with their own personal needs; and (c) may make a commitment to an ongoing helping relationship that may extend over a considerable period and that may entail considerable personal costs of time, energy, and opportunity.
To simplify these factors for the purposes of the current research, the researcher categorized these motives into being either altruistic or egoistical. Altruism is the “behavior that reflects total unselfish concern for the welfare of others” while egoism is “an exclusive concern with one’s own personal needs and welfare, rather than with the needs and welfare of others”. While the empathy-altruism hypothesis can be termed an altruistic motive, the other five motives (Negative state relief model, Empathic Joy Hypothesis, Competitive Altruism, Kin Selection theory and Defensive Helping) are egoistical because the helper is helping more for their own happiness or status than purely for the helping act itself.
Volunteerism takes different forms and meanings in different settings. The concept of volunteerism is strongly influenced by the history, politics, religion, and culture of a region, but is also influenced by the nature of the volunteers themselves (personality characteristics, lifestyle, experiences etc.). However, it is possible to identify some basic common defining characteristics of the voluntary activity: (a) the activity should not be undertaken for monetary reward, (b) the activity should not be an obliged commitment, but should be undertaken voluntarily, (c) the activity should (in some form), contribute to the society other than the volunteer.
In South Africa specifically, when asked what motivates them to volunteer, volunteers said they usually have more than one motive for volunteering. Motives noted included altruistic concerns for others and the community, employment and career benefits, desire by the unemployed to avoid idleness, opportunity to learn caring skills and put own skills to use, personal growth, religious calls and for community recognition. An alternative South African article by Kironde and Klaasen (2002) had similar motivations, such as hope for eventual remuneration, altruism, the need to do something with their spare time and gaining work experience.
Okun (1994) found that the strongest correlate of frequency of volunteering among older volunteers was the need to feel useful or productive. Volunteering is sometimes viewed as a way for the volunteer to develop skills which may be useful in a future career, or help to obtain employment, gain academic credits, or even aid career advancement. Caudron (1994) suggests that another motivation for volunteering will be to generate good public relations. Additionally, religious involvement and religious beliefs as well as displaying victor over victim of abuse or circumstances have been shown to be associated with a greater likelihood to volunteer. Wilson and Pimm (1996) discovered some less obvious reasons why people may volunteer including wanting to wear a uniform, perks obtained, mixing with celebrities, health and fitness, and travel opportunities.
The recruitment of the right volunteers has been a major management issue for many organizations. Recruitment efforts should begin with an understanding of the motivations of one’s current volunteers and particularly one’s committed volunteers, and then attempt to find potential volunteers who resemble the motivational profile of one’s current volunteers.
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