Understanding and assessing the motivations of volunteers: a functional approach

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Jun;74(6):1516-30. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.74.6.1516.


The authors applied functionalist theory to the question of the motivations underlying volunteerism, hypothesized 6 functions potentially served by volunteerism, and designed an instrument to assess these functions (Volunteer Functions Inventory; VFI). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses on diverse samples yielded factor solutions consistent with functionalist theorizing; each VFI motivation, loaded on a single factor, possessed substantial internal consistency and temporal stability and correlated only modestly with other VFI motivations (Studies 1, 2, and 3). Evidence for predictive validity is provided by a laboratory study in which VFI motivations predicted the persuasive appeal of messages better when message and motivation were matched than mismatched (Study 4), and by field studies in which the extent to which volunteers' experiences matched their motivations predicted satisfaction (Study 5) and future intentions (Study 6). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Minnesota
  • Motivation*
  • Personnel Loyalty
  • Personnel Selection / methods*
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Psychometrics / methods*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Values
  • Volunteers / psychology*