Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2013 Volume 9 :: Article 11
2013 Volume 9, Article 11
Religious Motivations and Social Service Volunteers: The Interaction of Differing Religious Motivations, Satisfaction, and Repeat Volunteering

Author: Richard M. Clerkin (North Carolina State University) and James E. Swiss (North Carolina State University)

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Volunteers in faith-based organizations play a large and growing role in the delivery of social services in the United States. Previous research has shown that religious individuals are more likely to volunteer than are nonreligious individuals and that religious individuals volunteer for both religious reasons and church-based social reasons. However, relatively little is known about what specific aspects of religious faith most motivate people to volunteer and how the differing religious motivations affect the volunteer’s satisfaction with the experience and willingness to volunteer again. We explored these questions by surveying more than 4,000 volunteers, both adults and youths, who had completed a one-week volunteer project for a Christian nonprofit organization in Appalachia. Religious motivation outweighed secular motivation for most volunteers, but a much larger percentage of adult volunteers (93 percent) were primarily religiously motivated, compared to 63 percent of youth volunteers. Of the volunteers who were primarily religiously motivated, somewhat more described their motivation in personal terms (“because it makes me feel closer to God”) rather than institutional terms (“because my faith encourages me”). Personal religious motivations were particularly characteristic of volunteers who were younger, first-timers, and Catholic. Differing motivations for volunteering affected overall satisfaction and willingness to volunteer again. Religiously motivated individuals were more satisfied than secularly motivated individuals were, and religiously motivated individuals whose particular religious motivations were fulfilled were more satisfied overall and more likely to volunteer again.

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