Skip to main content

A Cross-National Examination of the Motivation to Volunteer

Religious Context, National Value Patterns, and Nonprofit Regimes

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Religion and Volunteering

Part of the book series: Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies ((NCSS))

Abstract

Although motivation to volunteer (MTV) is one of the most frequently researched topics in the field of volunteering research, few studies have compared and explained MTV cross-nationally. Using data from the 1990 World Values Surveys, this study examines if and how specific societal characteristics are associated with self-reported motivations to volunteer, focusing on national religious context, dominant value patterns, and institutional variations in terms of welfare state regimes and characteristics of the nonprofit sector. Across all countries studied, people who volunteered expressed both altruistic and self-oriented motivations, but we observed important cross-national variations in the emphasis put on both motivational dimensions. Besides the influence of individual-level characteristics, we found partial evidence for a contextual understanding of MTV. With respect to religion, we expected a beneficial relationship with altruistic motivations. While such a positive relationship was found at the individual level, the evidence for a religious national context was ambiguous: On the one hand, no relationship was found between extensive religious networks and support for altruistic motivations; on the other, strong religious beliefs among the general population were negatively associated with both altruistic and self-interested MTV. The prevalence of a postmaterial value pattern did not represent a threat to feelings of altruism, and produced mixed findings concerning self-interested MTV. Finally, welfare states with lower social spending, a large nonprofit sector with little revenue from government, and an active citizenry, in terms of a high rate of volunteering, stimulated the expression of altruistic motivations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

eBook
USD 16.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that Wuthnow more generally referred to “knowing the story” rather than dogmatic knowledge or religious belief.

References

  • Batson, C. D., Schoenrade, P., & Ventis, L. (1993). Religion and the individual. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, U. (1997). Kinder der Freiheit: Wider das Lamento über den Werteverfall [Children of freedom: against loud regrets concerning the collapse in values]. In U. Beck (Ed.), Kinder der Freiheit (pp. 9–33). Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1985). Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, W. L. (1998). The uncivic culture: Communication, identity, and the rise of lifestyle politics. PS: Political Science & Politics, 31(4), 741–761.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berking, H. (1996). Solidary individualism: The moral impact of cultural modernisation in late modernity. In S. Lash, B. Szerszynski, & B. Wynne (Eds.), Risk, environment and modernity: Towards a new ecology (pp. 189–202). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clary, E. G., & Miller, J. (1986). Socialization and situational influences on sustained altruism. Child Development, 57(6), 1358–1369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clary, E. G., & Orenstein, L. (1991). The amount and effectiveness of help: The relationship of motives and abilities to helping behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17(1), 58–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clary, E. G., & Snyder, M. (1999). The motivations to volunteer: Theoretical and practical considerations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5), 156–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clary, E. G., Snyder, M., Ridge, R. D., Copeland, J., Stukas, A. A., Haugen, J., & Miene, P. (1998). Understanding and assessing the motivations of volunteers: A functional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1516–1530.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A., & Goldberg-Glen, R. S. (1991). Measuring motivation to volunteer in human services. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 27(3), 269–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cnaan, R. A., Kasternakis, A., & Wineburg, R. J. (1993). Religious people, religious congregations, and volunteerism in human services: Is there a link? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 22(1), 33–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dekker, P., & Halman, L. (2003). Volunteering and values: An introduction. In P. Dekker & L. Halman (Eds.), The values of volunteering: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 1–18). New York: Kluwer Academic.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Delhey, J. (2009). From materialist to postmaterialist happiness? National affluence and determinants of life satisfaction in cross-national perspective. World Values Research, 2(2), 30–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dickinson, M. J. (1999). Do gooders or do betters? An analysis of the motivation of student tutors. Educational Research, 41(2), 221–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellison, C. G. (1992). Are religious people nice people? Evidence from the National Survey of Black Americans. Social Forces, 71(2), 411–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Esping-Anderson, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.

    Google Scholar 

  • Evers, A. (1999). Verschiedene Konzeptionalisierungen von Engagement. Ihre Bedeutung für Analyse und Politik [Different conceptualizations of commitment: Their meaning for analysis and politics]. In E. Kistler, H. Noll, & E. Priller (Eds.), Perspektiven Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalts. Empirische Befunde, Praxiserfahrungen, Messkonzepte (pp. 53–65). Berlin: Sigma.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gerstel, N. (2000). The third shift: Gender and care work outside the home. Qualitative Sociology, 23(4), 467–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gillespie, D., & King, A. E. (1985). Demographic understanding of volunteerism. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 12(4), 798–816.

    Google Scholar 

  • Graham, G. (1990). The idea of Christian charity. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, M., Lasby, D., Gumulka, G., & Tryon, C. (2006). Caring Canadians, involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2004 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating. Toronto: Statistics Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • Handy, F., Cnaan, R. A., Hustinx, L., Kang, C., Brudney, J. L., Haski-Leventhal, D., Holmes, K., Meijs, L. C. P. M., Pessi, A. B., Ranade, B., Yamauchi, N., & Zrinscak, S. (2010). A cross-cultural examination of student volunteering: Is it all about résumé building? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 39(3), 498–523.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handy, F., & Hustinx, L. (2009). Review essay: The why and how of volunteering. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 19(4), 549–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hustinx, L. (2001). Individualisation and new styles of youth volunteering: An empirical exploration. Voluntary Action, 3(2), 57–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hustinx, L., Handy, F., Cnaan, R. A., Brudney, J. L., Pessi, A. B., & Yamauchi, N. (2010). Social and cultural origins of motivation to volunteer: A comparison of university students in six countries. International Sociology, 25(3), 349–382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hustinx, L., & Lammertyn, F. (2003). Collective and reflexive styles of volunteering: A sociological modernization perspective. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 14(2), 167–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hwang, M., Grabb, E., & Curtis, J. (2005). Why get involved? Reasons for voluntary association activity among Americans and Canadians. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 34(3), 387–403.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inglehart, R. (1971). The silent revolution in Europe: Intergenerational change in post-industrial societies. The American Political Science Review, 65(4), 991–1017.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and postmodernization. Cultural, economic, and political change in 43 societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kelley, J., & De Graaf, N. D. (1997). National context, parental socialization, and religious belief: Results from 15 nations. American Sociological Review, 62(4), 639–659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lam, P.-Y. (2002). As the flocks gather: How religion affects voluntary association participation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(3), 405–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lim, C., & MacGregor, C. A. (2012). Religion and volunteering in context: Disentangling the contextual effects of religion on voluntary behavior. American Sociological Review, 77(5), 747–779.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Musick, M. A., & Wilson, J. (2008). Volunteers: A social profile. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruiter, S., & De Graaf, N. D. (2006). National context, religiosity, and volunteering: Results from 53 countries. American Sociological Review, 71(2), 191–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M., & Anheier, H. K. (1998). Social origins of civil society: Explaining the nonprofit sector cross-nationally. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 9(3), 213–248.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M., Anheier, H. K., List, R., Toepler, S., & Sokolowski, S. W., et al. (1999). Global civil society: Dimensions of the nonprofit sector. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M., & Sokolowski, S. W. (2003). Institutional roots of volunteering: Toward a macro-structural theory of individual voluntary action. In P. Dekker & L. Halman (Eds.), The values of volunteering: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 71–90). New York: Kluwer Academic.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M., & Sokolowski, S. W., et al. (2004). Global civil society: Dimensions of the nonprofit sector (Vol. 2). Bloomfield: Kumarian Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salamon, L. M., & Sokolowski, S. W. (2009). Bringing the ‘social’ and the ‘political’ to civil society: Social origins of civil society sector in 40 countries. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Cleveland, OH, November 12–21, 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stark, R. & Bainbridge, W. (1996). A Theory of Religion. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stolle, D., & Hooghe, M. (2005). Inaccurate, exceptional, one-sided or irrelevant? The debate about the alleged decline of social capital and civic engagement in Western societies. British Journal of Political Science, 35(1), 149–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Der Meer, T., Grotenhuis, M. T., & Pelzer, B. (2010). Influential cases in multilevel modeling: A methodological comment. American Sociological Review, 75(1), 173–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weiss Ozorak, E. (2003). Love of God and neighbor: Religion and volunteer service among college students. Review of Religious Research, 44(3), 285–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Welzel, C. (2010). How selfish are self-expression values? A civicness test. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 41(2), 152–174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 215–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J., & Janoski, T. (1995). The contribution of religion to volunteer work. Sociology of Religion, 56(2), 137–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Winniford, J. C., Carpenter, D. S., & Grider, C. (1995). An analysis of the traits and motivations of college students involved in service organizations. Journal of College Student Development, 36(1), 27–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • World values survey, 1981–1984 and 1990–1993 [Data file]. World Values Study Group. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]; 1994 (ICPSR; 6160).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wood, J. R., & Hougland, J. G. (1990). The role of religion in philanthropy. In J. Van Til & Associates (Eds.), Critical issues in American philanthropy (pp. 29–33). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wuthnow, R. (1990). Religion and the voluntary spirit in the United States: Mapping the terrain. In R. Wuthnow, V. A. Hodgkinson, & Associates (Eds.), Faith and philanthropy in America: Exploring the role of religion in America’s voluntary sector (pp. 3–21). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wuthnow, R. (1991). Acts of compassion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wymer, W. W. (1997). A religious motivation to volunteer? Exploring the linkage between volunteering and religious values. Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing, 5(3), 3–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ziemek, S. (2006). Economic analysis of volunteers’ motivations: A cross-country study. Journal of Socio-Economics, 35(3), 532–555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lesley Hustinx .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Appendix

Appendix

Table 6.3 The number and proportion of volunteers per country and as a percentage of the total volunteer population in the sample of 18 countries

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Hustinx, L., Van Rossem, R., Handy, F., Cnaan, R. (2015). A Cross-National Examination of the Motivation to Volunteer. In: Hustinx, L., von Essen, J., Haers, J., Mels, S. (eds) Religion and Volunteering. Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04585-6_6

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics