Factors that Motivate YMCA Volunteers

Theresa Lubke, Western Kentucky University


The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is a not-for-profit organization that depends heavily on volunteers. As one of many such organizations, the YMCA must continually strive to find the best methods of recruiting and retaining volunteers. Although the field of psychology has done considerable research on what motivates people to engage in helping behavior and Volunteerism, there has been little applied research in this area. There appeared to be a lack of applicable research that would assist YMCA staff in their recruitment and development of volunteers. This present research focused on helping to fill that gap. The purpose of this study was twofold: 1) to determine what factors initially motivate people to volunteer for a YMCA and 2) to determine what factors motivate YMCA volunteers to continue that work. With the aid of a panel of experts, a survey instrument was developed for serve as the data gathering tool. A total of 720 surveys were sent to YMCAs to distribution to volunteers over two different periods of time. The first period, November 1992, 120 surveys were sent to three YMCAs in Kentucky and Tennessee. The second period, September 1995, 600 surveys were distributed to 20 YMCAs in Ohio and Michigan. The volunteers completed a survey providing demographic data on the volunteers, the type of volunteer service they provided, and factors motivating them to volunteer. One hundred and twenty six responses were collected from volunteers representing ten of the selected YMCAs throughout the test region. The data collected from these surveys were analyzed using statistical software. The most frequent participants were males between the ages of 35 to 40 and were married with 2.3 children ranging in age from six months to 14 years. The volunteer was employed and worked 41 or more hours per week. For those respondents who had been volunteering for the YMCA for 15 or more years, the strongest motivating factor was the same as those who had volunteered for less than one year: the individual respondent liked helping people. The second most motivating factor was the same for both groups: caring and concern for others. Based on the findings of the study the researcher recommended the following: YMCA's needing volunteers should ask people to volunteer; YMCA's should emphasize that the volunteer work will help others, improve the community, and is an expression of caring and concern for others; YMCA's should design volunteer positions such that the volunteer is helping others, feels needed and is able to fulfill the position during his/her leisure time. In addition, further research needs to be conducted involving a larger volunteer sample.