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Increase Volunteer Retention by Capitalizing on Intrinsic Interest

Motivation, in addition to ability, is desirable for performance. A motivated individual can be described as someone who is energized to take action. Yet, the level and orientation of the motivation may fluctuate. For instance, a highly motivated individual will make a behavioral choice and then persistently put energy and effort into the behavior to achieve a goal. In addition to variations in the level or degree of one’s motivation, there are also different types of motivation based on the underlying attitudes and goals that prompt one to act: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is an external form of motivation in which an individual may engage in an activity merely to attain some sort of instrumental value; in other words, an extrinsically motivated individual is taking action as a means to an end. A typical extrinsic motivator in the workplace is pay. To elucidate, when mass production was booming during the industrial revolution, task management allowed organizations to tailor their resources to be more efficient and profitable by capitalizing on extrinsic motivation. Organizations did this by aligning their goals of increasing profits with the workers’ goal of earning a higher pay.

Although many people are motivated extrinsically, consciously or not, intrinsic motivation is an important type of motivation. Unlike extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is an internal process in which an individual is taking action towards a goal for personal satisfaction or accomplishment. To simplify, when someone is intrinsically motivated he or she is acting because the task is inherently enjoyable and or the task engages an ideal psychological state. Hence, when attempting to inspire performance, it is important to consider the orientation of one’s motivation in order to tailor a reinforcement for the task.

For nonprofit organizations who rely heavily on volunteers, intrinsic motivation is a viable tool to increase performance and organizational commitment.

Today’s volunteers– and Millennials in particular – want to know that their service means something. Hence, volunteer coordinators should emphasize how their volunteers' service made a difference in a person’s life or benefited our community. By highlighting the downstream positive impact of one's volunteer work, nonprofit organizations will be more likely to retain volunteers.


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