Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Can tailored communications motivate volunteers? A field experiment

Al-Ubaydli, Omar and Lee, Min (2011): Can tailored communications motivate volunteers? A field experiment.

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Abstract

Over 25% of the US population volunteers. Clary et al. (1998) devised a survey that identifies a volunteer’s primary motive for volunteering. We investigate the effect of tailoring the communications that volunteers receive from their organizations (e.g., printed newsletters, update emails) to each volunteer’s stated motive for volunteering affects volunteer performance. We find that in general, such tailoring has no effect, but that for volunteers who are motivated primarily by the pursuit of career-related benefits, such tailoring can have a substantial, positive effect on hours volunteered. We also find that the (in)effectiveness of this tailoring does not depend upon the volunteers’ knowledge of the tailoring. The tailoring of communications does not involve the explicit manipulation of material incentives. This renders it particularly attractive given the emergence of evidence on how extrinsic incentives can crowd out intrinsic incentives, especially in the domain of charitable contributions.

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