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What motivates a volunteer? How do you motivate a volunteer? Why do you motivate a volunteer? You may even be asking yourself – “If they aren’t motivated, they wouldn’t be here, would they?”

There are many theories of motivation, by many respected people in the field. A brief examination may assist you in understanding motivation and how it differs for individuals, and how those motivators may affect your programs and organizations.

The most popular and referenced theory is Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, which states that people become motivated based on their needs: Physiology, Safety & Security, Belonging, Self-esteem and Self Actualization.

Examine the Physiology need – some people who are “fortunate” to be meeting all these needs may feel an empathy and hence a need to volunteer. This could be applied to volunteers who come forward during times of community disasters, such as fires.

The need to Belong, or be accepted as part of a group, can be a motivator to join a volunteer agency. Volunteering allows an individual to meet new people, develop friendships, and belong. The combination of meeting all the needs for motivation in volunteerism leads to achieving self-actualization. In summary, unbeknown to the volunteer, motivation plays an integral part in the volunteer spirit.