Non-profit organisations involved in cancer control mobilise thousands of episodic volunteers (EV) to participate in community events such as Relay For Life, a global movement founded by the American Cancer Society, to raise vital funds for research, prevention, education and support services. Problematically, although EVs are crucial for cancer control, theory-based research on EV is scant and the determinants of EV not well understood.
Accordingly, this study draws on two traditional volunteer retention theories (volunteer process model and three stage model of volunteers’ duration of service) to explore the determinants of EV retention in Queensland Relay For Life events.
A cross sectional survey of 340 Team Captains registered for a Queensland Relay in 2013 (24% response) assessed volunteering antecedents (demographics, motives, social norm, sense of community), experiences (satisfaction, organisational commitment) and intention to continue volunteering (retention).
Based on their duration of service, EVs were classified in Novice (first experience; 24%), Transition (volunteered 2-4 years sporadically; 46%), or Sustained (volunteered 5-6 years consecutively; 30%) phases. There were no significant differences in demographics across phases except Sustained EVs were older; owned their own home/paid a mortgage; and reported more familial connections (parent/s, partner, sibling/s) diagnosed with cancer, than EVs in other phases. Social/enjoyment (β=.17) and benefit (β=-.15) motives, social norm (β=.20), and satisfaction (β=.56) predicted Novice EV retention; satisfaction (β=.47) and commitment (β=.38) predicted transition EV retention; and supporting the organisation financially (β=.31), social norm (β=.18), satisfaction (β=.41) and commitment (β=.19) predicted sustained EV retention. Demographics did not predict retention.
Three phases of volunteering were confirmed each with a specific pattern of antecedents and experiences predicting intention to continue volunteering in future. A dynamic model of volunteering behaviour that allows for the evolution and development over time of different volunteer typologies with distinct characteristics was supported.