With so many topics surrounding volunteer work, one has to wonder, "Who makes for the best type of volunteer?" It could be an overwhelming sense of selflessness, perhaps the desire to change the world, or even the thought of it being beneficial in the future. So an interesting question to explore is, what appears to be the necessary trait of a volunteer, selflessness or selfishness?
VolunteerMatch has a blog titled, "Volunteering is CSR" that they created to provide information for business professionals (CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility). One of their posts is titled, "Touch Your Employee Volunteers' Hearts to Engage Their Bodies and Minds" by Maura Koehler-Hanlon. She writes that people usually all volunteer for the same reason: it is something they care about. She goes on to explain that one of the strongest forces is intrinsic motivation, and that when people actually care about a cause that they are connected to and truly believe in, they do much better work. This means that when you are talking to your employees about volunteering, the cause definitely has to align with your business goals, but employees will gain empowerment if the cause is also something they care about. The blog post has a strong position on appealing to people's more altruistic emotions. One of the ways that they suggest to pull in employees and inform them of the employee volunteer program of the company is to "tell the story of volunteering" and to pull on "heartstrings." They insist that people should not be afraid to bring up the emotional side of being a volunteer.
There is another volunteer focused company called Realized Worth. They are a global consulting company that helps with CSR but keeps a focus on corporate volunteering. In their blog post, "Want Good Volunteers? Forget the Altruistic, Find the Self Interested" by Chris Jarvis, Jarvis explains who they as a company believe to be the best volunteers. Jarvis writes that people have been complaining that volunteers these days want to know what they will gain by volunteering, and he believes that this is a perfect situation. He states that people will always be inspired to volunteer by random things or people, that people will want to give back or be part of the solution, but that these reasons just aren't enough. He states that when people volunteer, they do so because they are motivated extrinsically, that extrinsic (external) motivation could be the will to "give back." However, while a person may be noble, he states that a volunteer is most valuable when they volunteer based on intrinsic (internal) motivation; having those internal motivators as well, where volunteering meets what the individual is personally invested in, is when great things are accomplished. To back up his argument, he mentions Green and Lepper. The two conducted a study in 1974 that dealt with motivation. When children were rewarded for using felt tip pens, they used fewer felt tip pens. This is because rewards are extrinsic and Jarvis argues that they will hurt volunteer projects in the long run.
The interesting thing about both arguments is that each argues in favor of intrinsic motivation, although they just have different ideas of what feelings are actually intrinsic. VolunteerMatch claims that people who want to do good are thinking intrinsically, and Realized Worth argues that it is actually selfishness that is the true powerful intrinsic motivator. While they are arguing different viewpoints, they can both agree on the fact that volunteering is most successful when people are doing it because they feel something pushing them to volunteer from inside of themselves.