Volunteer Motives

In addition to understanding the general profile of literacy volunteers presented in the Literacy Volunteers section of this website, volunteer managers will benefit from understanding what motivates people to volunteer in community literacy organizations.

Consider the following quotes from Ontario literacy volunteers:

  • "I became a literacy volunteer because I wanted to give to others the gift that had been given to me - the lifelong pleasure of reading."
  • "I needed something worthwhile to do - and what better than helping someone to learn."
  • I found out that 20 to 30% of the adult population had literacy issues in [my community].
  • I wanted to make a difference in someone‚Äôs life.

As part of the Valued Added research, Community Literacy of Ontario asked literacy volunteers why they chose literacy work over other types of potential volunteer work. The table below lists their responses in order of most common to least common.

Motivations Frequency of response (%)
An opportunity to make a difference in the life of another person 91%
An opportunity to increase literacy skills in my community 72%
A warm and encouraging atmosphere 64%
An opportunity to meet new people/ social interaction 57%
Flexible hours 54%
An opportunity to learn new skills 51%
Training 44%
The opportunity to build my job skills and bolster my resume 23%
Other 14%

Overwhelmingly, literacy volunteers step forward because they have a sincere desire to make a difference in the life of another person and they believe that volunteering in literacy fulfills this goal. As a rule literacy agencies seemed to have a good understanding of what motivates their volunteers as they were able to accurately identify most of these motives and their relative importance.

The single significant discrepancy between the responses was seen when agencies significantly overestimated the importance volunteers place on the opportunity to build job skills and bolster a resume. Only 23% of volunteers identified this as an important opportunity, whereas 70% of agency representatives thought this was an important motivator for the volunteers.

Why did your volunteers choose your agency?