Managing Volunteer Retention Through Socialisation – A Study of Volunteers in an Australian Emergency Service Agency [Abstract]

Michael Jones, Yoke Berry, Irit Alony
InSITE 2018  •  2018  •  pp. 127-128

In many OECD countries, emergency response relies on volunteers, and while emergency incidents are increasing, volunteer numbers are declining. Volunteer turnover occurs at various stages of the volunteering life cycle (i.e., recruitment, training, socialisation, performance, and retirement), the socialisation stage has the greatest impact on organisations, as it occurs after the allocation of resources and training, but before the investment is returned through volunteer performance. There is sparse literature exploring this stage.

Addressing the gap, this paper presents a model of volunteer retention, predicting acceptance, social-expulsion, or self-exclusion, based on social fit.

The model is based on an inductive examination of the processes of volunteer turnover during socialisation of emergency service volunteers. Using a grounded theory approach, focus groups and interviews were conducted with 157 volunteers across seven locations.

This model contributes to theory by categorising volunteer turnover according to the stages of the volunteering life cycle, and to practice by drawing attention to the need to consider social fit prior to investing in new volunteer training and understanding the role of leadership intervention pre- and post-training.

The study identifies the processes of volunteer turnover and predicts that volunteers either stay or leave based on the level of their social fit.

Strategies are developed to guide leaders on the best approaches to maintain and retain volunteer workers in Emergency Service agencies

The model contributes to theory by providing an empirically based description of the processes involved in volunteer retention and turnover and offers guidelines for increasing volunteer retention in emergency services and other volunteer organisations across Australia and around the world.

Increased retention benefits the emergency service organisation in terms of return on the investment of volunteer training, regarding sustainability of human resources, and in regard to increasing diversity among its volunteers. In turn, this retention also benefits volunteers, and the entire community, as it gains access to a greater number of emergency services providers.

Future research should focus on recreating this study in other countries and in different emergency service contexts.

volunteer retention, volunteer turnover, volunteering life cycle, socialisation, grounded theory
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