• Factors associated with older adult volunteers' organizational withdrawl: Testing a model of volunteer behavior

      Cohen-Callow, Amy; Hopkins, Karen M., 1954- (2008)
      Current policies and practices focus on civic engagement, specifically volunteering, as a key activity to promote older adults' resilience and enhance social workers' ability to meet client needs. Older adults' wisdom, life skills and knowledge contribute to efforts to improve society while the benefits of volunteering to older adults are well documented. Yet, benefits are dependent on an agency's ability to sustain volunteer activities despite institutional barriers to engaging volunteers (Morrow-Howell et al., 2003). The primary purpose of this study was to test the Model of Sustained Volunteerism (Penner, 2001) which postulated that individual and organizational factors have direct effects on work and job withdrawal, while volunteers' affective response to the organization (i.e. job satisfaction, organizational commitment) and volunteer role identity play a mediating role. Additional study objectives were: (1) to assess the psychological climate scale (Brown & Leigh, 1996) to measure volunteers' perceptions of the organizational environment, and; (2) to assess the organizational withdrawal scale (Laczo & Hanisch, 1999) as an alternative to single item measure traditionally used in the volunteer retention and turnover literature. A cross-sectional research design was used. A mailed survey was sent to 948 randomly selected healthcare volunteers 55 and older active in New York City. The final response rate was 46% (n = 436). Structural equation modeling (SEM) path analysis indicated that individual variables were highly correlated and were not strongly related to work and job withdrawal, which may help explain why there are mixed results in the literature regarding individual variables' relationship to volunteer behavior. Additionally, perception of the organizational environment was both directly and indirectly related to work and job withdrawal. Volunteers with more positive perceptions of the organizational environment reported greater volunteer job satisfaction, higher organizational commitment, stronger volunteer identity and lower levels of work and job withdrawal. This study provides evidence of the strong association between an organization's environment and volunteer behaviors. These results have implications for social work educators, human service managers, and policy makers interested in ensuring agency readiness for the growing older adult volunteer pool by highlighting the importance of strengthening organizations' capacity to sustain volunteer activities.