The Hedonic and Utilitarian Value of Volunteering as an Act of Symbolic Consumption: An Abstract

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Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science


Due to scarce resource allocation, many nonprofit organizations suffer from low levels of staffing and depend on volunteers. The act of volunteering has been conceptualized as an act of symbolic consumption. Thus, the directors of nonprofits should strive to create volunteer experiences that provide value to the volunteer. This study is the first step in developing scales that measure value to the individual who volunteers at a nonprofit organization. The researchers began by conducting in-depth interviews with six female volunteers from a free medical clinic with extensive experience as volunteers. Interviews consisted of a list of questions that were asked of the participants but were also flexible so that participants could provide additional insight based on their personal experiences and opinions. Step 1 of the interview process was designed to create a level of comfort for the respondents; thus, the questions focused on life history and personal reasons for volunteering with the organization (e.g., tell me about you, your experiences as a volunteer in general over the years, and your experience with this organization). In step 2 of the interview process, questions moved into specific details of the respondents’ volunteer experience at the medical clinic (e.g., what are your responsibilities). In step 3, questions focused on the meaning, level of commitment, and value of volunteering (e.g., is there any relationship inside or outside the organization among the volunteers—in other words do you get together socially, what makes you want to volunteer here, do you enjoy volunteering here, why do you volunteer) to the participant. By following this structure, each interview provides “a foundation of detail that helps illumine the next.” This provides “a rational process that is both repeatable and documentable.” Interviews were taped with the consent of the participants. Two major themes emerged: (1) volunteers enjoyed the experience, or they moved on to a different organization, and (2) many wanted to learn new skills, expand their knowledge, or stay current in their field. Results from this qualitative study based on depth interviews provide guidance for future research and a recommendation for items to measure hedonic and utilitarian value. An existing scale, the 1994 Babin, Darden, and Griffin utilitarian and hedonic value of shopping scale, was identified as one which could be adapted for the act of volunteering.


Management, Marketing, and Logistics

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