Volunteerism is a commonly researched topic however, much scarcer is research into the factors or motivations behind volunteering at domestic violence emergency shelters. Knowing the motivating factors that lead people to dedicate their time to different organizations is important because it gives us an understanding of what can be done in order to get other people involved in pro-social activities that benefit society as a whole. Just as there are different types of individuals who volunteer their time, there are different factors and motivators that compel those individuals to do so. Research to date has identified some common motivators. One of these is altruism. Altruism is essentially a motivation or drive to help another solely for that person's benefit or for the benefit of society as a whole. Other motivators that have been identified include: to gain understanding about a particular social issue, to strengthen social relationships and satisfy normative expectations; to aid in career advancement or to develop job prospects; to reduce negative feelings about oneself or address personal problems; and, to grow and develop psychologically and increase self-esteem. My research specifically examines the motivations among volunteers of local domestic violence emergency shelters. In my review of literature to date, I have been unable to find any research involving volunteers of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, victim advocacy organizations, or anything along these lines. Only one study was found that has examined motivations among the volunteers for these organizations. This study was a very small (n=8), qualitative investigation with volunteers who occupied a specific position within an organization. This study examines motivations quantitatively of a larger sample of volunteers from two area domestic violence emergency shelters. To acquire this sample, all volunteers in the agency databases were emailed a link to the survey and asked to participate. The survey questionnaire included questions about the factors influencing their decision to volunteer and also why they chose to volunteer specifically at a domestic violence shelter. Demographic differences in motivations among the sample are also statistically determined. This study is important as it is the first to quantitatively assess the motivations of volunteers at a domestic violence agency. Motivations for volunteering at such an agency can differ significantly from motivations for volunteering at other types of organizations (like soup kitchens, day care centers, hospices and the like). The role of personal experience as well as knowing someone who has been personally impacted by domestic violence is measured as a unique motivation for this population. These findings are useful in providing domestic violence agencies with information that can assist in identifying potential volunteers from the larger community as well as a better understanding of their current volunteers. In addition, it contributes to the larger literature by examining a volunteer group that has largely been absent from the literature to date.


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Thesis Completion





Donley, Amy


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

Included in

Sociology Commons