This paper is an effort to initiate the development of a hybrid theory of volunteering. It describes three major theoretical perspectives: sociological theories which stress the importance of social context, social integration and social networks; prosocial and value orientations which emphasize the impact of individuals’ attitudes and beliefs regarding the importance of altruistic behavior and a sense of social responsibility; and resource theories that focus on the human capital and economic factors which both allow individuals to volunteer in meaningful ways and make them attractive to organizations.
Using the Midlife in the United States dataset, we operationalized the three theories to the extent possible using the available measures. We examined the relative explanatory power of each of the theortetical perspectives. Bivariate and multivariate regression analysis found that variables from all three theoretical traditions predict volunteering. The most predictive variables were those measuring social context, roles, and integration, followed by measures of values, and then measures of resources. Combining variables from all three traditions with demographic controls predicted 40.7% of the variation in volunteering. A parsimonious model with eight variables from the three traditions predicted 36.1% of the variation in volunteering.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/christopher_einolf/11/