Does the structural context matter? Analysing individual and structural factors of volunteering in a Swiss sports club

Torsten Schlesinger and Siegfried Nagel: University of Bern, Switzerland

Increasing difficulties in recruiting volunteers indicates the need to ask how volunteering in sports clubs can be promoted effectively. Existing research has extensively investigated the drivers of volunteering at an individual level. As voluntary engagement usually occurs within an organizational context, the characteristics of the (sport-)organisation should be also considered (Penner, 2002). This presentation addresses not only on individual characteristics of volunteers but also on the corresponding structural conditions of sports clubs. Referring to the theory of social action (see basically Colemann, 1990) a multi-level framework for the investi¬gation of the factors of voluntary engagement in sports clubs is developed. The influences of both the individual and context level on the decision to engage in voluntary work are estimated in different multi-level models based on a sample of n = 1,434 sport club members from 36 sports clubs. The multilevel analysis grant an adequate handling of hierarchically structured data (Hox, 2002). Results indicate that volunteering is not just an outcome of individual characteristics such as lower workloads, higher income, children belonging to the sports club, longer club memberships, or a strong commitment to the club. It is also influenced by club-specific structural conditions; volun¬teering is more probable in rural sports clubs whereas growth-oriented goals in clubs have a destabilising effect.


Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap

Hox, J. J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum

Penner, L. A. (2002). Dispositional and organizational influences on sustained volunteerism:  An interactionist perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 447-467.

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