Thanks to Alan Mendoza, a recent RW intern, for this summary of the characteristics that influence our motives for volunteering. Alan was an absolutely stellar intern for RW – we recommend you connect with him on LinkedIn and get to know him better!

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By Alan Mendoza

The environment in which we work plays a big role in motivating us to volunteer. In Adam Grant’s article about corporate volunteering, he discusses three different job characteristics that influence our motives for volunteering.

Task Characteristics

Usually focused on classic models of job design, task characteristics relate to the job itself. There are four different characteristics involved: significance, identity, autonomy, and feedback.

You feel that the work you do is important and leaves an impact on the world.

You feel ownership over the task, where you can say “I did that!”

You can make decisions about how a task should be done.

Lets us know how well (or poorly) we did our job.

When task characteristics are enriched, it gives a person a sense of meaning. And let’s face it, how many of us actually want to work on a task without any of these features?

Social Characteristics

Social characteristics influence social interactions and relationships at work. They give us a chance to work with other people inside and outside the organization (*cough* volunteering *cough*), make friends, and support each other. And really, who wants to work in a place where they feel like an outsider?

When these characteristics are enriched, it gives an employee a sense of belonging and connection to their workplace. If you’re not getting this from just doing your job, have you thought about joining a corporate volunteer program? After all, volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and make friends!

Knowledge Characteristics

Knowledge characteristics help us use our special skills and knowledge. They give us the chance to solve problems, work with complex information, and develop and learn new skills.

When these skills are enriched they help us reinforce the idea that we know what we’re doing at work. In other words, we feel really, really smart and proud of ourselves. If your job doesn’t help you develop your skills, try following these 10 helpful tips.

But what does this mean for Corporate Volunteering?

Good question! If a job enriches all of these characteristics, why would an employee want to volunteer? They have a sense of meaning, they feel like they belong and they have highly developed skills. So what can volunteering give them that they don’t already have?

For one, enriching these characteristics is effective because it gives people a sense of purpose and enables them to associate positive emotions with their place of work. As such, employees feel grateful to their company for giving them a great job. This, in turn, inclines employees to participate in their company’s corporate volunteering programs. These are just a few simple benefits – studies such as CECP’s Giving in Numbers outline trends in giving and volunteering and additional benefits.

But there is a possible down side to having a job that’s so enriched. Like I said before, why would someone keep volunteering or even volunteer in the first place, if their core motives – belonging and competence – are already satisfied? Employees need to believe in the company’s cause and volunteer because they like it; their motivation needs to be intrinsic. Everyone starts out extrinsically motivated, but over time (assuming they’re given great experiences and the space to grow) their motivation gradually becomes intrinsic. This is what makes longterm, committed volunteers.

Fear not! Check out Ester Zolotnitsky’s article Motivating Individuals to Commit to Corporate Volunteering to learn more about motivation.

In the meantime, let’s do some reflecting. Are you really lucky with a super enriched job or is it lacking in some aspects? Does your job affect your motives to volunteer? Do you think our jobs have characteristics that influence us? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email at We would love to hear what you have to say!

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Alan Mendoza
Former RW Intern

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