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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Diane Kayongo-Male


Local volunteer organizations often face the problem of mobilizing their memberships to act in some way, whether to plan a fundraiser or march in a demonstration. This thesis examines the factors that enter into an individual's decision-making process regarding willingness to participate in a volunteer-run organization. Theoretical models of David Knoke (1990) and Bert Klandermans (1997) are used to explore the data, examining the extent to which rational choice, commitment to the organization, and conforming to norms of volunteerism affect an individual's decisions about participation. Klandermans' model emphasizes collective goods and expectations of success over selective benefits in predicting willingness to participate. Knoke's includes psychological attachment and conformity to norms of volunteerism as critical decision-making processes in individuals' willingness to participate. A survey of members of one local environmental organization is used to test the relevance of each model. Results of the study show that commitment to the organization is the most useful factor in predicting a member's willingness to participate in the organization, followed by the individual's sense of self-efficacy, and the individual's amount of past participation in the organization. Results also showed that conformity to norms of volunteerism and weighing collective and selective incentives were related to willingness to participate, particularly interest in collective benefits, self-efficacy, and perceptions of the organization's effectiveness. Both theorists' ideas receive support from this data that motivation to participate is not just a result of interest in selective incentives. This study gives reason for incorporating the commitment and normative conformity decision-making processes specifically into Klandermans' model of motivation.

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South Dakota Resources Coalition
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South Dakota State University