I have long been intrigued by the finding that people who are single are in some ways even more connected to their communities than are people who are married. So when I learned that the eminent personality and social psychologist Mark Snyder was coming to town to give a talk, I was there.
Mark Snyder has spent more than a decade studying the psychology of volunteering. I learned so much from his talk. I want to share what, to me, was his most intriguing discovery.
Volunteering takes lots of different forms, from the Big-Brother/Big-Sister programs to caring for people who need help to reading to kids to passing out flyers for your favorite candidate or cause and so much more. There is a paradox to volunteering, as Snyder noted at the outset of his talk. Volunteering takes time, it takes you away from other things you could be doing instead, sometimes there are hassles involved and even emotional costs; there can even be financial costs.
On top of all that, you don’t get paid. And yet, Americans do volunteer, in very high numbers. Perhaps as many as 43% do something that counts as volunteering.
So why do they do it? What motivates volunteers to do what they do, despite the costs involved and the absence of any financial reward?