Since 2012, there has been a fall in Dutch volunteer numbers, the biggest plummet being amongst volunteers under the age of 30 (CBS, 2020). Of all volunteering sectors, the disability sector suffers from the largest young-volunteer deficit (Devilee, 2005). Volunteering programmes play an important role in people’s lives; people with disabilities greatly benefit from and rely on the kindness of strangers. As such, it is of great societal relevance to explore why people decide to volunteer (Devilee, 2005). Inquiring into volunteers’ motivations for aiding disabled persons can benefit volunteer recruitment strategies for this sector (Caldron et al., 2017).
Research on motives is usually approached from a sociological (symbolic) or psychological (functional) perspective. The symbolic approach considers motivations as a collection of cultural understandings, whereas the most-used-in-research functional approach considers motives to be expressions of existing needs and dispositions that fuel individuals’ actions (Clary & Snyder, 1999; Hustinx, Cnaan, & Handy, 2010).
Although the study of volunteering has produced significant theoretical and conceptual models such as the volunteer function inventory and social learning theory, certain theoretical gaps persist. This study will theoretically and qualitatively explore motivations of young Dutch adults to start and continue to volunteer within the disabled sector. This study will use the ‘expand & elaborate’ research method, using inductive reasoning to expand theories. This paper strives to form an integrated theory of motivational accounts by combining the volunteer function inventory (VFI) approach with two functional approaches - attachment theory and rational-choice model - and with the symbolic social learning theory (SLT) approach.