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Helping, Giving and Volunteerism Research Paper

Volunteerism, sometimes denoted as giving or helping, has characterized the universe for sometime now. Such volunteerism is greatly expressed in charitable donations by different individuals and organizations. Today, it is estimated that charitable donations account for almost $ 95 billion and individuals have come out as the biggest contributors (Kiplinger Washington Editors, 2008).

What normally happens is that individuals together with different organizations come together with the aim of supporting special causes such as helping the poor, paying medical bills for victims of different ailment, or even donating for victims of different disasters. Helping implies a form of gift to someone else; sharing a part of what is owned, and individuals even go extra lengths to offer their services as part of voluntarism process.

Voluntarism is seen as opportunity that people should embrace in order to change lives of other people as well as the lives of volunteers themselves. Among the American society, giving to the community has become an important aspect that majority of individuals embrace. Some high school have even taken initiatives of requiring the student to allocate some time in order to volunteer in community work and the success of this may determine whether the student is eligible to graduate or not (The Nemours Foundation, n.d).

Exploring the issue of voluntarism, many literatures have put much emphasis on the important benefits and help that receivers of such help accrue. Little has been written about the benefits or factors that drive individuals and organizations that give help or participate in voluntarism activities.

In real sense, individuals cannot just give any particular help without being directed or influenced by particular motivation. Therefore, how are such individuals motivated to give, what psychological, emotional and social benefit do they achieve as part of their role in contributing and lastly how best can voluntarism activities be regarded as duty that individuals have to fulfill?

The guiding thesis for this research paper will be based on the fact that individuals who participate in voluntarism activities are directed by particular and specific motivations and that voluntarism together with giving has to be regarded and viewed as a duty to be accomplished by individuals.

Statement of the Problem

Voluntarism is an aspect that is becoming important but little attention is being paid to it. The role of voluntarism in term of donations and giving is immense and continues to change the lives of many people in different parts of the world.

According to available charity statistics, as per the year 2009, it was revealed that about 65 per cent of USA households participate in activities of giving (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010). Another research carried out by Giving USA organization statistics shows that American individuals giving donations to charities reached $ 303.75 billion by the year 2009 (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010).

At the same time, statistics show that giving tendencies by corporate organizations in USA is on the rise whereby, in 2009, it stood at 5.5%, but since then, it has risen to the current level of 14.4 billion (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010). Contribution from foundations also continue to form part of charity donations although by 2009 such form of donations had dropped by almost 8.4 per cent to the current level of almost $ 42.9 billion (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010).

Analysis of the same statistics further reveal that the biggest source of charitable giving comes from individuals whereby, in the year 2009, it stood at $227.41, which constituted 75% of the overall accumulated form of giving (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010). Coming second after individuals are foundations that contribute about $ 38.44 billion accounting for 13% of the total giving (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010).

Third placed are the bequests accounting for about 8% and corporations come last contributing about 4% of the total giving (National Philanthropic Trust, 2010).

Giving therefore does not happen without motivation. The above large amount of donations given by individuals and corporation require an indecisive investigation to reveal the psychological factors that lead individuals to give. Such research undertaking is important especially with regard to increasing role of voluntarism and donation activities in the contemporary world.

Literature Review

Scarce literature exists as to why people show willingness to donate to charities or provide voluntarism services in their communities. Nevertheless, there are heightened attempts specifically in the field of social psychology to investigate reasons that motivate people to donate or give help to different charities (Buunk, Buunk and Vugt, 2007).

According to Sandra Sims, an online contributor in the journal of ‘Step by Step Fundraising’ observes that more people are being driven to donate and the major motivation is being guided by their own experience and values.

These two aspects constitute part of the many aspects of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which have been viewed by many psychologists as major reasons why majority of people in society are giving to charities (Sims, 2007). According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people give in order to fulfill aspects of love, belonging, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization (Sims, 2007).

At the same time, other literatures postulate that individuals are motivated to give by factors of: helping, altruism, cooperation, and pro-social behavior (Batson and Powell, 2003; and Van Vugt, et al., 2000 cited in Buunk, Buunk and Vugt, 2007); the second reason cited by the same authors why individuals give is that of social influence (Buunk, Buunk and Vugt, 2007).

The needs of hierarchy according to Maslow’s hierarchy are placed at better way of explaining why people donate or decide to give. Maslow placed the human needs in ascending order of importance as show: physiological needs constitute the basic needs that are vital to sustain human life and include things like food, water, warmth, shelter, and sleep.

Many poor people find it difficult to fulfill or have these physiological needs, a situation that motivates many people to donate, give, or volunteer their resources including time (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

Security or safety needs constitute another category of needs that largely ensure individuals are free of physical danger and of fear; for instance, such individuals may require property, food, shelter when it seems that the individuals on their own cannot provide for these safety needs charitable activities might be excellent avenues for such individuals to get solace (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

The desire to see individuals in society have adequate safety needs has constituted motivation aspects driving particular people to give, help, and donate in various charity organizations. Maslow further looks at the importance of affiliation or acceptance needs, an aspect that motivates individuals to participate in voluntarism activities as a way of making other people feels accepted in society and to feel that they belong and assume an important position in the wider society (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

Esteem needs constitute another group of needs and according to Maslow, “once people begin to satisfy their need to belong, they tend to want to be held in esteem both by themselves and by others” (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

This particular kind of need produces such satisfactions as power, prestige, status, and self-confidence (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006). Thus, in giving, donating, or even volunteering, many people feel satisfaction within themselves with regard to achieving power, prestige, status, and even self-confidence (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

Lastly, Maslow looked at need for self-actualization and according to the author; this particular aspect is regarded as the highest need in the hierarchy of needs (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006).

The postulation of this need is that many individuals after achieving a lot in life finally develops desire to become what one is capable of becoming that is to maximize one’s potential and to accomplish something great (Koontz and Weihrich, 2006). When such feelings emanate the individuals find charitable organizations as the best avenues to realize this need. It becomes apparent to the individuals that donating and volunteering their time and energy help them to achieve this need.


Postulation in the literature tried to look at motivating factors that lead majority of people to donate or help. The literature review dwelt largely on the psychological aspects as postulated by Maslow.

Nevertheless, carrying out further research many people gave different reasons as to why volunteerism and giving to them is important. According to field findings by Rebecca Ruby and Katya Andresen published in their online article title, ‘The secret to Getting People Give’ the two researchers found out from different people why they perceived donating or voluntarism was essential.

The participants in the research expressed that giving was part of the initiative to help other people in the society (Ruby and Andresen, 2008). At the same time, some respondents noted that upon listening to stories of people in need they became obliged to donate and volunteer.

Another group of respondents noted that giving was a sign showing that an individual is not powerless in times of problems or disaster (Ruby and Andresen, 2008). To other respondents, they put it in precise words why helping was necessary and important; giving results in sense of closeness to the community or any particular group where also giving makes one feel that his or her efforts are changing the lives o someone.

Further, giving helps people receive tax deduction, as well as enabling people to establish permanent pictures in mind of how a person in need was helped. Other respondents were convinced that giving is part of life to some individuals from their childhood and it is through giving that individuals establish good images for themselves.

Through giving, individuals are presented with opportunity to establish long-lasting legacies while to others giving is part of religious duties to be fulfilled. Lastly, through giving and volunteering people are seen to be leaders and role models to be emulated by others in the society (Ruby and Andresen, 2008).

Another field research carried out by Sandra Sims and published online in her article titled ‘Why do People donate to Charitable Causes’ found out three major reasons that drive people to donate to charities.

The first reason has to do with personal experience where majority of givers adopt the activity of giving to others when they reflect on their own experiences as beneficiaries of charitable donations and help (Sims, 2007). Others, particularly in medical donations, give in order to honor their loved ones who in one way or the other died from the particular disease or problem donations are being done currently. Second reason why people give is that of making and witnessing change in the society.

In other words, when particular people participate in charity work their biggest desire is to see difference being realized in society (Sims, 2007). The ambitions of such donors come to coalesce around the desire to see long-term and lasting impact in the lives of less advantaged or those affected by particular disasters. The third reason as to why people donate and give as expressed by the author involves, “doing something active about a problem or take a stand on a particular issue” (Sims, 2007, p.1).

By giving, the individual is able to accumulate some form of social power that he or she I able to use in approaching certain social and complex problems in society (Sims, 2007). The fourth reason as to why people give has to do with motivation aspects. When some people give, they become largely attracted to the need realizing personal recognition and benefits (Sims, 2007).


As seen from the earlier section as to what drives majority of people to give, one aspect becomes clear as to why many people find motivation in giving and that aspect has to with duty. Majority of activities of donating or volunteering is seen to be guided by the sense of duty and as Brooks and Wilson (2007) postulate, about 80% of interviewed people who gave donations or provided help in many organizations and charities confirmed that those who have more should give to those who have less.

The concept of duty is concisely expressed and promoted by Kant who holds that “humans are morally good not so far as they act from passion or self-interest but so far as they act on an impersonal principle valid for others as well as for themselves” (Kant and Paton, 1991, p.30).

According to Kant, duties are divided into duties towards self and duties towards others and further divided into perfect and imperfect duties (Kant and Paton, 1991). As a result of this classification, four major types of duties are proposed by Kant. Analyzing the four types of duties Kant is convinced that a perfect duty is one that admits of no exception in the interests of inclination.

With regard to duties upon self, Kant express that individuals’ various capacities have a natural function or purpose I life and it is a perfect duty upon individuals not to limit such purposes and at the same time it is positive duty for such individuals to further such purposes to others (Kant and Paton, 1991). At the same time, Kant notes that individuals have a duty towards other individuals and the perfect duty here involves that of not limiting the realization of possible systematic harmony of purposes among majority of people.

Giving and voluntarism should be seen as a way of providing support to the work that touches on the lives of many people and such activities or initiatives should be guided by sense of responsibility and duty in order to help people suffering and in need.

Giving as a duty can be justified basing argument from existence of three basic and pressing issues in society today: increasing human suffering and skyrocketing cases of poverty especially among disadvantaged families; the increasing vulnerability to diseases compounded by increasing rate of deaths resulting from such diseases; and lastly increasing gap between the rich and poor in society (Riddell, 2007). Majority of people today falls in the category of being chronically poor living on less than $2 dollars a day (Riddell, 2007).

As cases of poverty increase, vulnerability to diseases is becoming inevitable usually caused by a mix of insufficient food, poor water and sanitation, inadequate shelter or even health care and as fate would be majority of the affected succumb to poverty-related deaths (Riddell, 2007).

Therefore, the described above scenario in the contemporary modern world is gradually making the aspect of giving and voluntarism a necessity that people to embrace in order to save other. It is becoming a prerequisite to undertake and get involved in charity work in order to see a function world. In addition, it is from these pressing needs that giving and voluntarism is graduating into a duty that individuals should embrace positively.


Thesis statement for this research paper centered on the need of investigating the increasing nature of voluntarism and donation activities as a form of duty that humans have to fulfill. From the exploration and analysis of literature, profound evidence shows that today’s world is characterized by high numbers of poverty levels, many people especially in poor societies are dying from poverty-related disease and the gap between the rich and poor in many societies is widening.

As a way to address these issues, it was found that voluntarism and giving should be embraced and perceived as duty that individuals are obliged to fulfill in the society. Kant’s concept of duty was further explored and it became evident that human have a duty towards others of ensuring they experience similar happiness and joy as themselves.


Brooks, A. C. and Wilson, J. Q. (2007). Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide–Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. NY: Basic Books.

Buunk, A. P., Buunk, B. and Vugt, M. V. (20007). Applying social psychology: from problems to solutions. NY: SAGE.

Kant, I. and Paton, H. J. (1991). Moral law: groundwork of the metaphysic of morals. NY: Routledge.

Kiplinger Washington Editors. (2008). Kiplinger Personal Finance, Vol. 62, No. 3. Washington: Kiplinger Washington Editors Inc.

Koontz, H. and Weihrich, H. (2006). Essentials of Management. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.

National Philanthropic Trust. (2010). Philanthropy Statistics: Charitable Giving. Web.

Riddell, R. (2007). Does foreign aid really work? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ruby, R. and Andresen, K. (2008). The Secret to Getting People to Give: 14 Reasons Why People Donate. MD: Learning Center Network for Good. Web.

Sims, S. (2007). Why Do People Donate to Charitable Causes? CA: Step by Step Fundraising Inc. Web.

The Nemours Foundation. (N.d). . Web.

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