People With Less Free Time Volunteer More?
October 26, 2022
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
I’ve always heard the cash or time trope. Hell, I’ve said it.
People give of time or treasure depending on which resource they have more of. Makes perfect sense except there’s little evidence beyond the anecdotal to support it.
A German research study examines the impact of income and life’s other competing interests on discretionary time available for charity volunteering. And, as noted earlier, the “cash or time” trope has it mostly wrong.
This is the modeled output. A little wonky but painting a very clear picture. Here are the high points,
- The three models are only different based on technical ways that income was calculated to fully test out the relationship.
- The dependent variable ( i.e. what is being explained) is the decision to volunteer or not.
- All three income variables are significant predictors of volunteering and the relationship is positive – i.e. as income goes up, more volunteering happens.
- Check out the three activities competing for discretionary time – hobbies, kids under 7 and caretaking. None are significant predictors but all are positively related.
More = more.
More money and more competing interests from the Big Three (kids, hobbies, caretaking) for discretionary time lead to more volunteering. What?
Givers give. The rest of the story helps temper this seemingly counterintuitive finding. There is a negative relationship between income and the amount of time spent volunteering. “Cash rich and time poor” impacts how much time I volunteer but not my do it or not do it decision. But, there is still a positive relationship between life’s competing interests for discretionary time and volunteering.
People with high motivation to provide public goods (e.g., help others or contribute) or private consumption (e.g., having fun or providing balance from everyday life) tend to do a lot of all of it.
Having said that, the marketing of volunteer opportunities to higher income folks may benefit from making it clear that small amounts of time are also worthwhile and appreciated. On lower income households don’t just rely on giving behavior as proxy for means or giving capacity. Making it clear that any amount of money and time will help to legitimize smaller gifts.
Further, volunteering that can involve family and encourages family involvement will help at the margins to increase the decision to volunteer and how much time is given since spending time with family is the number one competitor to volunteer time.
P.S. Last chance to register for the Should I sustain or should I go now learning session.