“The good news is that volunteers, perhaps more than ever before, are demonstrating the critical importance of acting together to tackle the challenges of our time. … The full picture of volunteering remains complex and often hidden. Most volunteering happens in conditions that can be difficult to capture: actions beyond the confines of formal organizations; spontaneous, sometimes highly individual actions in response to a need, and in humanitarian contexts that are dangerous and fastpaced. These forms of participation are driving change and shifting the dynamics in ways that we are only just beginning to recognize and measure.” (Oliver Adam, UNV & Jagan Chapagain, IFRC, 2020) [1
Volunteerism is a crucial part of CSR on the corporate level and an essential part of the wider voluntary sector. However, from an economic point of view, the selfish actor model and the profit-oriented business theory do not match with free giving. This means free giving must arise from a more profound value. At the same time, the expression of voluntary activity is determined by the environment, especially by the economic environment.
Many authors emphasized volunteerism as a driving force of this sphere. Volunteerism stems from altruism, which is a basic value on a personal level. Volunteerism is an expression of altruism. Altruism is widely studied basic value in economics, mainly related to volunteerism. Although these two definitions cannot exist without each other, as Haski-Leventhal [2
] underlined, not every act of volunteering is altruistic and not every altruistic act is volunteering. Moreover, she underlined that altruism is basically selfish. Similarly, CSR and employee volunteerism are also driven by profit. As Holt [3
] defined, the model of a selfish “homo economicus” actor will free ride on every free offered good; in this sense, altruism depends on the price of helping others, so not every actor is entirely selfish. On the other hand, a volunteer’s per capita value of the benefit must be compared with the cost of volunteering. This so-called volunteer’s dilemma is a social problem. As experiments showed when similar volunteers’ actions met, and a larger group formed, it ended in a reduction of volunteerism’s price. This means that the institutionalized form of volunteerism is rewarding. Indeed, the individualistic view of ethical behavior considers ethical behavior as that advances long-term self-interest [4
]. Moreover, motivations related to volunteering can be altruistic, value-based and utilitarian [5
]. A broader international study found that some selfish motivations regarding volunteerism are utilitarian; for example, university the student population is highly motivated by career-enhancing and job prospects when they take part in voluntary activities, however, the forms of student volunteering varied by countries. That said, employee volunteerism is motivated by egoistic, altruistic and organizational citizenship motives. Moreover, a study [6
] suggested that volunteer opportunities that fulfil egoistic and organizational citizenship motives will be adequate, rather than a simple altruistic motive.
This self-interest characterizes corporate needs, as well [7
]. Simon described [8
] altruism as a unique form of loyalty to (or identification with) groups to which the individual belongs, mainly concerning volunteering. Indeed, 50 years of literature in social responsibility shows that the widely studied subtopics are significantly related to altruism, ethics, sustainable development and voluntary activities [10
]. Volunteerism is broadly studied and measured at different levels and on various fields. Here we began from the personal level, and traced back volunteerism to its main economic drivers, selfishness and altruism. However, volunteerism exists beyond personal traits and characteristics. At this level, volunteerism is handled as a utilitarian value, a kind of behavioral expression of altruism. On the other hand, this issue can be handled as social, as well as economic behavior. Indeed, volunteers themselves [11
] go through different socialization development—the five phases considered a career ladder for volunteers—from the nominee to the retiring stages. It means volunteer activity should be treated and managed like employment. This activity needs clear a vision and mission, punctual responsibilities and rights, adequate resources and motivation, and all of these components should suit the different stages; and this is not a one-man show. Consequently, volunteerism is an essential issue of economics.
We briefly discuss the relevant literature on volunteerism—when we emphasize the economic viewpoint; therefore, employee volunteerism as part of CSR can be described. Relying on the third-party model, our research questions and methodology are argued respectively in the next two sections. In the following section, we first analyze volunteerism on a personal level. Second, we examine internationally measured statistical indicators of formal volunteerism; and third, we classify selected countries regarding their voluntary activity. In the discussion section, we assess our findings’ managerial implications and our research’s limitations. Finally, we outline how COVID-19 has rewritten volunteerism. Here we predict the possible benefits of virtual volunteerism in this extraordinary situation, and we reflect on the contribution of our results to the further employee volunteerism agenda. The contribution of this paper has changed during this research, as it happened in real life. The pandemic rewrote all aspects of our life. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a clear clustered map, based on our recent findings which are detailed in the discussion part, showed how employee volunteerism can and may work properly and how all participants of the third-party model can and may facilitate each other. Best practices are listed in leading countries, where volunteerism has a deeper and longer heritage. These case studies would stand as examples for the countries where employee volunteerism is not so well known. Our findings suggested that the main differences among these countries arise from the situation and role of the government and non-profit sector, because, as our results showed, all people on a personal level are ready to help. Altruism works regardless of the geographical or political circumstances. Firms, governments and nonprofits are going to tailor the way, the form and the frequencies of volunteerism but now these members are faced with a daunting challenge of COVID-19. In this extraordinary situation, the measured harmony crashed. Each country must apply different tools for how to win the battle against the pandemic, so the topic of volunteerism moves into the background. As preliminary research shows, so-called self-regulated voluntary activities are coming slowly into the light. Hopefully, all these bottom-up activities will lead us back to the previous model of employee volunteerism, which might become a new normal.
2. Literature Review
Many authors have argued that while plenty of studies and measurements are about the core characteristics of volunteerism, we still do not have a single, simple, objective definition. Rochester and her colleagues [12
] broadly examined volunteerism in their book. According to them, volunteering can be described through a three-perspectives model, where volunteering is seen as (1) a gift of time or “unpaid” work or service, because of this the volunteer represents an additional resource for the whole society; (2) serious leisure, when volunteers sacrifice their free time and effort in order to satisfy intrinsic needs and spend their time in a meaningful and joyful way (intrinsic and extrinsic motivation); (3) activism as a force for social change. Some other experts kept the last characteristic as crucial. This means that social activism arises from strong motivations for volunteering in order to understand ecosystems, express and propagate certain values or interact socially [13
]. We would extend this definition with (4) free will. However, the cited authors questioned free will. They stated that some forms of activities may involve a certain level of coercion, e.g., compulsory student volunteerism at high schools or employee-supported volunteering might also be listed here. They have not specified volunteerism straightly with the “unpaid” marker, because volunteers should not be out of pocket, but volunteers should not receive any remuneration (or monetary incentives) for their effort. That means that a certain level of payment (covering the costs or a kind of small material reward) always will be present. Later, further classifications of volunteerism are described; here, we selected those definitions which might be related to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and employee volunteerism. Employee-supported volunteering [15
] is described as episodic, common activities to enhance teambuilding or to provide expert advice (later we call this skill-based volunteerism). In this study, we try to measure each characteristic of employee volunteerism.
There are also various typologies of volunteerism in the literature. The main typology divides volunteerism into two main types and is mainly used by statistical enumerations. These are respectively: (1) formal/organization-based, and (2) informal/direct volunteerism. While the first one is undertaken through an organization or group of clubs, the second one covers a more spontaneous, direct, individual type of help. Furthermore, in some countries, there are not exact qualitative differences between formal (organizational) and informal (non-organizational) volunteerism in term of statistical measurement [16
]. We also realized and described this problem in our study. Apart from this, our focus was wider, so we have extended the microeconomic view to a broader macro level. This paper intents to observe employee volunteerism—that means formal volunteerism where active and professional support arrives from the non-profit sector.
The question is given of why a company would be interested in a common project without any profit. Baines [17
] listed the flow-on benefits to business of engaging in the non-profit sector: (1) at the internal level, this relationship will facilitate employee attraction, staff retention and employee engagement; (2) it is assigned with company purpose and values; (3) it will enhance customer loyalty and brand enhancement and open new markets. Millora [18
] extended this typology and suggested a new agenda for the four types of volunteering practices. These ‘traditional’ practices are (1) mutual aid/self-help which is based on reciprocity, mostly informally, so many active individuals do not call themselves volunteers. (2) Philanthropy and service work through organizations and associations, (3) Civic participation which also involves political decision-makers and social audits. (4) Finally, advocacy or campaigning is the broadest form, where “pressure groups” may also be active members in order to achieve a collective action or to lobby for change. A new form of volunteering is “leisure” or serious leisure volunteerism.
From our viewpoint, the second form (2) relates to CSR, where greater recognition of the organizations’ diversity is involved (e.g., universities or companies). Therefore, if a volunteering activity is supported and/or sponsored by a company, it is a kind of Corporate Social Responsibility. Some authors detailed further dimensions of volunteerism, for example, Cnaan et al. [19
] conceptualized volunteerism and placed volunteerism between different dimensions based on the combination of the above factors. As a result of (a) the free choice lies between free will and obligation to volunteer; (b) remuneration ranges from none at all, not expected, to fully expenses-covered and offering a low pay or stipend; (c) the structure can be formal or informal; the final dimension is that (d) the intended beneficiaries of volunteerism can range from helping a stranger to helping friends or relatives to benefit oneself.
All abovementioned theories and findings go far beyond the simple helping and giving charitability. Every study reflected a broader field. It can be referred to as the market of volunteerism, where different actors are making an effort and cooperating. Our goal is to achieve a well-structured, comprehensive overview of this field. That is why the paper relies on the so-called third-party model.
Haski-Leventhal et al. [20
] introduced the Social Responsibility Matrix, which is based on the market model of volunteerism. Earlier, she suggested [21
] this so-called third-party market model, where the three participants are government, corporations and educational institutes. The current study also operates in this conceptualization. However, the three main areas and participants are the following: (1) a person, who is not just a donor in this model, but at the same time is an employee in a (2) company which is in a frame of CSR action cooperation with a (3) non-profit charitable organization. Together they frame employee volunteerism. Moreover, the overlapping of the three perspectives results in additional combinations. Initially, the Social Responsibility Matrix shows the connection between employees and organizations concerning social responsibility at the organizational (CSR) and individual levels. Accordingly, this model covers the relationship between (1) first and (2) second participants. Both participants have their own particular values and attitudes regarding social responsibility. Moreover, employees can engage in private forms of social responsibility out of their workplace (i.e., identity-based volunteerism without behavior). An organization can pretend (behavior-based) CSR without value. The win-win situation is when the employee’s identity matches an organization’s values and together they can reach social responsibility. The authors listed the main factors which motivate social responsibility. Based on their findings, our literature review follows their structure. At the heart of this model is the volunteer. The volunteer is active in doing the work/service, enhancing social capital, strengthening the community. They are vital members/resources of society and the company or university. The volunteer is a strong, active link between organization, the community and society. As a result, they represent and form employee volunteerism. According to the aforementioned authors, the government, educational institutes, organizations and business entities add a frame to volunteering. As our focus, we replaced the government with the non-profit sector, i.e., charity organizations.
The authors also listed the most critical factors which count in volunteerism. Firstly, on a personal or volunteer level, two things are highlighted: (1) volunteerability covers the willingness, capability and availability of individuals to volunteer. The concept is derived from employability because this term defines the ability to be employed. Secondly, from the organization’s side, (2) recruitability is involved, which refers to the ability of volunteer organizations to recruit volunteers and maintain them. This concept arises from the demand side and has four main components: accessibility, resources, networks and cooperation. Each participant influences the volunteerability of individuals and the recruitability of volunteer organizations and has their own interest in and motivation for volunteering. In this paper, the roles of corporations and non-profits are underlined, as we ignore the topic of university volunteerism, even though we agree with Vetitnev et al. that the most vital advantage of university volunteering is developing future, ethically minded leaders [22
]. In addition, educational institutions and communities [23
] are also involved in CSR activities. Reicher [24
] presented this in a successful best practice where these relationships worked successfully among students, researchers as volunteers at universities and firms, as a part of University Social Responsibility—USR. Bowen et al. [25
] compared employee volunteering with service learning. The latter is a special form of university student volunteerism whereby education and charity organizations can meet while benefiting the whole university. This activity significantly boosted students’ career through their gained communication and leadership experiences. That is why we will just briefly return to the new generation of volunteers in the last chapter. The main text concentrates on employee volunteerism.
The abovementioned third-party model [21
] underlined the governments’ role, too. The legal system, laws and regulations influence each actor’s rights and responsibilities differently. Most countries have already implemented volunteering in their national development plans, but these programs remain isolated. Extended partnerships are still missing. Indeed, the measurement and comparison of national actions seem to be problematic due to the lack of widely accepted definitions, models and methodologies [1
], since governments are the main drivers for achieving the goals. Those cannot be accomplished without many stakeholders and their proactive and effective public sector support [26
]. In this study, politics and authority are not widely investigated because the study concerns the labor market from a business view. Instead of government, this study focuses on non-profits, as the main character of this model.
Businesses and organizations are also responsible for the environment (sustainability) and for the community in which they operate. Moreover, values can also be defined on the corporate level. Corporate values [4
] are general beliefs about what is or is not appropriate behavior. This is similar to personal values, which are extended to ethical and moral questions on the corporate level, where instead of the individualistic view, the utilitarian view dominates. This reflects on ethical behavior which provides the greatest good to the largest number of people. Social responsibility is the related concept, but it refers to the overall way in which companies try to balance their resources to relevant groups and individuals in their social environment [27
]. Business leaders should contribute through the activities of their firms to the welfare of their communities. This is a voluntary approach by which they may choose to meet or exceed stakeholders’ expectations by integrating social concerns with required revenue and legal obligations. This activity covers Corporate Social Responsibility, which can be briefly defined as the ways in which companies undertake their activities to have a positive impact on society [17
]. Towards this shared value, a business creates economic value and value for society by addressing community needs and challenges, because it offers new opportunities in new markets. However, this extended responsibility arises from either the companies’ business activity or from ethical behavior. Therefore, four main aspects of business responsibility are legal, ethical, economic and philanthropic, the last of which refers to giving back to society and is generally considered as voluntary and charitable [4
In this study, we accepted the following definition of CSR: “CSR is the obligation of an organization to act in ways that serve both its own interests and the interests of stakeholders, this includes employees and the public as well, i.e., anyone that will in some way be affected by the organization.” [4
] p. 134.
However, CSR has been defined by various researchers in different ways. Halbusi and his colleague collected and compared different definitions [29
]. They described CSR activities where employees are also committed to so-called personal social actions. Personal social action or individual action is supported or sponsored by the organization to help social issues and community well-being. This form can be measured in paid time off, special activities or personal caritative actions, but it does not include CSR activities without employee involvement such as grants or corporate-wide donations. It can be divided into further subclasses: (1) charitable donations, which could be automatically deducted from the employee’s salary, so the individual makes a minimum effort, therefore, has minimum involvement. (2) Volunteer days or special events in the company’s name, e.g., annual events sponsored by the company, which can be understood as episodic volunteering. (3) Employee Volunteer Programs when (a) from bottom to top employees inform their employer of off-site activities in the name of the company, (b) top-to-bottom ways when an employer provides a list of volunteer opportunities for their employees, (c) a side of a non-profit organization is also involved. This non-profit organization enquires after a firm’s help, so (d) a firm delegates employees to a non-profit organization. In any case, if the employees are not engaged with the firm’s values, they will not represent themselves as organizational representatives, so those actions cannot be defined as part of the CSR program.
Another ranking of CSR level was provided by Deresky and Christopher [27
] where the lowest level means obstructionist stance or avoiding responsibility, then comes defensive stance by which a company carries out legal but not always ethical requirements. By taking an accommodative stance, firms carry out only small social requirements by a particular interest. Finally, the highest level is the proactive stance when companies actively seek opportunities to be a good member of the community.
Benedek and her colleagues [23
] structured CSR definitions in chronological order. Hereby they suggested volunteerism itself is not CSR, but it is a part of it. According to them, the primary motivation for voluntariness and donation is altruism: mutual altruism (interest), empathy altruism (willingness to help) and docile altruism (expectation). The last one means to follow the social norms and expectations and is typically sourced from the lack of clear CSR strategy.
In sum, we agree that CSR frames volunteerism. As an essential part of CSR in the competitive sector, employee volunteerism represents the major part of this article. Additionally, the employee volunteerism term can be extended as corporate volunteerism [30
]. Here we concentrated on the former, whereby the participants in an employee volunteering program reflect the third-party model. Respectively, the participants are the employee as a volunteer, the community partner (or non-profit organization), and the company [31
]. On the other hand, it is highly important to underline that volunteer work is not the same as CSR. The former is more associated with formal volunteerism with its direct impact on the economy. The later one, the employee volunteerism, is rather an essential part of Corporate Social Responsibility which targets employee engagement and the company’s reputation [32
]. Therefore, instead of the economic impact analyzation, its impact should be managed and measured at the organization level, where this impact can be expressed in financial, social and environmental terms. In our case, there might be overlapping among the definitions of employee volunteerism, CSR and formal volunteerism, because there are no direct global indicators which could clearly clarify employee volunteerism.
The most cited and best summary of employee volunteering literature was provided by Rodell and her colleagues [33
], who adapted the behavioral approach. However, a lot of different definitions have been suggested in the current state of the art, and most of them contain the following elements: this activity is an essential part of CSR, where employee devotes time and effort freely in a frame of planned activity for an external non-profit or charitable organization. It is beneficial for employees and firms, as well. Therefore, employees, companies and either organization are involved, the activity covers doing something outside of the normal work behavior, in a planned and organized formal mode. A variety of factors influence employee volunteerism. (1) On the employee’s side: individual factors like demographic, personality and identity, and motives, (2) workplace characteristics, such as job design and work context; (3) at the company level: time, financial and logistical support, employer recognition and publicity of opportunities. It could happen in various ways (1) depending on the length and regularity of the volunteering, (2) depending on the direction and intensity of volunteering and, finally, (3) depending on persistence. Finally, the results or outcomes of voluntary activity inspire employees, employers, and outside of the company, stakeholders, the partner organizations, in sum, the whole society. To achieve these goals, the company should have a well-structured Employee Volunteer Program [34
]. This is a planned, managed effort that seeks and encourages employees towards effective voluntary activity under the sponsorship of a certain company. Comparing this activity with cash-only charitable giving, it requires a more complex strategy, diverse contributions and more resource with a clear focus on addressing a serious social problem. It means that business priorities, employee interest and community must overlay each other. Cycyota et al. [35
] completed these with employers who can also give time, energy, skills or talent to an organization without receiving the return. Moreover, leaders’ behavior serves as an example; in the discussion part, we recommend some ideas on how this can happen.
Companies can offer various types of employee volunteer programs at the same time. According to an American study [26
], the number of commonly offered programs in 2018 was on average five. Nevertheless, the range is wide, from the episodic short voluntary activity to the long-term, regular volunteerism. A possible list of programs contains the following programs: the main types of volunteering are those in which the company offers free work. Respectively, (1) traditional volunteering, which does not involve applying the employee’s workplace skills. (2) Pro bono or skills-based volunteering, in which the employee’s professional skills are offered in service to a community partner. A unique, new type of volunteerism is (3) virtual volunteering, which allows employees to commit their services and time to an organization away from its physical site. This type of volunteering is executed over the internet via any electronic devices that allow employees to provide their skilled services virtually [26
]. However, the most popular program belonged to traditional or in-hand volunteering in 2018, but 76% of the companies (N = 193) offered important skills-based volunteer programs, as well. Those were either pro bono services or board leadership [26
The other types could be counted towards charitable activities because the donation is material. These include (4) Dollars-for-Doers Grants, which is a program in which the company contributes a grant to a non-profit partner where its employee volunteers; (5) in-kind volunteering, when the company donates to a non-profit partner, e.g., used computers, meeting rooms or commercial product, and offers training or service on how to use them. All these programs can be happening within or out of working hours. The companies can offer these programs in the following forms: paid release time, flexible scheduling, off-company time, employee volunteer awards, board leadership, company-wide day, team grants, virtual volunteering, volunteer sabbatical, which can be handled as leisure volunteerism, and finally, an incentive bonus. Besides, those, as mentioned earlier, can be interpreted as incentives. As results showed, volunteer participation rates increased when employees had access to more flexible volunteering opportunities, i.e., the volunteering program itself can be interpreted by the employees as a facilitator or incentive. It is relevant to analyze the impact that volunteer work has on the organization either in financial or in social and environmental terms.
According to the latest studies [36
], the best, top companies directly implement their CSR and employee volunteering activities into their Reputation Quotient. Moreover, Fortune’s 100 best companies actively practice employee volunteerism [35
]. According to many reports [26
], most of the companies measured volunteerism as part of the company’s engagement score and company performance. Of course, it might be due to greater ease in tracking on-company-time efforts. Some of the firms not only measure social outcomes and impacts of community investments/grants but also handle employee volunteer programs as a massive part of their business value. Moreover, as a study reported [26
], the percentage of companies measuring the business value of community investments through brand/customer metrics (33%) falls behind the measurement done through employee metrics (43%). It means the business outcome of employee volunteerism is counted rather to HR performance than to the competitive market value. Therefore, the overall CSR is being used as an HR tool to recruit, engage and motivate employees [39
]. On the other hand, any actions were taken by employees in the corporation’s name, and towards their ability to learn and improve either the social or company performance, may be listed as a CSR activity. In contrary, unlike action taken in a firm’s name or in which employees are passive participants, it can have a wrong impact on a firm’s brand, as well. When an employee is not involved or aware of CSR strategy (does not believe in it or handles it ineffectively) then his or her personal social action will also be rare. Aguinis et al. [40
] argued that the so-called peripheral CSR could cause many troubles when the employees do not find meaningfulness through their work (i.e., lack of sensemaking and integration of the CSR strategy into a firm’s routine and activities). The opposite of this and a kind of solution is embedded CSR, which relies on the company’s core competencies, and in this way results in positive outcomes for employees, as well.
Although the positive impacts of employee volunteerism exceed its negative impacts, as it is shown in Table 1
, disadvantages should also be taken into consideration. The biggest issue might be the cost of employee volunteerism. Some calculations showed that there is an inflexion point for management and program costs when total cash contributions exceed 100 million USD. The expansion of cash contributions may hide more complexity in terms of operational processes of such grants, funds and programs. The analysis showed a statistically significant positive correlation between higher total cash contributions and the management and program costs. In other words, the higher the total cash giving, the higher the management and program costs will be. The median management and program cost per contribution of staff team member in 2018 was around 200,000 USD, and total median management and program costs were 1.4 million USD by the most prominent US companies (N = 86) [26
These large numbers supposed that seemingly the large companies are interested and can afford employee volunteerism. Basil et al. [48
] studied the relationship between company size and support for employee volunteering. The research suggested that larger over smaller companies demonstrate greater formalization and codification of their support for employee volunteering. Consequently, the larger companies use employee volunteering effort in a more formalized way. Additionally, large companies are more likely to tie other types of charitable activities to employee volunteering. The authors observed 990 randomly selected Canadian businesses and the results showed that large companies support employee volunteerism in a more strategical structure than small companies. This includes organizing formal policies and programs. Therefore, it results in greater influence over the causes which benefit from employee volunteering. As Li and his colleagues [49
] underlined, firm size is one of the key variables in this area.
This does not mean that smaller companies would not have employee volunteering. Instead, it means that SME may not have and may not manage conscious social audit [4
] at an organizational level, even if a systematic assessment of social performance can be used to measure and report all resources and costs of CSR, and its effectiveness on the firm’s social performance [27
The firm’s reputation, or its marketing strategy, visibility and the structure of ownership, might play an important role. It drives results, as shown in Li’s work [50
]. We would like to underline that in this study these factors are not directly examined due to the lack of reliable information (i.e., these indicators are not detailed in the used secondary macro datasets).
As Baines [17
] suggested from his personal experience, the non-profit sector must also balance financial rewards (personal interest) and doing good. The main difference between the for-profit and the non-profit business view is that the latter helps back by its inability to match them for profit in the following spheres: compensations, marketing, tolerance of risk, time and use of capital. Overall, a positive relationship can be found among a firm’s total performance and CSR. However, these results do not necessarily reflect employees’ perceptions and opinions [29
]. It is argued that whilst most of the CSR literature has concentrated on external stakeholders, just a few studies have dealt with internal stakeholders such as employees.
In the following section, we observed employee volunteerism by analyzing statistical databases and empirical findings. Following the third-party model, firstly, we focused on the volunteers at their personal level. In order to provide a complex overview, we examined the factors and values which describe (employee) volunteers. Later, we expanded the focus by targeting non-profit organizations and companies that offer and support employee volunteerism. Because of the lack of direct secondary data, here we analyzed formal volunteerism.
4. Materials and Methods
Firstly, we collected and explored secondary statistical findings and estimations about employee volunteering. Some of them were also directly implemented in our research, but the lack of a universally accepted methodology still causes problems [26
]. In this chapter, we examined how employee volunteerism can be and has been measured. Here, we list the definitions from which these metrics are sourced.
According to Points of Light’s definition, volunteer activities are a type of company investment when a company invests non-negligible resources of an employees’ time in order to effectively serve community needs or mobilize employees to engage in direct voluntary service (doing good and giving back). The whole process is a planned, managed effort and is treated as a component of the CSR program. The company does not pay the employees directly but pays intermediaries or community organizations to organize these activities [61
] and covers the ongoing costs.
The CIVIC 50 Survey is measured by True Impact and Points of Light; it draws a distinction between company-sponsored volunteering and employee volunteerism. The survey is a kind of measuring instrument which estimates employee volunteerism in the USA. Because the central concept based on the before-mentioned theory and one of the sponsor organizations is the same, this survey provides a more detailed definition but using the same terms. Company-sponsored volunteerism means common forms of this voluntary activity, which can include but are not limited to painting, conducting environmental cleanup and mentoring students, among others. Apart from the different forms, each employee’s voluntary activity must be supported by company resources [31
Many experts argued that [62
] a standardized reporting metrics should be considered, which would make it easier to report employee volunteering performance. Therefore, best practices might be offered. Sometimes this methodological lack arises from the view that CSR is only a tick in the PR toolbox rather than a new way of doing business. Indeed, the local government might enforce mandatory reporting about the competitive markets’ volunteering activity [7
]. We have found some measurements which directly targeted employee volunteerism, even if not on an international level. Simple descriptive statistics were applied here. This statistical summary gives an insight into the company and business direction regarding the third-party model.
As pointed out in the survey, employee volunteerism can be described and examined through the third-party model. We targeted two main directions here. On the micro, personal level, we relied on Schwartz’s value set [58
] measured by the World Value Survey. Schwartz’s value research contains volunteering- and altruism-related questions. Therefore, many researchers implemented his findings and observed his database as an identity component into volunteering-relevant studies. Many authors agreed that Schwartz’s findings reflect employee volunteerism impacts [20
As argued, values either on a personal level or on company level drive and modify behavior. Schwartz [58
] studied basic human values from various countries. However, he also found geographical differences; here, we are more concerned about volunteerism-related values. As he found, these values are recognized in all cultures, but as a part of the basic value set. Those might conflict other values because values are ordered by importance (which could explain the abovementioned diverse theories regarding age or gender differences). Values are beliefs and they motivate actions. Although in specific situations they may be transcended, they always serve as standards. Volunteerism might be related to Schwartz’s benevolence and universalism categories. The former enhances the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact; it promotes cooperative and supportive social actions. Moreover, Schwartz keeps benevolence as the most important value. The latter is a kind of tolerance and protection for the welfare of all people and nature. These two values compose self-transcendence, and together harmonize welfare and interests of others like a “cherish power.” Values are measured with the Schwartz Value Survey. A lot of research that followed (such as this article) used and built on either Schwartz’s survey or results. Moreover, many studies and research relied on Schwartz’s theory and methodology, e.g., statistical measurements that we used as secondary data, OECD Index, Happiness Index, CAF Giving Index.
In order to test personal volunteerism, we turned to the newly released provisional version of EVS/WVS Values Survey 2017/2020—Joint Core [64
] database, including data from over 129,000 worldwide respondents. We selected and used n
= 69,578 answers from the original Wave 7 version part.
Previously, we also tested the World Value Wave 6 dataset [66
]. Wave 6 contains Schwartz’s values and other values, opinions, believes, as well. Wave 6 measured almost 90,000 participants’ answers from more than 60 countries between 2010 and 2014. The findings served as a conceptual basement for Inglehart and Welzel’s [67
] Cultural Map. In this paper, the empirical part deals with a dataset without this constructive theory. We examined the collected n
= 89,565 responses from Wave 6, too. The Wave 7 (2017–2020) is more up-to-date but contains fewer questions related to volunteerism or altruism. That is why we examined the EVS (European Values Study)/WVS (World Values Survey) joint survey, which was expanded with further questions about values. In addition, these two surveys overlap. For the final conclusion, we stayed with the Wave 7 survey where scales are more detailed and up-to-date.
Due to this large sample size, we used parametric techniques, and where the variables were measured on an ordinal scale, we relied on non-parametric methods, using SPSS23 and RStudio software. Because the results are sourced from controlled and supervised methodology and based on well-structured, stabile conceptualization and operationalization, here reliability and variability were not checked, we took them for granted. We preselected those questions from the lengthy questionnaire which were related to volunteerism. As this survey targets people’s opinion on the micro-level, volunteerism was observed by statements about values, beliefs and motivation mainly measured on an ordinal scale. Unfortunately, the small answer options range is a problematic weakness of the survey. The intensity and direction of volunteerism were questioned, which allowed us, after a data transformation, to divide the answerers’ group depending on the attendance or regularity of their voluntary activity. The questionnaire contains general volunteerism-targeted statements which are not directly related to employee volunteerism. That is why the formal and informal types of volunteerism were tested together.
The non-profit sector and government were described through secondary data, which aimed to estimate volunteerism in each country. Unfortunately, there is a regional and geographical imbalance in official measurement standard and effort due to the lack of universal conceptualization and definition. That is why our second empirical study aimed to discover a larger, international statistical database and measurements about volunteerism.
Here we observed ten different datasets, as it is detailed in Appendix A
. These datasets can be ordered into various groups: (1) variables which marked intensity or frequency of voluntary activities; (2) variables which measured the amount (time) of volunteerism; (3) variables which focused on the voluntary activity’s type (direction). Each used different measurement units and was based on different methodological conceptualizations. Some of them are arranged in ranking order to examine gender or age differences. Here we selected ranking lists, where countries were ordered from the best achievement (1 = highest score), in descending order, measured on an ordinal scale. Some variables were adapted (i.e., tailored) to the population, some were not. Where it was possible, we preferred metrics adapted to the countries’ population number. According to our research questions, we tried to select those variables which directly measured formal volunteerism. Because of the forthcoming hypotheses, we assessed validity with Cronbach’s alpha for the relationship testing. We used Spearman’s rho test (in case of the ranking). Finally, for the model building, we used a classification method, hierarchical cluster analysis. Each method is broadly described respectively to the hypotheses. After a thoughtful selection and transmission, we choose 43 countries (European countries remained the majority).
6. Conclusions and Limitation
The aim of this paper was to discover employee volunteerism. Our article was organized as follows: in the first chapter, the main literature on volunteerism and employee volunteerism, as an essential part of CSR, was introduced. Empirical research based on the third-party model conceptualization and five hypotheses were tested and discussed. Hypotheses covered the following topics. H1 hypotheses sought to compare male and female volunteers’ activity and the young and older generations’ volunteering. H2 aimed to describe volunteers through a unique pattern. In H3 we assumed that various metrics have equivalent results. In the case of H4, selected countries were clustered depending on their volunteerism. The last, H5 hypotheses identified and characterized each cluster. For the sake of hypotheses testing, we applied various statistical methods, which were presented in the third chapter. Except for the H2 hypotheses about volunteers’ personal characteristics, all hypotheses were accepted. H2 was rejected.
As managerial implications, firstly, we agree with the latest UNV Report, global framing of volunteering must evolve, and volunteer measurement should be integrated [1
]. Secondly, we accept Schwartz’s theory and assume that voluntary activity as a behavioral attendance of altruism stems from personal values. Including any contract, volunteers might be employees who assist with the management. That is why the companies may frame volunteerism and manage it as employee volunteerism. However, this is not a single action and process. There is a need to meet outside infrastructure and experienced experts in order to have a dedicated manager of volunteers. Employee volunteer programs may differ among countries and cultures, but companies may learn from each other on how employees can be engaged with employee volunteerism. Best practices and case studies [57
] have elaborated how to manage this program. Here we referred to the most effective advice. There are many incentives for employees to be motivated to join the program. Depending on the reason for participation those could be directly asked participation, feeling of pressure by colleagues or supervisors, loyalty to the firm, paid vacation, incentives, donations, grants, reference, career options, etc. [30
]. The term of “no out of cash” should be taken into account so employees’ cost must be covered, in a form as follow: time-related benefits, e.g., flexible working hours, paid leave or financial benefits, e.g., gifts, event tickets, purchase of necessary materials, or ‘PR company brand tools’, logistical supports [30
According to Mirvis [39
], there are three different ways how a company can engage their employees with CSR: (1) transactional approach when offered programs directly meet employees’ interests, needs and values; (2) relational approach, which relies on a psychological commitment between the employer and employees to emphasize social responsibility; (3) developmental approach when not just corporate CSR but also employees’ personal responsibilities are improved. Tyagi and Mallya [52
] took one more step; they suggested that employees’ participation could be out of love, and sometimes it does not stem from inner generosity, rather than a compulsion to conformity (as they said, a moral obligation), which reflects the abovementioned Social Responsibility Matrix. According to them, employees need to be encouraged for active participation and continuous managerial supervision, even if we think their results might be reasoned with cultural values, as well.
In many firms, CSR is born from the lower levels (bottom-line) of employees [43
], but it does not mean that a core strategy or a responsible leadership would not be necessarily needed. New leadership strategy [28
] would become a model where a leader will hear the voices and recognize the needs of the poor and vulnerable. That is why senior leaders are responsible to express CSR [7
] and employee volunteerism as an ethically and socially responsible goal in the company’s strategic plan. Leadership is taken in social initiatives, and the leader acts as an ethical role model, where the whole management must be fully committed to this program [4
]. This requires a proactive social responsibility strategy, when legal, ethical, economic and discretionary responsibilities are successful. Business actions should be made with ethical consideration standing side by side with great performance objectives, and with the personal, organizational or greater social ones. “Indeed, the point that profits and social responsibility can go hand in hand is being confirmed in a new creative way.” [4
] p. 141. Besides these, the outcome and effectivity of each program must be measured [31
] and broadly communicated [30
]. Unfortunately, this measurement or conceptualization of any employee volunteerism program at the company level is still imperfect and unfledged.
Our empirical studies can be divided into two main parts. (1) Personal traits and interest regarding volunteerism were explored by analyzing WVS 6 and WVS 7 databases. (2) Third-party model and employee volunteerism, due to the missing direct measurement, were observed through the main formal volunteerism indices. We relied on secondary data analysis. Apart from the classic problems sourced from this method, the advantages rang the bell. Even so, in this chapter, we listed the issues which caused some limitations in our study.
The first used dataset (WVS) originates from a longer questionnaire, which examined values and beliefs. Its items were measured on an ordinal (Likert) scale. Black noted [78
] that measuring attitudes, opinions and values involves a trial to measure how intensely people feel about the questioned issues, but researchers must handle carefully unwarranted conclusions drawn from these opinions, and extreme generalizations, or stereotyping of the respondents. Because of the attitude aspects, it does not mean that people would behave as they feel. In conclusion, it is better to understand the tendencies behind these opinions. On the other hand, qualitative variables, like in WV Surveys, are measured within the limits of a nominal or ordinal scale. These data types are on the lower level of the permissible mathematical calculation, so no other than determining frequencies are permitted. Accordingly, only non-parametric techniques are acceptable to apply, as we did. Therefore, only, proportion and ranking can be calculated, which restricted us from using nonparametric techniques. More sophisticated tests may be meaningless because of the lack of strong measurement level.
The second part targeted macro-level comparison. This time, the methodological diversification was challenging. We can find various datasets which aim to measure and compare volunteerism (these are detailed in Appendix A
, where we listed the used datasets). This diversity partly arises from the lack of a universally accepted definition of volunteerism, and is partly caused by methodological diversifications. For example, UNV listed [79
] the countries that have not introduced policies, legislation or other measures on volunteering. In our research, those countries were selected where this legislation was introduced before 2008. These countries’ metrics have appeared almost in each relevant database. In addition, measuring of volunteering may reinforce a holistic understanding of the engagement of participants in volunteerism. Broader but more appropriate and punctual conceptualization of volunteerism may make comparison and benchmark easier through a clear definition and metrics. In addition, the units of measurement were misleading. Taking the UNV dataset, if we rank countries regarding the absolute values (number of volunteers), the ranking is entirely different than when we use real numbers adapted to the population. For the sake of illustration, we enclosed these two different orders into Appendix C
Originally, further regression analysis had also been applied. The regression analysis aims to make a prognosis about the future relying on the past. This new situation rewrote the main aim of our study, so we skipped the regression analysis. In the last section, we tried to explore how the pandemic has impacted formal and employee volunteerism.
The recent extraordinary COVID-19 pandemic is not just the largest healthcare challenge of this century but it disrupts jobs (mass unemployment or reduced working hours on the labor market), the economy (some sectors are highly affected, e.g., tourism) and the educational system. It results in a development battle like poverty or inequality. Those who are the most vulnerable in this social and economic uncertainty need more help, and volunteering can be more crucial. Furthermore, due to the realignment of roles and participants in the volunteering sector, it requires stronger relationships and sectoral strategies among the government, competitive sector and non-profits. Volunteering during a pandemic may affect different demographic groups and may encourage people who would not usually volunteer to help [80
]. Some may have more time and energy available to volunteer. On the contrary, other people, for example, with young children (unable to go to school) or older people who are at increased risk of illness, may have been unable to be engaged in certain volunteer activities. Finally, it seems that the ‘giants’ of the third-party volunteerism model have a slower reaction time than individual volunteers have had in this situation.
Most community volunteerism research has focused on and was done during non-emergency situations [80
]. The UNV report in 2011 [81
] contained a special chapter about volunteerism and disasters, where spontaneous volunteer responses and emergent groups are dedicated as the first responder following natural disasters. However, this informal volunteering seems to be fast reactions and rapid spread due to online connections and new technologies but cause mixed results. For instance, abrupt, not trained volunteers may cause harm on themselves. The lack of reliable information facilitates the spread of infodemics, as the authors of new research [82
] call misleading online information or rumors; that is very risky nowadays. Researchers from 87 different countries followed and examined COVID-19-related rumors, stigma and conspiracy theories circulating on online platforms during the first wave of COVID-19 and as they found these myths decrease community trust in governments and international health agencies. Moreover, some lead to numbers of deaths, for example, following misinformation when hundreds of people died by the COVID-19. Spontaneous volunteer responses can revise them as it is happening now. Many young people provided examples of how they were fighting misinformation by raising public awareness of where to find accurate sources of information [83
Governments alone cannot address the challenges arising from strong shocks. Governments must focus on the healthcare sector and must manage economics. The competitive sector must protect its employees and stabilize its business activities. Besides, the non-profit sector is waking up very slowly from the first hit. Over the half-year, demand for charity services increased. In contrast, non-profit organizations must handle strong restrictions and new regulations and adopt new social rules. According to the latest CAF reports [84
], charity organizations are negatively impacted by the coronavirus global pandemic. In March, the most challenging impacts were: decreased funding, travel restrictions, increased cost, and the break in the whole supply chain. Besides the massive loss of donors and financial problems, organizations wrestled with technology challenges; almost the whole operation process had to be switched to online, which requires a lot of patience and flexibility from donors and volunteers. However, the number of organizations receiving donations from corporations has decreased significantly (approximately with 44%), which is an obvious outcome of economic recession. The lack of the necessary infrastructure and client-facing programs led to cancelling main events, hindering regular updates. Not mentioned the prompt implementation of new health and safety procedures. Nonetheless, here would be the perfect matching point where firms could lend a helping service in the form of pro bono or skilled volunteerism. Long-term donors would keep their reputations, and charity organizations would find new ways to engage with donors. Some nonprofits reported some innovative new solutions, like neighbors helping neighbors program, or job loss assistance, or COVID-19 testing programs.
The donation behavior has also changed, web and debit card giving has increased. The targets of donation are mainly hospitals and hospices. Unfortunately, some group donors like young or older people who are hit by COVID-19 harder, have stepped back and reduced their donations. Partly, this is because people’s income has become uncertain, and their long-term living stability has been affected by the recession. Those who were more likely to volunteer their time must face lockdown and restricted movement; social distancing has also disrupted these facilities. Parallel with these, charity organizations were not able to operate properly in their current form. Organizations expected only 12 months long operation time in the current form without any help. Almost a third of the organizations expected being forced to close in 12 months. The rest must start working remotely, to find a new alternative way of delivering their service with reduced service offers and find ways to reach beneficiaries and recruit volunteers. This dark outlook to the future lessened from March to June. Some organizations stood up, reopened or successfully have been adapted to the new normal.
After the spontaneous community-level volunteer actions, it can be expected [81
] that organized volunteerism slowly returns back with associations, organizations and non-profits at the local and national level. Nevertheless, Mak and Fancourt [80
] stated that the recently proved state of the art and well-known predictors had not been as clear cut as before the pandemic. Their findings regarding employment status and volunteering are inconsistently compering with previous literature. As they found, employment or other working responsibilities (e.g., university study) are strong predictors for social voluntary action. It is partly understandable and can be explained with sudden stops or slowdowns in working activities. Shorter working hours > being employed but not working and inactivity lead to loss of aim and essence of valued work. Fracture motivation and faith in meaningful effort appeared. Motivations for community volunteering may solve these problems [80
]. It has a sense of purpose, enhances social capital (skills development), leads to mental and physical health improvement and meets needs and wants to feel empowered. Employee volunteerism may facilitate social recognition and approval, too. Not mentioned is that all of them are important factors to encourage volunteerism. ILO, as part of its COVID-19 monitoring [87
], called experts’ attention to the so-called lockdown generation. ILO defined those young people (15–24 years old) as lockdown generation, who are facing multiple shocks from the pandemic and who are likely to suffer severe and long-lasting impacts of COVID-19. Moreover, their dark career prospects could be a long-lasting problem, which might lead to a long-term effect on the national level and scarring effect on (re)entering the labor market, because they lose their attachment to the labor market and lose their rights at work. Not mentioned is how lockdown restrictions impact their mental well-being. Apart from these issues, young people are ready to work and keen to satisfy their needs for feeling useful and helpful. They are ready to support vulnerable and hard-hit groups. Hereby, they could generate balanced labor market outcomes and secure international solidarity [89
In sum, the pandemic may rewrite all volunteerism [90
]. Before the pandemic, there were some typical barriers to volunteering which due to the lockdown and remote life disappeared, for example, time pressure from other activities. The way of communication and type of channels totally shifted from the personal level to the online and social media, so virtual volunteering may play an important part.
During the first quarter of the year [88
], an estimated 5.4% of working hours were lost which is equal to 155 million full-time jobs, while in the second quarter this numbers was 14.0%, equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs (measured in 48 h/week). These values are higher on a regional level in the more affected countries; for example, in the USA, this was 18.3%. Regarding the volunteer sector, this country was the world’s most generous country over the last ten years (CAF). Unfortunately, this extraordinary situation might restructure the weights and roles, therefore may rearrange the ranking. New Zealand and Australia also had leading places. Both countries are noted as the most successful examples managing COVID crises (except Victoria state in Australia), but both countries pay a massive amount of COVID-19 costs (strict restrictions and closures, high cost of testing protection and supports). None of their governments can afford to concentrate on the volunteer sector. However, both have a long heritage, experiences and acceptable practices on how to manage natural diseases (e.g., seasonal bushfires in Australia or earthquakes in New Zealand). These countries have regularly faced disasters, and volunteerism has also been present in preparing and coping with them. These countries are supposed to be the first where citizens react immediately and proactively to COVID-19 disaster. If we rely on the previously cited report [81
], the next step might be (and it is) spontaneous answers. Self-help organizations, local network and communities mobilize their resources to lend helping hands and wake up society. Still, these actions are taking place; the giant actors of volunteerism can recover and turn back to manage, contribute in other effective ways. As a final step, the attention of national authorities and donors can turn to rebuild essential physical infrastructures and services. Communities with more civic engagement and experiences have a better chance of recovering after the disaster, but the road is still long there.
Even the researchers have neglected this topic. When as branches of research have been published since the COVID-19 outbreak, until the final touch of publishing this article, just a few research and paper have dealt with employee volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zhang, Weng and Jia [91
] just partly mentioned COVID-19 as a public health emergency which challenges regarding the implementation of new or ongoing volunteering strategies in practice. The authors presented Wuhan taxi drivers who helped to carry healthcare workers during the epidemic prevention of the COVID-19 period. However, they also emphasized the risk and side effects, such as volunteers’ compulsory self-isolation from their family.
Mak and Fancourt [80
] analyzed data from 31,890 adults in the UK regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. They identified three types of volunteer activities: (1) formal volunteering, (2) social action volunteering and (3) neighborhood volunteering. The patterns behind them revealed demographic, socio-economic, personality and psychological factors. Voluntary work included shopping, packing, delivering food, medicines, driving healthcare staff around, helping food banks, homeless services, fundraising and making donations, providing emotional support through online or telephone helplines, taking part in research, providing free accommodations to people affected COVID-19, etc. Regarding their findings, employee volunteering may be equal to formal volunteering and/or social volunteering. The authors identified pro bono support as social volunteering. This type of volunteering often involved the internet and was not locally restricted. Formal volunteering was defined as volunteering with existing organizations within a formal structure. Here the targeted donors were not separated whether personal, individual or firms concern motivated them. Obviously, the formal volunteers were closer to the frontline and had direct connections with the hard-hit sphere. According to them, people who were currently employed were more likely to engage in social action volunteering.
Aguinis et al. [40
] provided a theoretical work about CSR and employee volunteerism regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, some companies began facing reduced commitment from workers as they questioned unsafe working conditions, for example, lack of adequate protective equipment or working with positively tested colleagues. The authors suggested various research topics and directions for the future. For example, the pandemic facilitates potential hybrid collaborations in different industries (e.g., health and fashion industry in order to create face masks), collaborations between governments and non-profits or in partnerships between private, public and competitive sector (e.g., researchers and practitioners) among others. All of these may be a successful response to the COVID-19 crises. These new collaborations may result in both private and public engagement and create new HRM routines, practices and measurement metrics (regarding recruitment) [91
]. Companies have vast human resources, but innovatively, these opportunities might provide support to charitability [92
] in a novel way. CSR is managed and created by firms, and individual entities, who are ready to help. The companies may implement them and might be more deeply involved in employee volunteerism.
We absolutely agree with these findings. Volunteer activities serve as the best field to practice, develop skills, increase motivation. Why could it not happen under the CRM’s umbrella? Why could not volunteer activity be the best reference and entrance ticket to the competitive sector when the market is ready to open and restart? In addition, volunteering provides a shielding effect on the volunteers from being isolated in hard times [55
]. To achieve this, even a non-profit organization should be ready to accept a new way of time giving.
The UNV [18
] projected a new model of volunteerism, where philanthropy or service to others should be extended with greater recognition of the diversity of organizations (companies or even universities). Action in which volunteering takes place, may invite new participants, where volunteers could also be leaders, decision-makers, planners and innovators. Finally, the serious leisure of volunteering should be added to the volunteerism’s definition, as well. Here we suggest that the so-called COVID volunteerism should also be counted to this. In sum, more participants, wider agencies, and novel, innovative forms and types of volunteerism might be widely accepted in the future. The new 2020 model comprises five dimensions of volunteer actions: mutual aid, service, campaigning participation and leisure. They overlap each diverse category, and ways of expressions are open for any volunteers. Here we must turn back to the COVID-19 pandemic because safe and secure work is significantly important. The ILO published and advised many guidelines and recommendations regarding safety and health at workplaces during the pandemic. In a nutshell, here we cited one from the ten key points [93
], namely ‘Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)’, and inform workers of its correct use. This should be an essential part of workers’ fundamental right to safe and healthy work.
Abel and Willa [63
] emphasized that the perception of how others act in a crisis can influence other citizens’ behavior. Besides, this COVID-19 pandemic may affect how people support and help social protection, as a result of this voluntary activity and as Weber [94
] p. 3 suggested “The COVID-19 crisis serves as a cautionary tale about our societal and scientific ability to predict the future”, even the future of employee volunteerism.