Recruiting Volunteers: The Roles of Fear, Hope and Courage

Rafi Chowdhury, Felix Septianto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Nonprofit organizations face challenges recruiting volunteers for morally important activities that may generate fear, such as firefighting, aid work and delinquent counseling. The purpose of this study is to examine how voluntary organizations can instill the virtue of courage among potential volunteers and motivate them to participate in such activities.

Three experimental studies examined how fear, hope and courage relate to the likelihood of volunteering. Study 1 investigated how integral hope (hope related to the context, i.e. hope emanating from volunteering activities) and incidental hope (hope unrelated to the context, i.e. a general hopeful feeling) affect volunteering intentions when there is low vs high fear. Study 2 examined whether courage mediated the effects of hope on volunteering intentions when there is low vs high fear. Study 3 replicated the findings in a different volunteering context.

Integral hope (but not incidental hope) in the face of high fear generates courage leading to intentions to volunteer. Both integral hope and incidental hope motivate volunteering intentions through positive affect (but not through courage) in low fear contexts.

Research limitations/implications
The hypothetical volunteering scenarios and the gender distribution in the samples restrict the external validity of the findings. Family background in volunteering was not controlled for. Moral courage, physical courage and psychological courage were not separately measured.

Practical implications
Nonprofit organizations recruiting volunteers for risky voluntary activities that induce high fear should use integral hope in their marketing communications to instill courage among potential volunteers. For voluntary activities that are not very risky and generate low levels of fear among potential volunteers, nonprofit organizations can recruit volunteers through communications that use either integral hope or incidental hope.

This research shows that hope and fear are critical emotions in relation to courage – an essential virtue for volunteers. Courage is manifested when there is high fear and integral hope. Findings contribute to the research literatures on the marketing of volunteering and the moral psychology of courage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-257
Number of pages32
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2023


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