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Motivation in a Non-Profit Organization

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In Denmark voluntary work is a big part of the culture. According to friviilighed.dk 1,5 million Danes worked as voluntaries at one point during the time from January this year and up till now. A big part of them were young people. A study made by (Den frivillige sektor i Danmark, s. 53) showed that a third of the young people in Denmark in the age of 16 to 25 had worked as voluntaries. These young volunteers typically work or study or do both. Therefore the time to voluntary work is limited. In practice they only have a few days a month to voluntary work. But working as a volunteer is not the same as building a business based on it. This synopsis seeks to capture the motivation of three young graduate students who decided to start the nonprofit organization AktionDK. AktionDK is a newly opened nonprofit organization.

AktionDK is a voluntary organization that specializes in events of different kinds. These are both cultural events and events for the less fortunate in the society. Each year the government budgets millions which are planned to be used for cultural campaigns and events. These events are to be targeted to people of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds. To avoid any corruption the government is obligated by law to give any company a chance of getting a slice of the capital that is budgeted to manage the different events. AktionDK’s only source of capital is the public budget provided by the Danish government. All the employees in the organization are volunteers. The three founders consist of graduate students from different backgrounds, cultures and with different competencies. Combined there competencies include business law, communications, economics and service management. Regardless of their solid educational backgrounds they lack real business experience. Problem statement

Due to the global crisis it has been hard to find any jobs, and thereby hard for students to get the working experience needed to strengthen their profile when entering the corporate world. This has forced the graduate students to get the experience in other ways. One way is to get the experience trough voluntary work (karrieredroem.dk). There has been an increase of students in the voluntary sector the last couple of years due to the problem stated earlier (Rapport: Den frivillige sektor i Danmark). But it is a huge step to go from working a couple of days a month in a nonprofit organization and opening one yourself for the same reasons. This step have the three graduate students in our case taken, we find it interesting to analyze what motivated them to do so and how to increase the self-motivation. What motivated the three graduate students to establish the nonprofit organization AktionDK? Methodology

Inductive and deductive approach
The Interview with one of the representatives of the organization is processed with an inductive approach. It is an approach which is based on empirical data gathered for this particular case (Andersen, 2006, p 51). The inductive approach can be past experience or as in this case, experience gained from the interview we conducted. The rest of the analysis is deductively oriented, using theories which form the basis for explanations and predictions. It is a method where the project is presented to the theory that provides an increased understanding of the different motivational factors. Quantitative and qualitative data

A project can consist of quantitative and/or qualitative data. Quantitative data can be experienced in figures, quantity, and size, whereas the qualitative data collection is data, which is hard to measure in figures and therefore must be interpreted (Rien Ecker & Jørgensen 2010, s . 293-294). This synopsis will make use of the qualitative data collection in the form of selected articles and other relevant literature, and the interview. Primary and secondary data

It should be made ​​clear whether a synopsis is built on primary and/or secondary data. Whether empirical evidence is primary or secondary depends on whether the data is collected for a specific goal, in this example, to answer the hypothesis, or whether it is data that already exists. This synopsis will use both types of data. The primary data will be in the form of the interview with Sofie Bohm. The secondary data is the literature that will substantiate our research. Interview

Due to the lack of literature about the company, the interview will give us the needed data to be able to answer the research question in a satisfying way. The interviews will be based on the structure Ib Andersen calls a “semi-structured interview”. Such interviews are characterized by the fact that the interviewer typically prepares an interview guide rather than having prepared all the questions (Andersen, 2006, p 168). The interviewer will have some information on the particular subject, but will be receptive to new information and perspectives. There is a checklist to be followed, but it is very much the interviewee that controls the direction of the interview. Based on the notes taken by the interviewer, the interview will be documented (Andersen, 2006, p 168). Theories

We have chosen to work with two theories in this synopsis. These two are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the self determination theory. We have considered them to be the most relevant for our particular case. Below is a theoretical description of the two theories: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Among ordinary people Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, perhaps, is one of the best-known psychological theories. Even though it is a general psychological theory it can also be applied to assess people at work (Motivation and Work Behavior, 6). The above makes the theory attractive in our eyes, since in the company AktionDK case we want to find out not only overall motivation behind people’s moves, but also connect it with the work environment. In his theory Maslow argues that people’s behavior is driven by needs. According to Maslow, needs have an effect on a person’s activities as long as they remain unsatisfied. Moreover, Maslow arranged needs in a hierarchical manner from basic ones to the most advanced. “Lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs are activated sufficiently to drive behavior, further, only unsatisfied needs can influence behavior; those that are satisfied do not motivate” (Motivation and Work Behavior, page 6).

The basic needs, which Maslow also defined as “deficiency needs”, include the following: * Physiological needs are the most basic ones and crucial for humans to survive. This segment contains a need for nutrition, breathing, water, etc. * Safety needs can be associated both with physical and emotional surroundings. This category contains such needs as security, stability (for instance, financial, housing), etc. * Love and belonging reflect a person’s wish to be united with other humans. These needs more specifically lead to family establishing, joining various groups of interest, etc.

It is not a surprise that as a general rule deficiency needs must be fulfilled, as “the individual will fail to develop a healthy personality to the extent that these needs are not met.”(Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 6)

Along with basic needs, Maslow’s theory also offers the following growth needs: * Esteem and ego – the need for self-esteem and self-respect. * Self-actualization – this is the highest category, in which one tries to achieve and execute his/her potential in full. These needs are rather broad and may be related to desire for creativity, fame, new challenges, etc.

When it comes to limitations of the theory, there are claims that Maslow’s theory has no clear evidence that human needs can be classified exactly into five segments, indeed, the hierarchical way the needs are structured as well as how they trigger each other can be questioned (Wahba & Bridwell, 1976). Self-determination theory

Human behavior can be described from different sides and to find motivation of behavior researchers invented various theories. One of the most popular nowadays is self-determination theory (hereafter SDT) which was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Self-determination theory is a wide basis for analysis of human motivation and personality. The theory postulates that, despite of the objective limitations of environment or impact of unconscious intrapersonal processes, people can feel and implement freedom of choice in their behavior. Therefore, SDT focuses on the degree to which people’s behavior is self-determined and self-motivated. Different degrees of self-motivation have various consequences for learning, performance, personal experience and well-being and it gives knowledge of how motivation has been achieved and sustained, which is positive thrust for people, or where the breach of motivation is, which leads to alienation, passivity and psychopathology (Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 49-51).

Moreover, self-determination theory considers human nature as a perpetually striving to show effort and commitment in their lives, so-called “people’s inherent growth tendencies”. Another concern is that people have innate psychological needs which are the basis for self-motivation and personality integration. Based on many examples, scientists identify three different types of innate psychological needs: * Competence – seek to control the outcome and experience mastery * Autonomy – is the universal urge to be causal agents of one’s own life and act in harmony with one’s integrated self * Relatedness – is the universal want to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others (The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation, p. 497-529) These innate needs assist regular growth and integration of personality, social development and well-being.

However, SDT does not emphases only on positive developmental trend characteristics but also examines deleterious environmental factors that hinder self-motivation. SDT divides motivation on three different types: intrinsic, extrinsic and amotivation. Amotivation is inability or unwillingness to participate in normal social situation (Selfdeterminationtheory.org) “Intrinsic motivation is the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to learn, and to explore” (Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 51). SDT does not concern what causes intrinsic motivation but examines the conditions that elicit and sustain, versus subdue and diminish innate propensity. “Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain some separable outcome”, (Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 53).

Figur 1 (Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 53)
Figure 1 consists of one amotivated and five motivated behaviors which subdivided by regulatory styles to external regulation, introjected regulation, indentified regulation, integrated regulation and intrinsic regulation. Styles are characterized by different behavior relatively to the degree of regulation. These subtypes of extrinsic motivation are seen as falling along a continuum of internalization. The more internalized the extrinsic motivation the more autonomous the person will be when enacting the behaviors (Motivation and Work Behavior, p. 54-55).

Due to the time and page limitation we will focus on the motivation in the start-up phase. Because of the lack of information about the organization it won’t be possible to find any literature about the organization itself or the motivations of the founders; this information will be gathered by the use of an interview. Due to the page limitation and our research question we have applied only the most relevant aspects of the theories. We have chosen to analyze the team as one unit instead of analyzing them individually, in order to simplify the analysis.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
To start with, through an interview we tried to draw a rough psychological portrait of the team in order to find out whether and to what extent the team’s needs are met or not. Analyzing the case with help of Maslow’s theory, there were no indications from the team that they have been experiencing any unfulfilled physiological needs. Asked about safety issues, the team was in the opinion that their surrounding hides little risks, indeed, they were not concerned about physical safety at all. It is important to note that the team lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, which according to Forbes can be ranked among Europe’s Top 10 cities to live in (Forbes.com, checked November 27). When it comes to the Love& Belonging category, we would rate the team members as socially active persons – they have loving families, the team players are friends themselves, as well as they have hobbies and activities linking them with people outside their every-day circle. Thus, we tend to believe that the team’s “deficiency needs” are to a large extent satisfied, and their motivation to carry out the project most probably is stemming from their growth needs rather than “deficiency needs”.

Among the main motives that drove the team members to establish AktionDK were mentioned such factors as the need for achievement, freedom, gaining of experience, fulfilling their desire to help the less fortunate, etc. Apparently the above-needs chiefly fall under the esteem and self-actualization categories of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Moreover, when looking at their decision to establish particularly a nonprofit organization, not a commercial one, we see clear indications about the highest levels of needs that remain unsatisfied. The chosen type of organization as such supposedly involves and requires from owners/managers creativity and moral issues, i.e. esteem and self-actualization traits. Meanwhile, we found it really interesting that few of the team’s needs may contradict with Maslow’s theory.

For instance, in the interview the team noted that one of their drivers is the need for experience. In our view this need depending on attached meanings to it may be attributed to both growth needs (experience leading to larger self-confidence, for example), and basic needs (experience that allows to better compete on the job market, linking to safety needs). Thus, in this case it might be challenging to draw strict lines and apply whole Maslow’s concept. We are also aware of the findings of Wahba and Brudwell that claimed that there is no strong evidence for Maslow’s ranking of needs or for a specific hierarchy among needs (Wahba & Bridwell, 1976).

Figur 2
These aspects of the case should be taken into account and may provide further research opportunities, for instance, as a testing platform for other theories (ERG). Self-determination theory Applied self-determination theory to our particular case, we tried to find out what reasons motivate graduate students to work in the nonprofit company. Based on data obtained from the interview we started from analyzing their “inherent growth tendencies” and innate psychological needs. First of all, desire to act, to commit and to put efforts as a volunteers without getting any tangible reward (e.g. salary or valuable object) in itself shows us that there are some internal, hidden and psychological motives which, in graduate students’ opinion, eventually will lead them to personal growth, social development and/or future opportunities. Second aspect related to innate psychological needs as autonomy, competence and relatedness also pronounced in their activity. The graduate students autonomously organized nonprofit company.

Therefore they have almost full independence from control or supervising and have full freedom of choice what to do and how to do. So, they tend to realize their need for autonomy. Moreover, to confirm strive for relatedness we found that the graduate students in interview confessed that above all they like the idea of helping people in need and thus to be useful for the society. Also, they like to work together because of their friendship and similar views of life as well as interacting with local government and other groups of society. Last but not least, the graduate students have strong intentions to use knowledge and experience, to get encouragement and recognition from friends, relatives and society, and so to get realization of competence need. Thus, we found support for the main postulate of self-determination theory. We explored that graduate students who startup AktionDK have inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs. Furthermore it was important to determine what specifically motivates them and whether it is internal or external.

For this purposes we used the organismic integration theory (OIT) taxonomy of motivational types to describe the graduate students’ type of motivation according to evaluating different activities during the startup phase. We analyzed all three types of motivation: amotivation, extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. We did not find anything related to amotivation in their behavior. In our opinion, the graduate students would not establish the company if there was no motivation for them. Moreover, at startup phase they do not have so much routine job and easily can choose what to do and how to do it. So, there is no lack of intention to act. Extrinsic motivation consists of four different regulation styles which will be described below. We found no evidence of total externally regulated behavior because as founders and owners of the organization they decide how and with who they want to work with, which is why there is no total external regulating control above them.

The introjected regulation in our case can be described as external behavioral regulations that should be followed but which you don’t fully accept as you own. This could be the criteria’s set by the government which must be present to be able to run the organization and to obtain funding for the events. Due to the market situation concerning the lack of job availability, the market imposes various ways to practice ones personal learning’s and thereby to obtain the experience needed to build a strong personal profile attractive to a future employer. This will be accepted as an important motivational factor and therefore be accepted as a personal importance, which is the argumentation of regulation through identification. One of the main aspects that drove the opening of the organization was to help the society and the less fortunate which can be described as an integrated regulation.

This lies very close to the intrinsic motivation, but in our opinion it has separable outcomes (the graduate students and the society) rather than inherent enjoyment this will be categorized as a part of the extrinsic motivation. Another integrated regulation is thee strive to work with like-minded persons. On the basis of information obtained from the interview we came to the conclusion that one of the strongest types of motivation in this case is intrinsic motivation. First of all, they startup a nonprofit organization and then will work without getting salary, as volunteers. Hence, we can assume there are robust internal motivation factors as great interest in such kind of activity, aspiration to realize ideas and to get a pleasure from job. Future implications

In our opinion, the motivation question in AktionDK requires a special approach and careful treatment under close supervision of all influencing factors. The main problem which could affect the motivation in the organization is the failure to get the project. Due to the fact that students have a lack of suitable experience when writing the project plan and a lack of work experience in this sector as a whole (lack of competence), they may have certain problems and, as a result, lose the sight of the important issues on the preparation of a project for the government. Therefore, they should pay attention to the following factors: use creativity in drafting, to lean on creative thinking skills and expertise; to determine how to motivate people in need to participate in a project; to determine how to motivate other volunteers who will work in the company; to determine what they will do next if they do not get the first draft. In addition, it is interesting to consider a number of the following questions: What are the specific differences in the graduate students’ motivation in organization AktionDK? Are these differences significant? Do the cultural differences influence the graduate students’ motivation in organization AktionDK? How the failure in obtaining the project will affect graduate students’ motivation in the organization AktionDK. Conclusion

This paper discusses two motivational theories in relation to the nonprofit organization ActionDK. The authors started out with developing the research question and will in the following conclusion try to answer them. With the help of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we found out that AktionDK team’s motivation to a great extent is driven by growth needs, i.e. self-actualization and esteem needs. In our view the team members have satisfied their basic needs, which have allowed them to enter the next level – growth needs. These findings provide partial explanation to the question why the graduates have chosen to start their nonprofit organization, instead of joining the regular job market.

As a result of implementing the self-determination theory, we sum up all the data obtained from the interview and ascertain that in graduate students’ behavior from organization ActionDK the most powerful role plays the extrinsic motivation, especially with relatively autonomous regulation style. We found out that the desire to practice theoretical learnings, expert skills and knowledge, aspiration to get experience to strengthen the professional profile, wish to work in a group with a like-minded people and desire to help the less fortunate people prevail in their motivation. Nevertheless, not least important is influence of intrinsic motivation. The graduate students organize the organization ActionDK on the assumption of robust interest in this particular area, aspiration to realize personal ideas and to get a pleasure from activity. Therefore, we think that due to distinctions in motivation types it is necessary to implement different approaches to achieve higher rank of internalization.


Andersen, Ib (2006): Den skinbarlige virkelighed, Forlaget Samfundslitteratur Den frivillige sektor i Danmark (Rapport) free download – http://www.sfi.dk/rapportoplysninger-4681.aspx?Action=1&NewsId=100&PID=9267 (checked December 02, 2012) forbes.com/2008/07/21/cities-europe-lifestyle-forbeslife-cx_vr_0721europe_slide_4.html?thisSpeed=undefined; (checked on November 27, 2012) Porter, L.; Bigley, G; Steers, R. M (2003): Motivation and Work Behavior, 7th edition, McGraw-Hill Rienecker, Lotte; Jørgensen, Peter Stray (2010): Den gode opgave, Forlaget Samfundslitteratur selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory (checked December 02, 2012) Wahba, M. A., & Bridwell, L. G. (1976). Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 15(2), 212-240 -http://larrybridwell.com/Maslo.pdf (Checked December 02, 2012)

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