Retention, Migration, and Engagement: An Analysis of a Large-Scale Multiplex Volunteer Collaboration Network
39 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2020 Last revised: 1 Dec 2020
Date Written: November 30, 2020
Volunteer engagement is improving the well-being of individuals in society, and volunteers' retention and migration behaviors are critical to the management of non-profit organizations. Despite the existing effort to understand organization performance with network science, no prior study has tapped into the behavior of the unpaid labor force of non-profit organizations. This work looks into volunteers' engagement, retention, and migration by constructing dynamic egocentric collaboration networks using data from 827,260 unique volunteers' participation in 183,445 projects initiated by 74,556 non-profit organizations over nine years. We apply a multiplex network framework to characterize the heterogeneous relationships within the collaboration networks. We find that volunteers embedded in more cohesive networks and surrounded by fewer structural holes (gaps between individuals who have complementary sources of information) are more likely to remain in their existing non-profit organizations. These volunteers are less likely to explore unfamiliar organizations through migration, and collectively, the reduced migration rates negatively affect the development of small and newly-established organizations. Further, such volunteers have a higher volunteering engagement level overall, guaranteeing the supply of the volunteer labor force. Our work not only adds to the theories of network cohesion and structural holes but also deepens the understanding of how collaboration networks pose opportunities and constraints for volunteer behaviors. This work provides rich implications for volunteer management and public policy.
Keywords: Volunteerism, multiplex network, network cohesion, structural hole
JEL Classification: A13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation