The Role of Volunteer Experience on Performance on Online Volunteering Platforms
34 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 6, 2021
Online volunteering platforms allow humanitarian organizations (HOs) to recruit volunteers to work remotely on projects. While the removal of time and space constraints enables HOs to scale up their volunteer force, HOs must manage greater variation in volunteers’ experience. In this study, we investigate the relationship between volunteers’ experience levels and two performance metrics on these platforms: project completion and volunteer retention. Moreover, we study when experience becomes more relevant to project completion depending on a project’s urgency (i.e., disaster response vs. development). To test these relationships, we collected a novel panel dataset from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Tasking Manager, on which volunteers contribute to mapping projects. Our dataset includes 5,162 online volunteering projects with 2,169,683 contributions by 96,450 volunteers. Using panel regression models, we show that a project’s completion rate significantly depends on the number of volunteers at each experience level (i.e., beginner, intermediate, advanced). Interestingly, we find that the counts of intermediate and advanced volunteers are equally valuable to project completion. Our analysis further indicates that beginner volunteers should be channeled to development projects and intermediate volunteers to disaster response projects to enhance project completion. For volunteer retention, we use parametric hazard models and find that volunteers are incentivized to return to online volunteering platforms more quickly when they are closer to attaining the next experience-based status. However, this effect weakens as volunteers reach higher statuses. Overall, our study sheds light on online volunteer management and offers operational insights for HOs as well as for online volunteering platforms.
Keywords: volunteer management, online volunteering platforms, volunteer experience, project completion, volunteer retention
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