Publication Date

December 2021

Natural area management and sustainability in cities is ever more reliant on civic environmental stewardship. Many conservation organizations sponsor stewardship programs that enlist volunteers to care for the land and restore urban ecosystems. Stewardship program success depends on alignment of individuals’ and sponsoring organizations’ goals. We conducted surveys with a sample of 165 volunteers across natural areas stewardship events in metropolitan King County (Washington, U.S.). An adapted Volunteer Functions Inventory framework was used to understand volunteers’ motivations, satisfactions, and volunteering history. Our findings confirmed the multidimensional dynamics of volunteerism, as stewardship volunteers were motivated and expressed satisfaction for practical altruism, social interactions, experiential learning and a sense of positive impact. High frequency volunteers expressed higher values across all satisfactions outcomes. People who participated in stewardship events closer to home indicated higher event-related social esteem and personal efficacy. Overall, volunteers were generally of greater education attainment, more affluent, and culturally identified as white at a higher rate than the region’s populace, suggesting the need for program innovations to improve stewardship participation diversity. Findings that differ from more general volunteer studies indicate volunteers’ concerns for other people and the environment, in the near term and as legacy for the future. Stewardship organizations’ programs are guided by goals and values. A systematic approach to knowledge building about volunteer motivations can inform more successful volunteer engagement, such as recruitment and retention.