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Volunteer motivations at sports events in Qatar

– Written by Simon Jones, Qatar


Volunteers are crucial for the delivery of sports services and programmes and are critical to their success1-3. Volunteering in sports has been described as the “lifeblood” of English sports4, as the “heart of sport” in New Zealand5 and as the “backbone of Australian sporting organisations”6. It is apparent that volunteers are essential in sports.


The recruitment and retention of volunteers has been identified as problematic7. Understanding what motivates people to volunteer is very important as this knowledge could help to determine how to encourage people to volunteer and/or continue volunteering3. It is also important to mention that the factors which motivate people to volunteer initially (as a one off experience), might be different from the factors that motivate them to be involved for longer periods of time8.


There is a large amount of literature in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America devoted to volunteers, volunteers in sports and what motivates those people to volunteer, which will be explored in the literature review. There is very little work however, addressing volunteers in the Arabian Gulf and more specifically for the purposes of this study, in Qatar. The author at the time of writing could find no official research pertaining to volunteering in Qatar. As a result, there is an opportunity for fresh research in this field which would hopefully culminate in a better understanding of the motivational factors for volunteers at sports events in Qatar.


Sport England4 defined volunteering in sports as “individual volunteers helping others in sport and receiving either no remuneration or only expenses” and Volunteering Australia9 defined volunteering as “time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain”. Currently, no formal definition of sports volunteers or volunteers in general has been officially stated in Qatar. However, in recent years Qatar has hosted a wide range of major sporting events, including the Qatar Open Tennis Tournament, the Qatar Open Golf Masters, the 2006 Asian Games, the 2011 Asian Cup football tournament and the 2015 Men's World Handball Championship and is due to host many more, including the FIFA World Cup 202210 . Perhaps it is time that a definition was developed.



To compensate for a lack of event employees and to reduce the operational costs of sporting events, organisers reach out to the community asking for volunteers to assist8. Various studies have investigated volunteer motivations.


Shilbi et al11 studied the characteristics of volunteers in UK sports clubs and reported that 63% of volunteers did so for self-interest and 44% did so to help people and programme operations.


Characterising sports volunteers with two broad definitions of either altruistic or egoistic may not be satisfactory as the majority of sports volunteers will encompass both altruistic and egoistic motivations for doing what they do12.


Multi-pronged approaches to sports volunteer motivations have also been presented13, recognising three motivation categories; utilitarian (indirect benefits, not money or material), affective (the potential for interpersonal relationships) and normative (altruistic values).


Caldwell and Andereck14 also identified three types of incentives when assessing volunteer motivations in recreation-related organisations; material (tangible, with a monetary value), solidary (intangible, with emotional attachment) and purposive (with intangible rewards relating to the organisation). Results from their study showed that the most important reason for volunteering was to contribute to society. And the least important reason for volunteering was for material benefit.


Williams et al3 researched volunteer motivations at the Whistler Skiing World Cup (men’s) using Caldwell and Andereck’s14 three factor incentive approach and also discovered that purposive incentives were the most important and material incentives were the least important.


Farrell et al15 proposed an adapted version of a prominent Motivation to Volunteer Scale (MVS) created by Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen8. They studied motivations to volunteer at an elite women’s curling competition based on four types of motivational incentives; purposive, solidary, external traditions and commitments. The first two incentive categories were the same as previous studies by Caldwell and Andereck14, and Williams3 – these were again found to be the most important when it came to the decision to volunteer. External traditions relate to incentives such as family tradition or friends and family also volunteering, while commitments refer to motivations from an external influence such as being expected to volunteer or the potential volunteer’s skills were needed.


Strigas and Jackson16 offered an adapted version of the research carried out by Farrel et al15. They incorporated aspects of the Cnaan and Goldberg-Glen8 MVS. They included incentives from the work carried out by Clary et al17, adding further additional dimensions such as the career construct. They took into consideration a study by Beard and Ragheb18 that assessed leisure interests as a motivation. In addition to the reflection on previous studies, they developed some items that were based on sports events literature19. They created a five factor model which included the following incentives factors: material, purposive, leisure, egoistic and external. Purposive factors once again emerged as the main incentives for volunteering, further validating the previous studies.




The Strigas and Jackson16 motivation scale was deemed the most suitable scale to be used. This appeared to be the most relevant based on the literature review; it has an all-inclusive approach and is considered a strong assessment tool20. The expected sample size was also estimated to be similar to Strigas and Jackson (relative to other studies) who received 60 responses, as the author expected a response rate of around 10% from an estimated audience of 1200 people. Archer21 reported a 48.3% response rate to online surveys and Sexton et al22 reported a response rate of 53%. However Petchenik and Watermolen23 warned of only a 2% response rate. The author concluded a target response rate of 10% was both reasonable and cautious.


Volunteers were asked the extent to which certain factors contributed towards their decision to volunteer. A five-point Likert scale was used ranging from (1) ‘strongly disagree’ to (5) ‘strongly agree’ (Table 1).


To get an idea of who was responding, seven demographic questions were also asked in the survey including age group, gender, marital status, employment status, nationality, level of education and number of times the participant had volunteered before.


Participants and procedure

The exact sample figure is unknown as the author relied on various sports volunteering group co-ordinators to forward the survey to their database of volunteers from sports events in 2015 and due to confidentiality requirements exact figures could not be revealed. It is estimated that it would be in the region of around 1200 recipients, from volunteers at various sports events in Qatar (Table 2).

Two online surveys were developed using SurveyMonkey® with unlimited responses, one in English and one in Arabic (identical questions). The survey was opened on 28th January 2016 and remained open until 15th February 2016 to allow for just over 2 weeks of collection. The opening page of the survey noted that the survey was confidential and participation voluntary.



Certain limitations were acknowledged at the time of creating the survey. Previously-mentioned studies focus on one typology of sports volunteering e.g. Shilbi11; volunteers in UK sports clubs, Williams et al3; volunteers at a skiing event, Strigas and Jackson16; volunteers at a marathon. The author was concerned about potential low response rates and wanted to have a valid data set so included as many sports volunteer participants as possible.


A comparatively short collection time for responses was noted by the author however the majority of responses were gained in the first few days of the survey being opened.


A follow-up request to participants would have been ideal but the author did not have direct access to the participants and was apprehensive to request this from the collaborators.



From the volunteers that completed the survey, 58% were male and 42% were female. The highest proportion of volunteers that completed the survey were in the age range of 26 to 35 (27%), with 24% in the 36 to 45 age range and 21% in the 19 to 25 range.


Fourty-eight percent of respondents were single and 52% were married. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were in full-time employment and 28% were students. Fifty-one percent of respondents were educated to at least the level of a Bachelor’s degree. Forty-five percent of respondents had volunteered four times or more.


Indians made up the highest proportion of volunteers with 23% of respondents; this is reflective of the proportion of the population of Qatar24. Respondents from the Philippines made up the next highest proportion of volunteers with 11%, slightly higher than their percentage of Qatar’s population (8.5%)24. Qataris made up 10% of the volunteers, slightly lower than their percentage of the population (12%)24.

According to the responses the most important motive with a mean of 4.52, was, “it’s fun to volunteer at sporting events”. The second most highly rated item with a mean of 4.50, was “I wanted to help make the event a success”. The least important motive with a mean of 2.28, was, “my employer/school will give me extra credit/bonus for volunteering”. The second least important motive with a mean of 2.60, was, “I wanted to get away from the responsibilities of everyday life”. Table 3 displays the list of the five highest ranking motives, the 5 lowest ranking motives, their means (M) and standard deviations (SD).



The Chronbach’s Alpha coefficient was calculated using IBM SPSS statistical analysis software in order to test the reliability of the survey. The overall reliability of the survey was 0.953. To test further reliability of the survey the reliability coefficient of each factor was also calculated and revealed a range from 0.783 to 0.901. (Table 4). According to the literature, coefficient values of 0.7 or higher indicate a good level of internal consistency (DeVillis25, Kline26). This survey therefore shows good levels of internal consistency.



There were more male than female volunteers but the difference was small and there were more married volunteers than non-married, but once again the difference was small.


The most common age group was that of the 26 to 35 year olds but the spread of volunteers was closely represented by the 36 to 45 and 19 to 25 year olds.


There was a diverse range of nationalities volunteering and their representation seems to be closely matched to each nationality’s proportion of the total population of Qatar.


All the motives that belong to the purposive factors showed a high mean value and the five highest ranking motivations for volunteering at Qatar’s sports events were all purposive factors. Material and leisure factors showed the lowest mean values for volunteer motives in Qatar’s sports events. This is consistent with previous studies (Caldwell and Aldereck14; Williams et al3; Farrell15; Strigas and Jackson16).


The reliability of the instrument was indicated as high when calculated using Alpha coefficients.


Volunteers are motivated by a variety of reasons and it is important to identify and understand which of these needs are the most important (Clary, Snyder and Ridge17).


This study has helped identify those different needs and should be further analysed for the demographic trends in order to help target certain demographics.


The results will be shared with the collaborators from the various sports events mentioned in Table 2 and discussions will take place on how they can use the data obtained for their benefit in attracting and retaining volunteers.


Hopefully this will serve as a basis for further studies in the area of sports volunteers in Qatar.


Acknowledgements: the author would like to thank Dr. Anne van der Made who helped with the preparation of this paper. The volunteer group co-ordinators who distributed the survey to their databases, especially Ms. Faten Al Sada, who is in charge of the Al Shaqab volunteer programme, which contributed to half of the sports events used in this study. Also to Ms. Hend Al Mousawi, who translated the motivation scale from English to Arabic and helped to analyse the Arabic data.



Simon Jones PG.Dip.

Recreation Supervisor

Facilities and Community Services

Qatar Foundation

Doha, Qatar





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