Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

The Lexington Humane Society depends substantially on volunteer labor yet suffers from a high volunteer attrition rate. Using data from the organization’s database and a survey of volunteers, this project paints a demographic picture of the volunteer population and identifies traits that affect volunteer longevity.

The evidence shows that the organization’s volunteers are overwhelmingly likely to be pet-owning women with no children at home who are motivated to volunteer because it allows them to act on their values. Middle-age individuals are more likely than those under 25 or over 65 to become long term volunteers, and individuals who have recently lost a pet are less likely to become long-term volunteers than those who have not. There is some evidence that attending religious services once a year or less, identifying as a political moderate and working full-time make an individual more likely to become a long-term volunteer. There is some evidence that having a spouse, being a student, or having a friend or family member who already volunteers at the organization make an individual less likely to become a long-term volunteer.

Based on this study, the author recommends that Lexington Humane Society: 1. make its orientation process more applicant driven; 2. use “values” as a theme in volunteer recruitment and retention; 3. take steps to improve the retention rate of those who have recently lost a pet; and 4. Take steps to raise its profile among demographics that are likely potential long-term volunteers, such as middle-aged, childless, pet-owning women.