Keywords

non-profit organization, attitude, behavioral intention.

Introduction

Non-profit organizations promote concepts to find recognition for volunteering and ideologies and are willing to provide individual services to pursue their ideals and goals [1]. The number of non-profit organizations in Taiwan is increasing and more university students participate in social services to realize their social ideals. However, non-profit organizations have no restrictions on their volunteers, voluntary participation is provided spontaneously and not for the purpose of profits [2]. Therefore, there is a high turnover for university students who volunteer at non-profit organizations and recruitment is difficult.

According to a US survey, the social changes in the 1990s had made the younger generation more selfish, self-centered, isolated, passive, and material-oriented compared to youths in the past. These younger people value their futures and seize education opportunities to help obtain high-paying jobs [3]. This trend has also caused the number of young adults in Taiwan who are self-indulgent and pleasure-seekers to increase [4]. Chen (2003) [5] investigated volunteers in Taiwan and found that most were high school and junior college students, and university students only accounted for 15.1%. Why are so few university students willing to participate in non-profit organizations? What factors affect their willingness to participate in non-profit organizations? What are their attitudes towards participating in non-profit organizations? After graduation, these young adults will have a direct and profound influence on various industries and fields; as such, their attitudes and intention to participate will affect the development of non-profit organizations in Taiwan. Therefore, the present studyinvestigated university students’ behavioral intention regarding non-profit organizations. This was the first motivation for the present study.

Studies on non-profit organizations have mostly focused on organizational operations, policy-making processes, and performance evaluation [6-8]. Research into young volunteers has mostly investigated individual characteristics [9], motivation to participate [10], selective factors [11], organizational environment [6], and work satisfaction [1, 4]. However, there have been few studies that investigated the intention of university students to participate in non-profit organizations and the key factors influencing students’ motivation to participate in non-profit organizations. This was the second motivation for the present study.

This study investigated the behavioral intention of university students to participate in non-profit organizations and analyzed the relationships between attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavior as influencing factors of behavioral intention. The findings can serve as a reference in future policy making.

Literature review and hypotheses

Terminology

Nonprofit organizations

Non-profit organizations are also known as the non-profit sector, non-governmental organizations, charities, the voluntary sector, the third sector, and the independent sector. Therefore, this study considered a non-profit organization as an institution established to improve public welfare or to benefit a group rather than making profits [2, 12].

Attitude

Ajzen (1991) [13] considered attitude to represent an individuals’ positive or negative evaluation of specific behaviors. Hence, personal attitudes are an accumulation of one’s life experiences from childhood to adulthood. Social psychologists state that attitudes are formed from an individual’s total life experiences [14].

subjective norms

Subjective norms are the perceived social pressure from important counterparts or groups to perform or not to perform a specific behavior [13]. The important counterpart or group mentioned above can be considered a reference group. Schiffman and Kanuk (2000) [15] suggest that subjective norms can be evaluated by using the level of association between the individual and the reference group; moreover, reference groups can be further divided into direct reference groups (i.e., family or friends) and indirect reference groups (i.e., magazines, newspapers, or other media).

Perceived behavioral control

Ajzen (1991) [13] stated that perceived behavioral control (PBC) is the resources and opportunity an individual requires to perform a specific behavior or the perceived ease for the behavior which affects their intent to perform the behavior.

Behavioral intention

Behavioral intention is defined as the subjective probability of wanting to perform a behavior [16].

Hypotheses

Literature on subjective norms sand attitude

Subjective norms and attitude are significantly and positively related [17]. When path analysis found that attitude and subjective norms were mutually influential, as subjective norms became more positive, attitude also became more positive [18]. Previous findings showed that subjective norms and attitude are positively related. Therefore, with regards to the relationship between subjective norms and university students’ attitude towards non-profit organizations, this study proposed H1: Subjective norms are significantly correlated with attitude towards participation.

Literature on subjective norms and behavioral intention

Ajzen and Driver (1992) [19] proposed that subjective norms can be used to predict behavioral intention and that subjective norms are the main predictor of behavioral intention [20]. When the influence of subjective norms becomes more significant, the influence of behavioral intention also becomes more significant [21]. Past studies showed that subjective normal and behavioral intention are correlated; thus, with regard to university students’ subjective norms positive relationship with their behavioral intention towards non-profit organizations, this study proposed H2: Subjective norms is significantly correlated to behavioral intention.

Literature on attitude toward participation and behavioral intention

In previous literature investigating attitude and intention, few have explored attitude towards participation and behavioral intention. However, investigations of certain variables have shown that attitude towards participation and behavioral intention are positively correlated. For example, demographic variables, attitude towards the environment, and environmental behaviors influence the intention of bed and breakfast operators to promote environmental protection [22]; attitude towards risk is significantly and positively related to credit card use intention [23]; when business blog readers’ attitude towards products is more significant and their intention to browse products is higher, their intention to purchase will also increase [24]; children’s attitude towards Western fast food brands are positively related to purchase intentions [25]; the teaching attitudes of graduate students at National Taiwan Normal University are significantly and positively related to their intention to teach [26]. The above findings show that attitude and behavioral intention are positively related. Therefore, with regards to the positive relationship between university students’ attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations and behavioral intention, this study proposed H3: University students’ attitude towards participation is significantly correlated to behavioral intention.

Literature on perceived behavioral control and behavioral intention

In the previous literature, students’ PBC was significantly correlated to behavioral intention [27]. PBC was also significantly correlated to behavioral intention in a survey of entrepreneurs [28]. Past literature has shown that PBC is significantly correlated to behavioral intention. Therefore, with regards to the positive relationship between university students’ PBC and participation in non-profit organizations, this study proposed H4: PBC is significantly correlated to behavioral intention.

Research design

The present study investigated the association between subjective norms, attitude, PBC, and behavioral intention. The impact of these variables varies with individual characteristics. The framework of this study was created in accordance with the literature review results. This chapter describes the research framework, definitions of research variables, questionnaire design, sampling method and statistical approaches for data analysis.

Research Framework

The study adopted the theory of planned behavior (TPB) proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29] as the theoretical framework. The four hypotheses are shown in Figure 1.

Data Collection

The participants in this study were university students participating in non-profit organizations. Therefore, random sampling from the database for non-profit organizations at the Taiwan NPO Information Platform. Then, questionnaires were distributed to the selected participants. In order to improve the response rate for the questionnaires, participating organizations were contacted via telephone to inform them of the motivation and purpose of this study, obtain consent, and determine the number of questionnaires to be sent by mail. In addition, in order to distribute the participants, instructions were attached to the questionnaire to avoid any misunderstandings of the questions which may affect the validity.

Questionnnaire design

The questionnaire included five sections and mainly focused on factors which influence students’ participation in non-profit organizations and basic information. The sections are described below.

  • Attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations: The attitude scale in this study was the scale for evaluating university students’ attitudes toward club participation used by Huang and Lo (2007) [30] and Tien’s (2004) [31] revised questionnaire. The scale included dimensions on value, affection, and behavior with a total of 16 questions and was scored on a five-point scale.
  • Subjective norms for participating in non-profit organizations: This study adopted the scale measuring subjective norms based on the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The scale included dimensions on family, friends, and external environment with a total of seven questions and was scored on a five-point scale.
  • Perceived behavioral control for participating in non-profit organizations: The study adopted the perceived behavioral control measurement scale based on the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The scale included dimensions on participation and convenience with a total of seven questions and was scored using a five-point scale.
  • Behavioral intention for participating in non-profit organizations: The study adopted the scale measuring behavioral intention based on the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The scale included dimensions on intention to participate and recommend to others with a total of six questions and was scored using a five-point scale.

Data analysis

Based on the TPB, this study examined the influence of attitude towards participation, subjective norms, and PBC on behavioral intention while behavioral intention was held as a mediating variable. This chapter explains the statistical analyses conducted in order to demonstrate whether the hypotheses were true.

Descriptive statistics

This study distributed 300 questionnaires and 103 were collected for an effective response rate of 34.3%. The collected samples were screened and the four were removed as ineffective samples for an effective response rate of 96.12%. The results are shown in Table 1.

First, a descriptive analysis of the individual variables was conducted. As shown in Table 1, the main sources of information for the participants were family members and friends (33.66%), publications (12.38%), and television advertisements (11.88%). In addition, there were more female participants than male participants.

Table 1

Descriptive statistics

Variable n % Variable n %
Gender Male 39 39.4 Type of NPO Adolescents 13 9.85
Female 60 60.6 Children 15 11.36
Age Under 20 33 33.3 Elderly 10 7.58
21-30 59 59.6 Emergency Aid 12 9.09
31-40 5 5.1 Religious 46 34.85
41-50 2 2 Disabled Services 7 5.3
Women 3 2.27
Residence Northern Taiwan 14 14.1 Other 26 19.7
Central Taiwan 15 15.2 Source of information Family and friends 68 33.66
Southern Taiwan 51 51.5 Flyer 9 4.46
Eastern Taiwan 4 4 Internet 19 9.41
Offshore islands 15 15.2 Poster 18 8.91
Current year in university First year 13 13.1 Street activity 18 8.91
Second year 21 21.2 Publication 25 12.38
Third year 22 22.2 Television or radio 24 11.88
Fourth year 26 26.3 Telephone 1 0.5
Master’s program 17 17.2 Face to face 1 0.5
Religion Yes 60 60.6 Magazine or newspaper 11 5.45
No 39 39.4 Other 8 2.96

The main reason for the gender disparity in the sample was that more female students participate in non-profit organizations and females were more willingness to fill out the questionnaires. In terms of age, 59.6% of the participants were aged 21-30 years old and 5.1% were aged 31-40. Fourth-year university students made up 26.3% of the participants. Participants who lived in southern Taiwan accounted for 51.5% and 15.2% lived in central Taiwan or offshore islands. Among the selected non-profit organizations, most (34.85%) were religious-oriented organizations, followed by miscellaneous organizations (19.7%), and organizations for children (11.36%). Finally, 60.6% of all participants were religious and 39.4% were nonreligious.

Factor analysis

Principal components analysis (PCA) was used to extract the main factors. Factors with an eigenvalue over 1 were extracted and then varimax rotation was used to select the components with a factor loading absolute value greater than 0.5. Finally, each factor was named according to the nature of the variable. Analysis of the factors is described below.

Attitude Towards Participation

This study referenced the attitude scales used by Huang and Lo (2007) [30] and Tien (2004) [31] to investigate university students’ participation in clubs and edited the original questionnaires used that had a total of 16 questions. After factor analysis, factors were adjusted and renamed “value,” “behavior,” and “cognition.” Each component of the questionnaire had a factor loading greater than 0.8.

  • Value: The value of participating in non-profit organizations, including enthusiasm in participating, making friends, controlling emotions, and social interaction.
  • Behavior: The inclination to choose activity, including because the activities suited personal interests, managed time more efficiently, provided spiritual inspiration and wisdom, helped with studies, and helped relax the mind and body.
  • Cognition: The ability to participate in non-profit organizations, including preparation and planning, communication and coordination, adaptation to group life, contribution to a group or a class.

Subjective norms

The subjective norms scale was adopted from the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The questionnaire consisted of seven questions and the factors were renamed “family,” “friends,” and “external environment.” Each component of the questionnaire had a factor loading greater than 0.7.

  • Family: Family influence on participation in non-profit organizations, including approval from parents and other family members.
  • Friends: Friends’ influence on participation in non-profit organizations, including approval from colleagues and friends.
  • External environment: Outside encouragement from school, governmental organizations (Ministry of Education, Youth Development Administration, etc.), and mass media (e.g., newspapers and magazines).

Perceived behavior control

The present study adopted the scale from the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The questionnaire had seven questions and the factors were renamed “participation” and “convenience.” Each component had a factor loading greater than 0.7.

  • Participation: Participation in non-profit organizations, including understanding what non-profit organizations are and having the confidence to participate in non-profit organizations.
  • Convenience: The ability to participate in non-profit organizations, including sufficient time, money, and energy.

Behavioral intention

The present study adopted the scale from the TPB proposed by Ajzen (1989) [29]. The questionnaire had five questions and factors were renamed “intention to participate” and “intention to recommend to others.” Each component of the questionnaire had a factor loading greater than 0.8

  • Intention to participate: The intention to participate in non-profit organizations.
  • Intention to recommend to others: The intention to advertise, recommend, or encourage others to participate in non-profit organizations.

Reliability analysis

This study evaluated the reliability of the questionnaire using Cronbach’s α. A Cronbach’s α over 0.5 means that the questionnaire is acceptable. The reliability of the questionnaire content is shown in Table 2. Attitude towards participation, subjective norms, perceived behavior control, and behavioral intention had Cronbach’s α values over 0.7. Therefore, the questionnaire was internally consistent.

Table 2

The reliability of the scale

Main variable Sub-variable Cronbach’s α
Attitude towards participation Value 0.816
Behavior 0.872
Cognition 0.923
Subjective norms Family 0.961
Friends 0.924
External environment 0.759
Perceived behavior control Participation 0.836
Convenience 0.761
Behavioral intention Intention to participate 0.85
Intention to recommend to others 0.844

Correlation coefficient analysis

This study investigated the correlations among behavioral intention, subjective norms, perceived behavior, and attitude toward participation. Pearson’s product-moment correlation method was used to analyze the data. The results are shown in Table 3.

Subjective norms and attitude towards participation

As shown in Table 3, the family, friends, and external environment were significantly and positively correlated with attitude towards values, attitude towards behavior, and cognitive attitudes.

Table 3

Pearson correlation analysis

A B C D E F G H I J
A 1 0.557** 0.421** 0.390** 0.282** 0.593** 0.493** 0.461** 0.377** 0.348**
B 0.557** 1 0.397** 0.486** 0.319** 0.434** 0.300** 0.379** 0.358** 0.368**
C 0.421** 0.397** 1 0.372** 0.133 0.372** 0.271** 0.264** 0.251* 0.13
D 0.390** 0.486** 0.372** 1 0.362** 0.176 0.236* 0.327** 0.263** 0.434**
E 0.282** 0.319* 0.133 0.362** 1 0.187 0.311** 0.185 0.374** 0.274**
F 0.593** 0.434** 0.372** 0.176 0.187 1 0.476** 0.530** 0.427** 0.325**
G 0.493** 0.300** 0.271** 0.236* 0.311** 0.476** 1 0.258** 0.341** 0.219*
H 0.461** 0.379** 0.264** 0.327** 0.185 0.530** 0.258** 1 0.460** 0.473**
I 0.377** 0.358** 0.251* 0.263** 0.374** 0.427** 0.341** 0.460** 1 0.410**
J 0.348** 0.368** 0.13 0.434** 0.274** 0.325** 0.219* 0.473** 0.410** 1

**Significant correlation when the level of significance is 0.01 (two-tailed).

*Significant correlation when the level of significance is 0.05 (two-tailed).

A: Behavioral intention–Intention to participate, B: Behavioral intention–Intention to recommend to others, C: Subjective norms–Family, D: Subjective norms–Friends, E: Subjective norms–External environment, F: Perceived behavior–Participation, G: Perceived behavior–Convenience, H: Attitude towards participation–Value, I: Attitude towards participation–Behavior, J: Attitude towards participation–Cognition

Subjective norms and behavioral intention

As shown in Table 3, family, friends, and external environment were significantly and positively correlated with intention to participate and intention to recommend to others.

Attitude towards participation and behavioral intention

As shown in Table 3, family, friends, and external environment were significantly and positively correlated to attitude towards values, attitude towards behavior, and cognitive attitudes.

Perceived behavior control and behavioral intention

As shown in Table 3, participation and convenience were significantly and positively related to intention to participate and intention to recommend to others.

Regression analysis

Predictive analysis of subjective norms and attitude towards participation

The present study adopted a regression analysis method to investigate the relation between subjective norms of (independent variable) and attitude towards participation (dependent variable) in non-profit organizations among university students. As shown in Table 4, subjective norms were found to be significantly correlated with attitude towards participation.

  • Attitude towards value: Subjective norms were found to be able to predict attitude towards values (predictive value of 10.9%), which confirmed the H1-1 hypothesis. The influence of friends was positively related to the actual attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations.
  • Attitude towards behavior: Subjective norms were found to be able to predict attitude towards behavior (predictive value of 16.1%), which confirmed the H1-2 hypothesis. The influence of external environment was positively related to the actual attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations.
  • Cognitive attitudes: Subjective norms were found to be able to predict cognitive attitudes (predictive value of 18%), which confirmed the H1-3 hypothesis. The influence of friends was positively related to the actual attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations.

Table 4

Regression analysis of subjective norms and attitude towards participation

Dependent variable Attitude towards value (β) Attitude towards behaviors (β) Cognitive attitudes (β)
Independent variable
Family 0.165 0.179* -0.036
Friends 0.238** 0.08 0.399***
External environment 0.077 0.321*** 0.134
Adjusted R square 0.109 0.161 0.18
F test 4.98*** 7.253*** 8.183***

* P < 0.1;** P < 0.05; *** P < 0.01

Predictive analysis of subjective norms and behavioral intention

The present study adopted a regression analysis method to investigate the relation between subjective norms (independent variable) and behavioral intention (dependent variable) to participate in non-profit organizations among university students. As shown in Table 5, subjective norms were found to be significantly correlated with behavioral intention.

  • Intention to participate: Subjective norms were found to be able to predict the behavioral intention to participate (predictive value of 24%), which confirmed the H2-1 hypothesis. Family support was positively related to the actual behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations.
  • Intention to recommend to others: Subjective norms were found to be able to predict the behavioral intention to recommend to others (predictive value of 29.3%), which confirmed the H2-2 hypothesis. Friends’ recommendations were positively related to the actual behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations.

Table 5

Regression analysis of subjective norms and behavioral intention

Dependent variable Intention to participate(β) Intention to recommend to others (β)
Independent variable
Family 0.321*** 0.251***
Friends 0.212** 0.333***
Indirect external environment 0.162* 0.165*
Adjusted R square 0.24 0.293
F test 11.313*** 14.531***

* P < 0.1;** P < 0.05; *** P < 0.01

Predictive analysis of attitude towards participation and behavioral intention

The present study adopted a regression analysis method to investigate the relation between university students’ attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations (independent variable) and their behavioral intention (dependent variable). As shown in Table 6, attitude towards participation was found to be significantly correlated with behavioral intention.

Table 6

Regression analysis of attitude towards participation and behavioral intention

Dependent variable Intention to participate(β) Intention to recommend to others (β)
Independent variable
Attitude towards values 0.321*** 0.201*
Attitude towards behaviors 0.124* 0.197*
Cognitive attitudes 0.179 0.185*
Adjusted R square 0.235 0.19
F test 11.18*** 8.671***

* P < 0.1;** P < 0.05; *** P < 0.01

Predictive analysis of perceived behavior control and behavioral intention

The present study adopted a regression analysis method to investigate the relation between perceived behavioral control (independent variable) and behavioral intention (dependent variable) to participate in non-profit organizations among university students. As shown in Table 7, perceived behavior control was found to be significantly correlated with behavioral intention.

  • Intention to participate: Perceived behavioral control was found to be able to predict the behavioral intention to participate (predictive value of 39.7%), which confirmed the H4-1 hypothesis. Understanding of and confident participation in non-profit organizations was positively related to the behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations.
  • Intention to recommend to others: Perceived behavioral control was found to be able to predict the behavioral intention to recommend to others (predictive value of 18.3%), which confirmed the H4-2 hypothesis. Understanding of and confident participation in non-profit organizations was positively related to the behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations.

Path analysis

Path analysis was conducted to understand the relationship between attitude towards participation, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention. The path graph and effects analysis are provided in Figure 2 and Table 8, respectively.

Table 7

Regression analysis of perceived behavioral control and behavioral intention

Dependent variable Intention to participate(β) Intention to recommend to others(β)
Independent variable
Convenience 0.273*** 0.121
Participation 0.463*** 0.376***
Adjusted R square 0.397 0.183
F test 33.282*** 11.967***

* P < 0.1;** P < 0.05; *** P < 0.01

Figure Path analysis diagram

Effect Direct effect Indirect effect Total effect
Path (Attitude towards participation)
Subjective norms→attitude 0.484 0.484
Subjective norms→behavioral intention 0.364 0.095 0.579
Attitude→behavioral intention 0.197 0.197
Perceived behavior→behavioral intention 0.337 0.337

Attitude towards participation

As shown in Table 8, subjective norms had a direct positive effect of 0.484 on attitude towards participation. As there were no indirect effects, the total effect of subjective norms was equal to their direct effect.

Behavioral intention

As shown in Table 8, first, subjective norms had a total effect of 0.579 on behavioral intention, including the direct effect of 0.364 and the indirect effect of 0.095. Second, attitude towards participation had a direct positive effect of 0.197 on behavioral intention. Third, perceived behavioral control had a direct positive effect of 0.337 on behavioral intention, which was equal to its total effect. Yet subjective norms were the main factor that influenced behavioral intention.

Conclusion and suggestions

This study adopted the theory of planned behavior to investigate and predict the behavioral intention of university students to participate in non-profit organizations. The reliability coefficients above 0.7 indicated a good reliability of collected data. This study investigated (1) the effect of subjective norms on university students’ attitude towards participating in non-profit organizations, (2) the effect of subjective norms on behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations, (3) the effect of university students’ attitude towards participation in non-profit organization on their behavioral intention, and (4) the effect of perceived behavioral control on students’ behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations.

First, subjective norms were found to be significantly correlated with students’ attitude towards participation in non-profit organizations. Attitude to participate included three variables, which are attitude towards value, attitude towards behavior, and cognitive attitudes.

Subjective norms were significantly correlated to with the attitude toward value. In particular, friends’ norms had the most significant effect. In other words, friends’ approval elicited a positive effect on students’ willingness to participate in non-profit organization. In addition, subjective norms were significantly correlated with the attitude towards behavior. External information had the most significant effect, i.e. external information encouraged students to understand or participate in non-profit organizations. Lastly, subjective norms were significantly correlated with cognitive attitudes. Friends’ norms had the most significant effect, i.e. encouraged by friends’ approval, students held positive perspectives about participating in non-profit organizations.

Second, subjective norms were found to be significantly correlated with students’ behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations. Behavioral intention included two variables, which are the intention to participate in non-profit organizations and the intention to recommended to others. Subjective norms were significantly correlated with the intention to participate. Family norms had the most significant effect, i.e. family encouragement influenced one’s intention to participate in non-profit organizations. In addition, subjective norms were significantly correlated with the intention to recommend. In particular, friend norms had the most significant effect, i.e. students’ recommendation influenced their friends’ intention to participate in non-profit organizations.

Third, students’ attitude towards participation was found to be significantly correlated with their intention to participate in non-profit organizations. In particular, attitude towards values had the most significant effect, meaning that university students’ attitude towards the value of participating in non-profit organizations was significantly correlated with their intention to participate, as well as their intention to recommend participation in non-profit organizations to others.

Finally, perceived behavioral control was found to be significantly correlated with behavioral intention. Particularly, convenience and ability to participate had the most significant effect. In other words, students who were more flexible with their time and finances and able to participate in non-profit organizations had a significantly higher intention to participate. Moreover, results indicated a significant correlation between students’ intention to recommend participation in non-profit organizations to others and their own ability to participate in non-profit organizations, meaning that students who had a better ability to participate in non-profit organizations were significantly more willing to recommend others to participate in non-profit organizations.

This study investigated the effect of university students’ subjective norms, attitude, and perceived behavioral control on their behavioral intention to participate in non-profit organizations. Results showed that subjective norms are an important factor influencing behavioral intention. As such, managers of non-profit organizations should consider the importance of family members’ approval and classmates and friends’ recommendations in helping students understand their preferences and developing their confidence in participation. Moreover, students who realize that participation in non-profit organizations allows them to make new friends, improve their ability to control emotions and develop their social skills are more willing to participate in non-profit organizations.