Public Administration ETDs

Publication Date



Many nonprofits depend on volunteers to achieve their missions, this is true for the American Red Cross. Previous literature on volunteers and professional disaster responders suggests there are factors that motivate a person to volunteer, such as a personal connection, the opportunity to help others, working with others who share the same values, a feeling of satisfaction, the ability to give back to the community, personal development, and contributing to a worthy cause. Factors contributing to compassion satisfaction include: personal growth, forming relationships, ability to help others, and mastery of skills. The factors that contribute to compassion fatigue are characteristics of disasters, demographics and lifestyle of responder, length of exposure, and red tape. The coping mechanisms that these groups utilize to overcome the feeling of fatigue include: support system, self-care strategies, take a break, sense of normalcy, spirituality, and addictive substance use. Currently, we lack understanding of what contributes to the motivation, compassion satisfaction and fatigue of volunteer disaster responders as well as the coping mechanisms they utilize to overcome feelings of fatigue. This study explored these areas and found that disaster response volunteers with the American Red Cross in a southwest state are motivated by an attraction to interesting work, as well as the opportunity to help others. The ability to help others is the main contributing factor to respondents compassion satisfaction. Conversely, dealing with red tape within the organization is their greatest source of fatigue. They reported the use of a support system and maintaining or returning to a sense of normalcy as the main coping mechanisms utilized. In order to maintain a well-trained, experienced workforce it is imperative organizations develop policies and procedures that increase compassion satisfaction and decreases compassion fatigue for disaster response volunteers.'

Degree Name

Public Administration

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Public Administration

First Committee Member (Chair)

Desai, Uday

Second Committee Member

Meilleur, Steven




compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, volunteers, volunteer retention

Document Type