University-affiliated gardens enhance the teaching, research, and outreach missions of the university. Attracting and retaining volunteers is challenging but important for the success of most public gardens. The objective of this case study was to determine the perceptions and needs of volunteers at a university-affiliated public garden. In a focus group format, participants' responses were analyzed to determine the benefits of volunteering to both the participants and the university. Benefits were categorized into three groups: material, solidarity, and purposive. Material benefits are tangible rewards that are equated with monetary or resource gain. Solidarity benefits are social rewards from being in a group. Purposive benefits are rewards from achieving a goal or mission. This study documents the shift of volunteer motives from deriving purposive to solidarity benefits as the garden grew and expanded. Concomitantly, the goals of the university-affiliated garden shifted from purposive to material benefits. Our results confirm that garden volunteers are like other groups of volunteers in that they expect specific benefits for their participation, and their needs may fluctuate over time. Thus, a public garden may need to adjust reward systems to maximize the positive impact of volunteers. The university would benefit from an efficient support system to help volunteers meet their desire for helping the organization. To retain volunteers the university needs better training programs, a more flexible volunteer work schedule, and more recognition ceremonies. This study has implications for any institution that uses volunteer support to accomplish its mission.
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