One of the most useful frames of human action is the attitude-behaviour gap. The difference between the number of us who say we want to do something, like volunteer, and the number of us who actually go out and give our time to a charity or cause. It's a problem that is tied up in the work of lots of charities, but so is the other kind of motivational problem - how do you get people to do something that they don't really want to do?
The below article from Psychology Today is a nice introduction to how different kinds of incentives do and don't work for different kinds of problems. It also highlights how risky incentives are - creating the odd rebound of behaviour that you really weren't expecting. What it underlines is that behaviour is the result of the interplay between incentive, context and motivation. If one of those is completely out, we probably won't do something.
What it made me wonder, though, is how much time do charities and others spending considering and framing the incentive to volunteer, versus the time they spend really understanding the mixture of motivations of individuals, or the contexts that they are working. I think behavioural science work in the UK, led by the organisations like the Behavioural Insights Team, is helping us to better understand the contexts, but the motivations feels like an under-researched, and under-explored area for charities and social organisations.
The presence of an incentive leads us to think differently about a problem