Volunteers are motivated to serve in different ways
and in different places. Some are drawn to arts and museums, others want
to insure a future with a clean environment, others want to tutor children,
some clear brush in parks so people can hike and picnic, still others
serve on Boards, or raise money. How is the manager of volunteers to know
what is appealing?
A recent issue of the Bulletin of Psychological Type
used the Myers/Briggs Temperaments to explain what might appeal to different
types of people: what satisfied the soul. Listed below is a summary of
what motivates or satisfies people in secular pursuits.
It would be inappropriate to test each volunteer on
the Myers/Briggs Type Inventory, not to mention expensive. However, you
can check the volunteer opportunities available in your program to make
sure there is something for every type of motivation.
or Motivates This Temperament
Looking for action.
Wishes to act on one's beliefs.
He/she wants results and prefer assignments where immediate
impact is obvious.
This volunteer wants to see results that are tangible, visible,
These are folks who can use a natural ability to be in tune
with what is happening in the moment.
Are sometimes good in dealing with needs as they arise.
Look to this type of volunteer in a crisis.
Jobs for them: direct client contact with big payoffs, events, or
Want to feel part of a "community" or team.
Like it when people depend on them.
He/she wants to look after others in a peer, parental, or authoritative
Deep sense of obligation and duty.
Help in stabilizing situations.
Good at logistics in managing time, people, resources, and money.
Attentive to rules and procedures.
Uphold rituals and traditions that give others a sense of belonging
Jobs for them: committee leadership, long term assignments with
deep and close involvements, maintain rules and procedures of organization,
events, or activities.
Involvement. Inspiration. Insight.
Satisfied by finding answers to questions like, "How can
I be the best I can be?" and "How can I help others
become all they intended to be?"
Idealists with the ability to serve by seeing through to what
might be done with, through, and for people.
Always see the best in others.
Can see unspoken needs.
Like to make personal contributions.
Prefer being the inspirational catalyst.
Do best when serving in ways consistent with their personal
values of self-improvement.
Jobs for them: counselors, mentors, helping people or things that
Volunteers who are motivated by a quest for knowledge and competence.
Like to challenge themselves and others to excellence.
Interested in truths and principles and their application in
Like to understand and explain things.
Knowledge is power.
Driven by a love of learning.
Jobs for them: teachers, mentors, sharing principles and ideas,
writers, developers of training materials for use by others.
Interested in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the
Short-Term Volunteer Program, by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute
Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.
New Forms of Volunteering - Traditional and Vigilante
The Multi-Paradigm Volunteer Management
Model is based on the writings of Ellen Netting and Mary Katherine O'Connor
in the book, "Organization Practice: A Social Worker's Guide to Understanding
Human Services." The book visits the various theories of organizational
management that have guided supervisors for decades. They move beyond
the past and into the demands of working with people who come with different
life experience and expectations to an organization. The post-modern worker
is the aim of the book.
The applicability of this model to the
world of volunteerism is apparent. For what is the person who works with
volunteers, but someone who leads and manages volunteers to achieve a
goal or mission? Working with Mary Merrill and Nancy Macduff, the authors
of "Organization Practice" developed a model that illustrates
the many ways in which people are choosing to volunteer, and it further
suggests strategies to work effectively with those different types of
In the first decades of the 21st century
it is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional type of volunteer
is only one way in which people are choosing to serve, so the modern manager
of volunteers needs to be versatile in carrying out their human resource
The literature on the management of volunteers
for the last forty years has emphasized the importance of applying human
resource management techniques to the organization and implementation
of a volunteer work force. Having more people take non-traditional types
of volunteer positions does not change the need to apply those same principles;
it merely suggests that the actual management strategy will be different,
depending on the type of volunteer.
Managers of volunteers still need to assess
needs, design tasks or service expectations, gather background information
on the volunteer, reach out to recruit the right people for the position,
communicate with them, keep records, measure impact (quantitative and
qualitative), evaluate, and recognize. But, implementation of those human
resource strategies is different based on the motivation and needs of
the type of volunteer.
Below is a grid that provides a model of
the various types of volunteers. You might want to print it for reference
as you read the rest of this article. It is important to note that there
are no absolutes in terms of type. At the bottom of the top two and bottom
two boxes there is a continuum line. People can be in the extreme of a
type or more toward the middle. The grid is a means to visualize the different
choices people are making in their volunteer life.
For those of you familiar with the Myers/Briggs
Type Inventory the types are listed in the boxes where a significant number
of people might be attracted to those types of positions who have a specific
In this month's Volunteer Today, the Vigilante
and Traditional volunteer are discussed. Next month will be about another
type of volunteer. Traditional volunteers and the Vigilante type have
more in common than you might think.
Traditional and Vigilante
Those individuals who are on the right
side of the grid in the bottom and top box, see the world in quite objective
ways, hence the word OBJECTIVE on the right side of the grid. Individuals
are seeking orderliness and believe that the structure of a program that
includes volunteers is concrete. While the Traditional volunteer counts
on the organization to shape the environment, the Vigilante frequently
goes outside the normal structure to be action oriented, but their activities
are based on a personal belief that objective information can be applied
to the world's problems.
The Traditional volunteer is one who works within an organization at
tasks and services dictated or decided on by the organization. They
are hospital volunteers who come every Thursday for four hours to work
at the information desk, the millions of faith volunteer who serve their
institutions as youth leaders, on social service committees, or in leadership
roles. They like the continuity and predictability of the work done.
The management of this type of volunteer is what permeates the current
literature on managing volunteers. These folks need position descriptions,
clear roles and responsibilities, definition of boundaries, a fair screening
process, regular communication lines, and motivational enhancements
as they do their work.
Vigilante volunteers are those often motivated by an issue or need
that is not being met by others. They are individuals who see solutions
in a conflicted world and opt to work to solve the problem, often on
their own, because traditional organizations are not welcoming. In their
view, the world is about social realities and knowledge is hard and
concrete. If only people would apply that knowledge to problems, the
problems would be solved, goes their thinking. Change and action are
the goal and conflict can be a motivator. At its extreme are the various
groups of volunteers who are impatient with a governmental process to
solve a problem and so create a program or programs to address the issues.
Most notable are the vigilante groups such as the Minutemen of southern
Arizona who are self patrolling the US Mexican border to alert the US
Border patrol to illegal crossing and Japanese citizens, 500,000 strong,
who patrol their neighborhoods.
The Episcopal Church of the US has a very large group of people who
believe there is an objective truth in Scripture that is in opposition
to the activities and laws of the existing church. These people are
moving to influence the existing church structure, but have made it
clear that without significant change there will be a massive exodus
from the existing body.
Many Vigilante volunteers showed up, and are still doing so, in the
havoc caused by the hurricanes in the US, floods in the Philippines,
tsunami in Asia, earthquakes in Pakistan and the list goes on. These
are individuals who know there is need, and see a concrete, action oriented
way to address the problem.
On an organizational or community level a single person might decide
to carry out an activity to solve a problem that falls under the auspices
of a nonprofit or community agency. For example, budgets have been cut
at a local homeless shelter. An individual says, "we need this
service and whether the organization likes it or not, I am throwing
a Western style barbecue and will get the community committed to keep
the shelter open." This is not the most radical form of Vigilante
volunteer, but is an example of what might happen on a smaller scale.
Conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that these are "unmanageable"
volunteers. Not so. An organization that has a high risk tolerance and
lets it be known that people with creative ideas who want to tackle
the big problems are welcome there are ideal for the Vigilante type
Here are some tips for managing the Vigilante volunteer:
Determine your organization's risk tolerance. Are you willing to allow
volunteers to build and operate a program that runs parallel or in concert
with more traditional existing programs? Do not proceed if the organization
has little or no tolerance for innovation.
How do you determine the needs? Sometimes you can start with existing
volunteers and paid staff and ask one of two questions. 1. Who do you
know that loves to solve tough problems and is good at organizing people
around issues? 2. What things could we be doing if we had a champion
that was not afraid of ruffling a few feathers in the process? Know
the generic need and hone it with people who are willing to commit the
time to get it done.
Throw out the notion of a formal position description. The organization
needs to establish the absolute "don'ts" for any volunteer.
The vigilantes need to know those and work within that frame. And you
should not have too many. Let the person tell you how they wish to structure
what is being done, with the understanding that things might change
as the work progresses. As an example, the Japanese police patrols have
worked with the real police to get blue lights for their vehicles to
give them more visibility and authority when they patrol. This came
long after the volunteers were doing the work. It was something learned
on the job.
Skip big time screening requirements. Get the minimum and have the
leadership of any group help determine what those minimums might be.
If there are global rules for volunteer screening it might be time to
revisit them. They were likely written when we thought there was only
one type of volunteer.
Hard to recruit vigilantes. Usually they just show up, but organizations
could be more intentional in recruitment and get creative solutions
to difficult problems.
Communication is more of a check-in than a regular newsletter. It
is creating a connection between the office of volunteers and the individual
or group. Sometimes this can be carried out by an experienced and courageous
traditional volunteer. The overseer could attend meetings, make regular
calls, and offer the resources of the organization as the group moves
These are people who like action and results. Have them set measurable
goals at the beginning and keep collecting information on the steps
toward those goals.
The work and action is likely all the recognition needed. These are
not people given to showing up at a tea or luncheon. Keep the impact
in front of them. Let them know the impact. It is what they care about.
MULTI-PARIDIGM VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
Types of Volunteer Activity
Turn Theory Into the Types of Tasks or Services Different People Find
Volunteers who identify needs and move to gather others through
an organized effort to address the issue.
Advocacy volunteers who organize others in a structured program
to address issues in a dynamic manner.
Faith volunteers who move outside the traditional institutions,
establishing new institutional structures to reflect their beliefs.
"The Traditional Volunteer
Hospital volunteers who serve on regular schedules.
Volunteers who serve on boards and committees in an active capacity.
Temporary episodic volunteers who work through organizational
structures to provide services.
Volunteers active in an organized and established faith community.
The Points of Light Foundation has forms available
to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points
of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate
unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen
action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children
and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The
award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like
nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.
By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals
can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive
call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who
can help them volunteer.