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~ May 2006 ~ Topics

Volunteer Jobs and Myers/Briggs Temperament
New Forms of Volunteering - Traditional and Vigilante

Volunteer Jobs and Myers/Briggs Temperament

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.

Type What Satisfies 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, and audible.
  • 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 community outreach.

  • 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 relationship.
  • Self-disciplined.
  • Deep sense of obligation and duty.
  • Keep commitments.
  • 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 and permanence.

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.
  • Empathetic.
  • 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 are hurting.

  • 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 real life.
  • 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.

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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.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Miinue Answer Book

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 volunteers.

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 tasks.

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 Myers/Briggs Type.

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.

Traditional Volunteer

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

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 volunteer.

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 ahead.
  • 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.


Types of Volunteer Activity
Turn Theory Into the Types of Tasks or Services Different People Find Attractive


"Vigilante Volunteer"

  • 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.


Radical humanist
Radical structuralist

"The Traditional Volunteer Program"

  • 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.



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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.

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