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Using Personality Type Distinctions To Foster Better Volunteerism

Using Personality Type Distinctions To Foster Better Volunteerism

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Sat, 08/14/2010

Submitted on 6 April 2010 by Wendy Moore, Volunteer Coordinator, Brisbane, Australia
I acknowledge that The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test is a very comprehensive personality test and is a valuable tool in assessing personality types in volunteers. However the practicality of performing this test with each volunteer, in a structured manner, with a person qualified to interpret the results appropriately, may be out of the realm for some volunteer managers for the following reasons:

  • limited financial resources
  • the sheer number of volunteers involved
  • the perception by volunteers that they are under scrutiny
  • the impact of workload on volunteer management of collating this very complicated assessment
  • the practicality of remembering every volunteers personality profile

There are obviously instances where this type of in depth analysis would be advantageous particularly for huge one-off events where selection of the appropriate personalities for the team is crucial for the success of the event as in the examples that you have cited. However for the general recruitment of volunteers to organizations this type of test may be overkill.  There are other less complicated personality tests which, while not as comprehensive as The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test, may give a good indication of personality types which may assist in putting together the right combination of volunteers for specific tasks.

One such test may be found in the book “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer where she looks at four basic personalities Choloric, Melancholy, Sanguine and Phlegmatic and combinations of these types.  Each personality type has certain traits.  Most people are generally a combination of these types.  A questionnaire of 40 questions is usually enough to determine the personality types.  This particular book was recommended reading for an international multilevel marketing organization to use as an assessment tool for interpreting customers’ purchasing behaviour and also for recruiting business building personalities to their organization.

I would suggest that most volunteer managers have the people skills, intuition and ability to gauge volunteers’ motivation, skills, abilities and other characteristics to place them in an area where these attributes would be compatible to the task at hand.  Through observation and feedback, ongoing adjustments or changes can be made to adapt to changing needs of the volunteer or the organisation.