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Using Personality Type Distinctions To Foster Better Volunteerism

Using Personality Type Distinctions To Foster Better Volunteerism

When screen writer and public relations consultant Jennifer Dornbush volunteered to be a guinea pig for a friend working towards her Myers-Briggs® certification, she had no idea how much taking a personality assessment would change the way she viewed volunteerism. As a long-time volunteer and volunteer coordinator, Dornbush reflected back on her volunteer history, recalling when she burned out quickly or lost interest and left an organization because the tasks made her feel exhausted and unsatisfied. Through her personality assessment evaluation, Dornbush realized that in these cases, she was working against her personality type preference. So Dornbush wondered, "How many other volunteers feel the same way?"

In this thoughtful article for e-Volunteerism, Dornbush poses the question, "How can using personality type distinctions make volunteerism more successful?" Dornbush goes step-by-step to examine the core of these distinctions and explains how the process can give volunteer organizations a better way to grow successful relationships with volunteers.sss

To read the full article

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.