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The Right Volunteer in the Right Job

When Well Placed, Volunteers Are Self-Motivated

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The Right Volunteer in the Right Job
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In one chapter of her book, Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs, Marlene Wilson, says that motivation is not something you do to someone. Motivation comes from within, and we have to understand what people like to do and don't like to do in order to match them to the right jobs.

The Motivational Types

Wilson uses a scheme developed by McClelland and Atkinson, two Harvard researchers, who found that people generally fall into three distinct motivational types: Achievers, Affiliators and Power (or Influence) People.

Here is a rough guide to the characteristics found in each of these types:

Achievers

Wilson says that Achievers are into accomplishments and results. They set goals and solve problems. They want to know where they are going and hate to have their time wasted. They are organized, willing to take modest risks, and tend to be articulate.

Affiliators

Affiliators are "people" people. They are sensitive, nurturing and caring. They crave interaction and love being part of a community. They are easily hurt and thus take up a lot of any leader's time, but they also make organizations pleasant places to be. They are meeters and greeters and conversation starters.

Power People

Power People think about having an impact on people and outcomes. They think long-term and are good strategists. Power People are needed to make change, and you need them to be on your side.

However, Wilson says, there are negative power people and positive power people. The first type exerts "personal" power and the second exerts "social" power. Personal power people want power for their own aggrandizement...they use their power ON people and sometimes that can be toxic. They see power as finite and scarce. Either they have it or someone else does.

Social power people are enablers. They want to influence and impact others in a win-win way. They see power as infinite and don't mind sharing it. Their goal is to help you succeed.

How to Identify and Place These Types

When being interviewed, the Achievers will usually describe a project or program they organized. Affiliators will often talk about the wonderful group they worked with, and will usually talk about helping. Power people will relate a long-term impact they had, such as a successful building project or a great fundraising drive.

Identifying the types will help you match the right people to the right jobs. For instance:

  • Jobs that suit an Achiever will have a way for the achiever to know when it is done. The Achiever will know how to evaluate it for success or failure. There will be clear goals and objectives. It will allow the Achiever to solve problems, decide methods and strategies. "Figuring out stuff" will be a big part of the job. The job will provide feedback and offer independence and challenge.

  • Affiliators want a leader/friend. They will take up a lot of time, and they appreciate any sort of personal recognition such as notes, calls, coffee. They don't want to work alone, but rather in groups with interaction.

  • Power people want projects where they can influence long-range outcomes and get high visibility and recognition. The Personal Power Person is an autocrat and very controlling; while the Social Power Person is collaborative and seeks input from members of the group. The Social Power Person is encouraging to all, and makes effective use of the talents of each member of a team.

When training the different types of volunteers, you'll find that Achievers and Power People are looking for content. They don't want their time wasted. Affiliators want name tags so everybody knows everybody else, and they like group building experiences, doing exercises and breaking off into small discussion groups. Wilson says to vary your training style so that you please all of the types at least some of the time.

Wilson goes on to give examples of the different types, and ideas about how to use them on committees, as leaders, on task forces, and on teams. She makes it clear that all the types are valuable and you really need them all to get your work done.

For another perspective on volunteer motivation, read Realizing Your Worth, a blog by Chris Jarvis, who is an expert on corporate volunteer programs. See especially Want Good Volunteers? Dump the Altruistic, Find the Self-Interested and 3 Reasons You're Finding It Hard to Find and Keep Volunteers - and What to Do About It.

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