Are you altruistic or self-interested? Volunteer personality types

Jessica Satherley
Are you altruistic or self-interested? Volunteer personality types

“There are two types of volunteers – the self-interested and the altruistic. Those are the two internal motivations that drive volunteering forward,” social entrepreneur Sam Johnson says.

But even if you’re working on a good cause for your own self-interests, it’s not any less rewarding, says the founder of the Student Volunteer Army.

Johnson gained recognition after mobilising 11,000 students to assist the clean-up following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

“I got invited to four earthquake after-parties and thought this isn’t the best thing we can be doing right now.  There was this mass of people and we could be doing something positive, I thought.

“I was in way over my head but other people started helping out and we ended up getting thousands of students shovelling silt,” Johnson said.

Sam J

Sam Johnson

The 30-year-old Cantabrian, who is now on Westpac NZ’s Sustainability Board, is educating businesses and schools on how to mobilise their own volunteer movements.  He challenges corporates to do more in terms of climate change, coastal issues and poverty and to push their goals through their supply chains.

“I have five top tips that I share with organisations to get them involved in volunteering, which are: Build a team, build a framework for achievement, celebrate your wins, have a succession plan and never waste a crisis,” he says.

There are five roles needed within volunteering teams that he outlines – the visionaries, the promoters, the planners, the doers and the reviewers.

“You need to build a team with these five roles included.  The team then creates a plan, promotes their event and takes action around that framework. It’s important to celebrate the team’s achievements, review what has been done and how it has helped a community and then repeat.

“People are so motivated after a crisis, so if there is a crisis like there was during the Christchurch earthquakes, make the most of that motivation when it happens.  But you have teach people about their internal motivations and teach the methodology of motivation so the behaviour can continue after a crisis ends,” Johnson says.

Johnson has been working with the University of Canterbury to survey the metal wellbeing of volunteers.  He believes that volunteers feel more purposeful and experience higher levels of happiness and engagement in their work after taking on well-intentioned projects, instead of feeling like just a cog in the machine.

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