Monday, March 12, 2007

Volunteer Motivations – Another View

Today, I’ll introduce another way to think about motivations for volunteerism. Overlaps with the framework I presented in my last entry will be clear; the terminology used may suggest a slightly different emphasis. As you read each description, please think about the potential fit to board service specifically.

Achievement: Performance counts; accomplishing goals is a driving force
Affiliation: Volunteer service has value in the relationships it creates and nurtures
Power: Volunteerism provides a chance to make an impact/shape the future.

Given that altruism on the previous list is a particularly strong personal motivator, I find myself focusing first on the power motivation here. One thing I find amazing: the tendency for so many who encounter this framework to equate “power” in this setting with common definitions that focus on “power-over” or “power-to-control” or even “power-to-abuse.” Even when I share no more than the description I provided here, “power” tends to take on meanings bordering on menacing.

While the tendency among audiences I’ve encountered has been to dismiss this framing in favor of the previous model, I believe they both have value as ways to describe the reasons people come to volunteer work generally and board work specifically. I always ask those audiences to remain open about the potential for each to describe and anticipate those factors that drive us to serve.

I’m wondering: what are your thoughts about the common resistance to this way of thinking about volunteer motivations, particularly as it might apply to board service? How might it be used effectively to help us think about motivations and the ways in which we draw upon them? Please comment, by clicking on the “comments” link at the end of this entry.

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