Whether it’s serving lunch at a soup kitchen or stuffing envelopes for a fund-raising event, there are many great reasons to volunteer. It can teach us new skills, give us a sense of purpose, and make a positive impact on society. Numerous studies have shown that volunteering can even reduce our stress and boost our physical health.
So why don’t more people do it?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 62.6 million Americans age 16 and over volunteered at least once in 2015 – that’s only about 25% of the adult population. Although many, if not most, of us would like to volunteer, actually getting out there and doing it is clearly a big challenge.
What role might personality type play in our willingness to volunteer? To find out, we asked our readers to agree or disagree with the statement, “You actively volunteer.” Just 55% agreed overall, and the results show that the Extravert and Feeling traits are major motivators when it comes to engaging in community service.
Why are some personality types more enthusiastic about volunteering than others? Let’s look at the data in more detail below.
Diplomats (61% agreeing)
Empathy is usually a core component of volunteerism. It means going beyond simply recognizing an individual in need or a social ill, and making the effort to genuinely understand the emotions and experiences of others and take up a call to action to help them. That’s exactly how Diplomats, as Feeling personality types, approach the world, so it’s only natural that this Role is the most likely to actively volunteer. Optimistic and idealistic, Diplomats tend to be quick to devote themselves to causes they believe in, especially when they see an opportunity to form deep, meaningful relationships with others.
We might even wonder why more Diplomat personalities didn’t agree with our statement. It’s not uncommon for Diplomats to make careers out of their idealism, working in public service or in fields like teaching and counseling, where they can help people directly. Giving so much of themselves as it is on the job, Diplomats who have learned their limits may be wary of stretching themselves too thin through volunteer work.
Even so, you won’t find many Protagonists who feel that way – this personality type agreed with our statement more than any other, at 75%. Protagonists often seem to have boundless energy, especially when they’re championing a cause they care about. As naturally outgoing and confident leaders, Protagonists are also adept at inspiring others with their passion and recruiting them to volunteer alongside them.
Sentinels and Explorers (59% and 54%)
Since the Sentinel and Explorer Roles contain a mix of Feeling and Thinking personality types, their individual responses were quite varied. Overall, though, Feeling types (61% agreeing) were 14% more likely than Thinking types (47%) to say that they actively volunteer. Whereas Feeling types may be drawn to community service by their innate empathy, Thinking types, because of their focus on logic and rationality, are not likely to be moved by the emotional appeals of a given cause.
Sentinels tend to be traditionalists who want to keep society running smoothly and in accordance with established rules and values. Careers in public service are often attractive to Sentinels, and they frequently serve as role models in their communities.
But because they take personal responsibility very seriously, many Sentinels may struggle to prioritize volunteer work. The commitments they’ve made to their families, their friends, and their jobs come first, and that can make finding time to volunteer a real challenge. Some Sentinels, especially Thinking personality types like Logisticians (37%), can have a reputation for being rigid and judgmental, and it’s possible that some who disagreed with our statement think that people in need of help should be able to help themselves.
Explorers, as free-spirited personalities who like to keep their minds (and their schedules) open to new and unexpected opportunities, are less inclined to volunteer on a regular basis. Explorers can be all for community service when the time and circumstances are right. In fact, these personality types are often indispensable in emergencies, jumping right in to help with rescue or relief efforts after a natural disaster, for instance. But once the situation is stabilized or resolved, they’re probably ready to move on to the next challenge. Long-term commitments and rigid volunteer schedules can be deterrents for Explorers.
Of all the personality types, Virtuosos agreed with our statement the least, at 31%. Virtuosos are not usually known for their empathy or for their reliability. A volunteer opportunity may be attractive if it involves building a creative, practical solution, but steady community service isn’t likely to hold a Virtuoso’s interest for long.
Analysts, with their core Thinking trait, were the Role least likely to actively engage in volunteering. Highly independent and intellectual, many Analyst personalities may be turned off by the teamwork, one-on-one relationship building, and hands-on labor that volunteer work often requires. And they’re not going to be moved by an emotional appeal to join the effort in the first place.
It’s not that Analyst personality types don’t care about the well-being of others or the betterment of society – it’s that they probably prefer to approach social problems differently. They’d rather be thinking up innovative solutions, designing tools, and developing plans than be down in the trenches helping to execute every last detail.
Logicians (31%) were tied with Virtuosos in being the lowest-agreeing personality types in this survey. Logicians are particularly good at inventing creative solutions, but tend to be particularly bad at seeing them through with practical action. Rather than spending time volunteering, they may be more comfortable finding ways to empower others to help themselves.
Bill Gates, a Logician personality type, is an excellent example of this philosophy. Although he made his fortune in the business world, he is building a legacy through his philanthropy; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is all about funding ideas for new techniques, methods, and technologies that can help solve the world’s most pressing problems. As Gates once said, “If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions, they will be moved to act.”
People Mastery and Social Engagement (70% and 66% agreeing)
Volunteering is essentially people reaching out to help other people. In that sense, it is a social affair. As such, it’s not surprising that Extraversion was by far the strongest indicator of who might volunteer, or that the People Mastery and Social Engagement Strategies were at the top of the results. Indeed, Extraverts (68% agreeing) were 24% more likely than Introverted personality types (44%) to agree with our statement.
Extraverted personalities are energized by social interaction and interpersonal connections, and the more positive outcomes they witness from their volunteer work, the more enthusiastic and dedicated they’re likely to become. As excellent communicators who are confident in their own abilities, Assertive People Masters make for effective volunteers, and they usually enjoy playing an active role in their community. Turbulent Social Engagers, although no less genuine, may also have an eye toward how engaging in service can improve their image and possibly elevate their status in certain social groups.
Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (45% and 43%)
Can we conclude from the significantly lower agreement of the Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement Strategies that Extraverts are more giving and kind-hearted people than Introverts? It’s more likely that these results indicate that the social aspect of community service discourages some Introverted personality types from volunteering, rather than reflect their level of generosity or empathy.
Social interaction tends to exhaust Introverts. They have to have time alone to recharge, and in this busy world, it can be challenging to find that time. Asking an Introvert to give up those precious moments to immerse themselves in a social situation that they aren’t obliged to participate in, like volunteering, can be a big ask. It will be easier, though, for an Introverted personality with the Feeling trait to make such a commitment, and any Introvert who is deeply compelled by a cause will overcome their natural impulse to withdraw in order to do their part.
Assertive Confident Individualists are slightly more likely to volunteer, probably because they know what they’re good at and don’t get easily stressed out. These personalities can agree to a reasonable amount of volunteer hours on a project that lets them utilize their best skills, knowing that they’ll still be able to take time for themselves. Turbulent Constant Improvers, on the other hand, may feel more stressed out the busier their schedules become, not to mention emotionally drained by the tough problems that volunteer work may force them to confront. These factors may cause them to hesitate to get involved.
No doubt the most common reason people don’t volunteer is time. When we are so busy with our jobs, our families, and other commitments, it can be difficult to find extra hours in the day to volunteer, especially on a regular schedule. Sometimes the rote tasks involved with volunteering don’t feel meaningful, or we feel like we don’t have the right skills to offer to the opportunities available. Based on our survey, personality types with the Extravert, Feeling, and Assertive traits seem to be the most motivated to overcome these challenges, put themselves out there, and make a positive impact. But the reality is that anyone can find some way, no matter how small, to make a difference in our world.
The next time you need some volunteers, you might find Extraverts to be more willing to help. But ask some Introverts anyway. They might surprise you.
Are you an active volunteer in your community? Do you find that your personality type compels you to get involved, or do you have to push yourself to volunteer? Share your experiences in the comments below.