TED and Volunteerism: Why Introverts Make Great Volunteers

TED: Ideas worth spreadingIn this series of blog posts, we’ll be looking at different TEDTalks and what nonprofit volunteer managers can learn from them.

I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m shy, or that I like to spend all day locked in my house not talking to people. I spend a good chunk of my day interacting with others either in person or via the Internet (I am the social media intern, after all). I do enjoy connecting with others and learning from them. But I’m most in my element when I’m sitting alone at my computer, typing away at an article or clicking away at Photoshop.

Inspiration hits me when I’m walking back to the train station alone, or when I’m looking out the window while riding the bus, lost in my own thoughts. While I do feel connected to my colleagues, friends and the world around me, a lot of what I bring to the table comes from thinking and spending time by myself.

In this TED talk, Susan Cain talks about how introverted individuals are fundamental to society. She lists how many of the world’s political, thought and technical creative leaders such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Steve Wozniak and Dr. Seuss, were introverted. Cain also shares that introverted individuals in leadership positions are also effective leaders and that introverted students get higher grades than extroverted students.

The Importance of Introverted Volunteers

Many volunteers are naturally outgoing and extroverted. These individuals want to connect with others on a social level. Their skills are great resources for your organization.

In the TED talk, Susan states that one in two to three people are introverts. Just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean that they don’t want to volunteer, or that they don’t want to work with people. Rather, they possess a particular type of thinking and set of problem solving skills that have value for organizations — but only if you explicitly reach out to them.

When you’re thinking up volunteer opportunities, make sure you don’t just reach out to the people person who will be on the front lines with a big grin and a loud voice, but also reach out to the quiet, soft-spoken individual who wants to help, but perhaps prefers to work behind the scenes. And remember — both types of volunteers offer equally important skills. Make sure to let them know that.

Take a look at your current volunteer opportunities. Are there opportunities available that allow introverted individuals to share their talents? Here are some suggestions:

What are other ways that your organization offers volunteer opportunities for introverted people? Cristopher Bautista is an intern at VolunteerMatch. Send him an email at cbautista@volunteermatch.org.

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3 thoughts on “TED and Volunteerism: Why Introverts Make Great Volunteers

  1. Pingback: Introverts and Volunteerism: Are You Engaging All Potential Volunteers? |

  2. Thank you! I’ve been very fortunate that a local historic house museum has a wise curator. She’s been tapping into the strengths of introverts (as well as extroverts) for years. The hours I spend archiving and researching for them brings me much joy–and helps supply the extroverts with the fodder needed to improve their tours (and thus makes them happy, too).

  3. I LOVE this and couldn’t agree more. I know that time after time I’ve put together trips to help others and found this to be true time and time again. On a recent trip to Machu Picchu (http://www.pifadventures.com/machu-picchu), our group started out very quiet and almost standoff-ish, by the end of the trip we were a big happy family and still stay in touch! It just took that little extra effort to see what we all had in common that made everyone open up!

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