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Using the Enneagram to More Effectively Lead Your Volunteers

What makes your volunteers take action? What makes them keep coming back to your program? 

If you’re like most volunteer managers, you want to leverage volunteer time to make the biggest possible change in your community. But in order to maximize your program’s impact, you need to understand the factors that keep your volunteers engaged.

Nonprofit leaders are turning to the Enneagram Personality Test to better lead and motivate their volunteers. The Enneagram can help volunteer managers optimize their approach to volunteer management through an understanding of the nine different Enneagram personality types.

Are you ready to learn how to more effectively engage your volunteers using the Enneagram?

Let’s get started.

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a powerfully insightful tool for self-understanding and personal development.

Both you and your volunteers can take the free Enneagram assessment here.

You can use the Enneagram to address the specific struggles experienced by different personality types and to recognize their strengths. The tests can help you relate with others with more intention and avoid the common traps of miscommunication. By understanding the lens through which your volunteers view the world, you can foster stronger volunteer relationships and deeper communication.

The Enneagram may help you quickly improve your working relationship with volunteers, cultivate a deeper understanding of their motivations, and harness the power of synergy to achieve your community impact goals.

The Nine Enneagram Personality Types

After taking the assessment, the Enneagram sorts you into one of  the nine personality subtypes: 

  • The Perfectionist
  • The Giver
  • The Achiever
  • The Individualist
  • The Investigator
  • The Skeptic
  • The Enthusiast
  • The Challenger
  • The Peacemaker.

Each of these types have their own unique motivators, fears, and strengths. Their type is driven by a unique emotional force to varying degrees.

After you and your volunteers have taken the Enneagram Assessment, you can use the following type descriptions to better understand what makes your volunteers tick. From here, you can lead your volunteers more effectively based on their Enneagram Type. 

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the Enneagram personality types: 

Volunteer Enneagram Type 1: The Perfectionist

Enneagram Type Ones are precise people; they have exceptionally high standards for themselves and others. They are rule followers whose careful attention to detail makes them reliable. You can count on a One to get the job done. They can, however, get frustrated if something fails to meet their exacting standards.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Conscientious, Trust-worthy, Reliable 
  • Hardworking and diligent volunteers 
  • Natural leaders and instructors 
  • Serious, practical, and straightforward

Deepest Fears

They fear imperfection and falling short of being a “good person.” In response to this fear, they are their own toughest critics and keep a very disciplined and rigid lifestyle. 

Motivations

Ones want to dedicate their lives to a purpose and to be honorable above all else. 

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

The best way to lead Type Ones is to communicate directly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to give them more responsibilities in your programs or events; you won’t be disappointed. Ones thrive in situations where they can take charge and carry out their duties in an efficient manner. 

Your Ones are most likely your recurring volunteers. They are steadfast, so once they find a cause they believe in, their sense of dedication will lead them to show up time and time again. 

They truly yearn to make a positive difference in their community. Provide them with ample calls to action to sign up for volunteer opportunities or invite them to a recurring weekly shift. 

You’ll also want to provide them with enough flexibility that they can go above and beyond and make the task something their own they can be proud of.

Best Volunteer Roles for Ones

  • Data entry or record management
  • Event management or oversight
  • Leading other volunteers
  • Planning an event or charity dinner

Volunteer Enneagram Type 2: The Giver

When your volunteers are Type Two, they are typically empaths who are nurturing towards others. They jump at the opportunity to help those around them, sometimes even before they’ll help themselves.  Usually, Twos are likable and magnetic. Their kindness is refreshing, and they interact well with people from all walks of life.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Approachable, kind, generous
  • Caring, gentle
  • Excellent collaborators

Deepest Fears

Twos are afraid of being unvalued or unappreciated. They go out of their way to make themselves integral to the lives of those around them. 

Motivations

Twos just want to be loved. Therefore, Twos express love towards others through acts of service and giving gifts with words, actions, or gestures.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Twos put other people first, which can make them a valuable asset to your organization. But be careful not to take advantage of Twos. Because of their easy-going nature and eagerness to please, Twos are often relied upon too heavily, which can lead them to volunteer burnout.

While Twos are generous and kind people, it is critical to understand that their actions are driven by their desire to feel useful. You must show Twos ample volunteer appreciation and recognition. Twos who feel undervalued or unseen by others may disengage for your cause.

Best Volunteer Roles for Twos

Volunteer Enneagram Type 3: The Achiever

Threes are confident and like to be perceived as successful. These volunteers are ambitious and strive to distinguish themselves by achieving high goals.

Threes believe they earn respect through recognition of their achievements and dread being seen as a failure. Therefore, they are full of momentum and constantly seek new projects and opportunities to work on.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Accomplished
  • Charismatic and magnetic
  • Constantly in motion

Deepest Fears

Threes fear failure. Therefore, they’re often looking for ways to win and prove themselves.

Motivations

Your Type Three volunteers are motivated by attention and recognition. They want to be successful and perceived as having value.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Let a Type Three volunteer know what you expect from them right from the get-go. Set clear expectations and provide examples, and your Threes will know exactly what you want. Threes are likely to push your organization to new heights with ease, so do not stifle the Achiever. 

Threes are likely to push your organization to new heights with ease, so do not stifle the Achiever. Threes may not require much oversight or management from you. They’re very self-guided and are often good at working by themselves. Just be careful; if their role description is not clear, you might frustrate them and dampen their success. 

Threes will shine in just about any volunteer role you put them in. They are results-driven, charming, and extremely outgoing. Give them a challenge and watch them excel!

Best Volunteer Roles for Threes

  • Running contests or gathering donations
  • Designing fun activities or programs
  • Fundraising
  • Social media 
  • Installing or troubleshooting new technologies

Volunteer Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist 

Fours often see themselves as being unique from other people. These people tend to be quite creative. Fours long to connect with others, but often have trouble doing so, and instead feel misunderstood. 

Key Personality Traits 

  • Quirky and memorable
  • Artistic
  • Melancholic
  • Passionate
  • Sensitive and intuitive

Deepest Fears

Fours are afraid they will never achieve basic happiness. To cope, they amplify their uniqueness in order to find a place to fit in and be appreciated.

Motivations

Your Type Four volunteers are motivated by self-expression. They strive to be individual and unique.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Type Fours aren’t motivated in the same way as your other volunteers. They are not particularly competitive or reward-driven. Fours are constantly on the search for greater meaning, so try to match them with a position they find meaningful . Or, help them understand why you find it meaningful by explaining how the task fits into the bigger picture.

Be gentle with your Fours. They are hyper self-critical. Try to motivate them by celebrating their strengths rather than criticizing any missteps. 

Fours can perform well in a wide variety of volunteer roles. The key is matching them with something that feels like it is making a difference. Learn more about their interests, favorite causes, and skills. A volunteer management software can help you capture this data, and can even send recommended opportunities automatically.

Best Volunteer Roles for Fours

  • Event photographer or videographer
  • Graphic Design
  • Content creation
  • Administrative work 
  • Working with animals 

Volunteer Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator

If your volunteer is a Type Five, they might be more withdrawn and reserved. They are deeply thoughtful and value intellectual stimulation. Often too sensitive for the outside world, they retreat inwardly and focus on ideas and projects.

Key Personality Traits

  • Inquisitive and curious
  • Research-oriented
  • Intellectual
  • Works independently
  • Withdrawn

Deepest Fears

Type Fives fear being overwhelmed by the external world. They retreat inward, escaping into intellectual thought. 

Motivations

Fives want to be experts in their field of knowledge. When they are presented with the unknown, they dive into research and learn everything there is to know about a topic.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

As a volunteer manager, make sure that you are sensitive to a Five’s need to intellectualize and collect data. 

Fives really shine when their volunteer role allows them a deep dive into a new realm of knowledge. 

Praise them for their expertise, and call on them when you need the same task done in the future. This will make them feel recognized for their contributions and motivate them to come back again and again.

Best Volunteer Roles for Fives

Volunteer Enneagram Type 6: The Skeptic

Sixes seek safety. They are risk-avoidant and value the authority of leadership and institutions. These people are forward-thinking, and constantly weighing the future risks ahead of them. 

These individuals are very responsible. They typically yearn for the security offered by a tight community bond. Thus, they are often fiercely loyal.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Forward-thinking
  • Organized
  • Team-oriented

Deepest Fears

They fear being unprepared.

Motivations

Sixes are motivated by the desire for safety. They are extremely loyal to groups (and organizations) that they trust.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Sixes are fantastic volunteers once you have gained their trust. They are eager to please and serve the people and populations they feel loyal to. Be careful that you don’t ask your Type Six volunteers to do anything that involves a large risk. This can startle the ever-steady Six. 

Communicate with them regularly so that they grow to know what to expect from their relationship with your organization. A nonprofit newsletter is a great place to start.

Sixes place a high value on a streamlined volunteer experience. Make sure the small things like volunteer check-in and hours logging are simple.

Best Volunteer Roles for Sixes

  • Social media or fundraising strategy
  • Volunteer orientation leaders
  • Communications
  • Public relations

Volunteer Enneagram Type 7: The Enthusiast 

Sevens are constantly seeking stimulation. The world is their oyster and they bounce from one activity to the next, avoiding boredom like the plague.

In a nonprofit environment, they are extremely productive and get along with their fellow volunteers and program staff. They tend to acquire responsibility quickly and are well-liked and respected. They’re also fast learners, making them a joy to work with.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Lively
  • Restless
  • Fun-loving and spontaneous
  • Upbeat and optimistic 

Deepest Fears

Sevens experience serious FOMO (fear of missing out). They’re afraid of getting stuck while everyone else is having a good time. To combat this, they are active thrill-seekers who are looking for new experiences.

Motivations

Sevens really just want to have a good time.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

This volunteer thrives in a fast-paced environment. To increase volunteer retention , do not put this type of volunteer in positions that are tedious or boring. Sevens need volunteer roles with many different parts that will keep them busy and engaged.

If you ever need to discuss the Seven’s performance, do so gently. They do not respond well to criticism. Guiding them towards the outcome you desire is much more productive than pushing it on them. 

Best Volunteer Roles for Sevens

Volunteer Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger

Eights pride themselves in being impenetrable. They are confident, decisive, and at times domineering. They are not afraid of confrontation; rather, they will stand up for what they think is right.

Their concern for justice and ending oppression leads them to protect those who are more vulnerable. They’re a natural community advocate  and are a force for good within their communities. 

Key Personality Traits 

  • Independent
  • Controlling
  • Goal-oriented
  • Determined 
  • Self-sufficient

Deepest Fears

Eights fear losing control and feeling vulnerable. Therefore, they constantly try to remain strong and assertive in all situations.

Motivations

Eights want to be in control at all times and avoid looking weak.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Eights are headstrong and direct. They might end up fighting for control over group projects and meetings–even if you’re leading them. Expect them to test you. Your job title or position within the nonprofit is not enough to earn their respect. Rather, you’ll need to prove your competency in order for them to trust you.

Be careful not to stifle the leadership capabilities of this volunteer personality type. No one can motivate a team to accomplish a goal quite like an Eight. Give them the responsibility and freedom to build a cohesive team, and their peers will follow them. Nurture this side of them, and impressive things will follow.

Best Volunteer Roles for Eights

  • Helping to find or create corporate partners
  • The corporate partner, themselves!
  • Advocacy
  • Group, program, or team leader
  • Fundraising

Volunteer Enneagram Type 9: The Peacemaker

Nines love seeing people come together in peace and kindness. They desire connection with others. People tend to feel calm in the presence of the Peacemaker.

Key Personality Traits 

  • Balanced
  • Easy-going
  • Empathetic 
  • Calm
  • Conflict-avoidant

Deepest Fears

Nines are afraid of appearing too emotionally vulnerable and pushing people away. They present themselves as very agreeable in order to make themselves easily accepted and included.

Motivations

Enneagram Type Nines are searching for a balanced, tranquil environment. They actively avoid conflict and emotional strife.

How to Best Lead this Volunteer Type

Nines absolutely love collaboration, especially in volunteer roles where they can guide or help others.

Nines are very easy to lead. They love to collaborate and join forces. Their dislike of conflict can make them come across as passive-aggressive at times. They may just flat-out miss a shift on purpose if you’ve upset them. Understand that if your Type Nine volunteers are acting out, there might be more internal conflict going on.

Best Volunteer Roles for Nines

  • Orientation leaders
  • Tour guides or site guides
  • Peer tutors
  • Fundraising

As a volunteer manager, you want your volunteers to thrive.

By using the Enneagram to understand the different personalities within your organization, you can adjust your leadership style to effectively lead your volunteers. You can also position your volunteers according to their unique strengths, which can help increase volunteer retention overall.

Additional Resources

Volunteer Appreciation: The Ultimate Guide to Thanking Your Volunteers

Volunteer Retention: 9 Ways to Keep Your Volunteers

6 Ways to Better Support the Volunteers You Already Have

How Gamify Volunteerism and Increase Engagement 

Tech Features Your Volunteers Will Love in Your Volunteer Management Software

The Holidays Are Over: Here’s How to Keep Your Seasonal Support Coming Back
The Top 4 Reasons You Need Volunteer Management Software

Author: Annelise Ferry