Volunteer Assessment-Action Logics

This web project began as a way to apply developmental and leadership theories to volunteerism. One way to do this is to take a closer look at the individuals who are volunteering and their developmental stages or their Action Logics.


Action Logics are a tool for understanding leadership; they indicate how a person makes sense of the world and reacts when challenged (Rooke & Torbert, 2005). Action Logics can be a valuable tool for understanding volunteerism since service is often an expression of our meaning making. In addition, the Action Logics offer a different perspective on volunteer motivations, which can help us understand the volunteer experience and facilitate improved matches between volunteers and service opportunities. Applying the Action Logics provides a way to meet the volunteer where he or she is. Additionally, for volunteers who are ready and interested, Action Logics, in specific, and developmental theory, in general, can pave a path to expanded or deeper service.

The following section includes a review of each Action Logic and its application to volunteer service.


The Opportunist engages in actions that meet her own needs and evaluates the world from a personal viewpoint. Opportunists aren’t able to see others’ needs.

Opportunist volunteers are likely involved as the result of a court or school mandate, or because they seek experiences to further their academic or professional careers.  They want to complete the service quickly and with as little effort as possible.  Not everyone who is mandated to complete service approaches it as an Opportunist. Examples include: highway cleanups mandated by the court, service hour requirements for school, some board or committee membership.


The Diplomat focuses on the needs of others and may subsume his own needs to maintain harmony. He receives validation from being part of a group. A Diplomat is likely to avoid conflict and can see change as a threat.

Diplomat volunteers serve because it is the right thing to do.  They often enjoy a social element to their service and may get involved to support a family member, friend, or colleague.  Their desire for group harmony may lead them to suppress their own needs. Examples include: Scout leaders, Little League coaches, parent-teacher groups, service clubs, corporate teams, church ministry groups, and voluntourism (volunteering on vacation).


The Expert trusts technical expertise and bases decisions on a rational thought process. The Expert is efficient and knowledgeable and works to measure up to standards. She may have perfectionist tendencies and is susceptible to burnout. Feedback is welcome, if it comes from someone at least as knowledgeable as the Expert.

Expert volunteers look to put their professional and personal skills to work for a cause. They seek high-impact service that provides a tangible outcome. Experts want to know what will be achieved and how it will be measured. Examples include: skill-based volunteers who focus on single projects, disaster volunteer leads, and fundraising committee or event volunteers.


The Achiever also desires results, but takes a more group-minded and longer-term approach. He can balance short- and long-term goals as well as address personal and organizational objectives. The Achiever holds a sense of responsibility, but may tend to overcommit or lack reflection about how goals are met.

Achiever volunteers take on positions of responsibility that help meet organizational goals. Their service may support professional goals, too. Examples include: committee or event chairs, board members, advisory council members, and some Social Venture Partners.


The Individualist notices the alignment of organizational actions and values – or the lack thereof. She is tolerant, willing and able to test assumptions, and takes a more holistic than linear approach to problem solving. Tension is viewed as a potential source of creativity and innovation. The Individualist may ignore rules that do not seem useful, which can rub those around her the wrong way.

Individualist volunteers do well in leadership positions if the boundaries of the role suit them. They also may be drawn to starting their own organizations, events, or projects so they can create the rules. Examples include: board or committee chairs, some Social Venture Partners, and founders of grassroots nonprofits or hybrid organizations.


The Strategist perceives patterns and views issues within a broad context. He pursues outcomes and also pays attention to group processes that support outcome achievement. The Strategist is tolerant of ambiguity and wants to help others develop and grow. He typically works at multiple levels: personal, organizational, community, and beyond.

Strategist volunteers take on roles that go beyond conventional volunteering with an organization. They desire opportunities to facilitate leadership and growth in others or help address more systemic issues or root causes. Strategists want their service to make a difference at the systems level and likely serve in a variety of roles or work across organizations to achieve common goals. Examples include: policy advocates, board members of regional or national organizations, and leadership coaches/mentors.


The Alchemist is a rare individual who can catalyze and effect change at the societal level. She helps mobilize people on a large scale to address systemic change and root causes. Alchemists can work outside accepted paradigms to explore new realities and are able to talk to commoners and kings.

Alchemist volunteers use the ability to see the big picture and new possibilities to create a vision for an emerging future. They work across institutions, sectors, and systems helping establish common ground and values. They are less likely to be associated with an organization as with a movement. Examples include: social movement leaders.


Musick, M.A., & Wilson, J. (2008). Volunteers: A social profile. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Rooke, D. & Torbert, W. (2005, April). Seven transformations of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 1-11. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2005/04/seven-transformations-of-leadership

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