“What drives you to do the things you do?“

This question is one that many people from all walks of life ponder every day.  Whether it be doing simple tasks or working on complex projects, there is always that spark that drives us to push ourselves even further in completing our objectives.  The aim and reward varies from person to person and project to project, but why we are driven is usually the same: wanting to get things done.

That said, remember that there are different arrangements for doing work.  Some are employed by organizations and are paid to do meaningful work that help advance their companies’ missions.  Meanwhile, others are volunteers: people who aren’t paid but choose to advance the missions of organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, through the work that they do.

One of the most important aspects to any organizational culture is the intrinsic motivation its members have towards fulfilling critical mission objectives.  For many employees, they join a company because they believe in that company’s mission and values, providing a particular product or service that helps people.  But for volunteers, they are likewise motivated by the exact same things when joining an organization to volunteer for, except that they don’t get paid (or are paid little) for their time.

If they are motivated by the same belief in the company or organization, then why are volunteers more motivated than employees in completing tasks?  Is it because volunteers are more attached and invested in what they do?  Or is it something else altogether?

According to NonProfit PRO, the primary reason for why motivation differs between employees and volunteers lies in differing types of motivation.  Employees, while invested in what their companies do, are more likely to be motivated by extrinsic factors like money or rewards as a result of the good work that they do.  Meanwhile, volunteers, while similarly motivated by external factors, are more likely to be motivated to do the work they do by intrinsic factors.  Basically, volunteers like what they’re doing — and they continue to do what they’re doing — because of a desire to do what they’re doing.

But which is more powerful?  While extrinsic motivation can be powerful, especially as the potential rewards for getting things done can be great (money, gifts, etc.), it is still less powerful that intrinsic motivation, where you are pushed to do your best because you love what you do.  The data shown by NonProfit PRO, for example, shows that only 13% of people are motivated to do their jobs, with the lack of external reward (e.g. money) being a prime factor as to why this is the case.  Simply put, doing something for the sake of a reward would push you to finish it, but doing something because you like it encourages you to go above and beyond.

There isn’t much of a difference between employees and volunteers in terms of why they do what they do.  Both are just as motivated by external rewards as they are by internal validation.  But if volunteers prove to be the more motivated of the two, perhaps employers can learn a lot from them in order to make their employees more motivated in the workplace.