Its National Volunteer Week: Do You Volunteer?
“Never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t give you credit.”
Its National Volunteer Week and many of us have one cause or another that we give our time to…so let me first start out by saying “good job” and “thank you for your service.”
Each of us probably has a different story as to “why” we chose to become a volunteer.
- For jobseekers, many volunteer in order to learn new skills or use their current ones to assume leadership roles or help improve an organization.
- Many employees have added “volunteer” to their work/life balance in order give back to their communities.
- Companies have even organized events and volunteer teams as one of their “added values” to the employee experience.
We all go into volunteering with the right intentions…but sometimes, hit frustration or even burn out. Many times this is because we allowed ourselves to be swept up in the initial excitement and never thought about setting personal expectations and limits before we began.
Let’s be blunt:
Being a volunteer means giving up your time and money for a cause that you don’t get paid for.
We all know it – we all live it. And that is something we all have accepted when we signed on. Will it have its ups and downs? Of course…but like with any activity we decide to engage in, we need to make sure of three things:
1) We’re doing it for the “right” reasons
2) We’ve picked the right organization to give our time to
3) We set limits on ourselves and our time so that we maintain that “life” balance we need to truly be happy.
Step One: Why do you do it?
Stop for a moment and really think about it. If you already have an organization that you support, do you remember why you decided to volunteer for them? If you haven’t picked an organization to volunteer for, what criteria are you using to decide?
First thing to remember – and this is most important – Don’t volunteer expecting to get recognized for what you do! While your time and efforts will be appreciate, rarely do volunteer organizations make the time to personally reach out or acknowledge the efforts of their volunteers. They have “keeping things running” always on their mind so for each event completed (for example), their minds automatically start thinking about and planning the next one. There is rarely time to stop and decompress.
Don’t get me wrong – there are organizations that do acknowledge the efforts of the volunteers….but see that as a “plus” and not an expectation and you won’t be disenchanted over time or simply disappointed.
You see – to me, the reason why I volunteer is simply: to make a difference. That is the reason why I choose to volunteer…to help others simply because I can.
Understand that giving of your time doesn’t mean you will “get” anything – decide to volunteer because it’s something that touches your heart, affects you personally in some way, or is something you believe in and want to help make a difference.
Step two: Choose the right organization to volunteer with.
There are always long hours going to be put in, different views towards effective leadership is (and let’s remember they are volunteers as well putting in more hours that the average members does) and frustrations with other members…but are you going to let that sway you or allow you to become disgruntled from being a positive influence? This is where choosing the “right” organization to partner with can help. Just like with a job, you have to be happy with the “culture” of the organization as well or you are going to become aggravated quite easily.
Step Three: Make sure you set personal limits on your time!
As with your “day job,” when you prove to be a dedicated volunteer to an organization you begin to be viewed as an “asset” and one that they feel they can depend on more to get things done. All volunteers tend to have the same reaction – we want to do all we can to help! After all, that’s why we volunteered in the first place, right?
Some volunteer positions can be simple: help out with an event such as a charity race. Other positions become more involved and can even take up so much time that it can become a second-job for you! This is why you need to remember to set limits on the time you are willing to devote. You don’t want a volunteer position to take up so much of your time that you neglect your family, your friends or even your own needs.
At the end of the day, however, volunteering your time in any capacity can truly be a rewarding experience. It feels good to go home at the end of the day and know you helped make a difference.
About the Author
Barb is an HR consultant with Timeless HR Solutions, based in Chicago, IL, which offers training and advisory services to startups and small/medium-sized businesses on various HR-related skills and challenges.