Volunteering is an act of giving back to the society, to ensure its smooth functioning, and to help shape ourselves as individuals. While active involvement does create a significant impact on the cause we’re working towards, there’s a possibility of over extending ourselves and experiencing a burnout.
Remember, this blog does not intend to discourage you from volunteering. Rather, it explore occasions when volunteering may not be your cup of tea, or when, at the very least, you need to vary your volunteering activities.
1. Don’t volunteer if you face a time constraint. Don’t involve yourself in volunteering if you’re unable to devote the necessary time. Because, your absence or rare presence during key moments or otherwise, may disrupt the smooth functioning of designated activities, and result in other volunteers having to take up additional responsibilities. This is especially important if you have signed up to visit school children or nursing home residents, because, if you’ve met them once or twice, they tend to quickly depend on you and look forward to your visits. As a result, when you don’t show up, they may feel your absence. In essence, it’s better not to offer at all than to let someone down.
2. Decline if you are already over-committed to volunteering. If you are already on a parent’s board, or helping adults learn English, in addition to working full-time, you may be starting to spread yourself too thin. In such circumstances, don’t feel obliged to take on more responsibilities, even if somebody asks you to. Volunteering overload is not good for you, your family or your work performance, and it certainly isn’t good for the organisation you’re volunteering for, because, they can’t rely on your presence. Instead, inform the organisation (you’re volunteering for) about your packed schedule, and remind them that you are open to volunteering in future, when your current obligations have been met. Then again, you do not owe any explanation whatsoever. You can simply say “I am not available”.
3. Avoid volunteering activities for which you don’t have the temperament for: Don’t become a volunteer fire fighter if you’re afraid of fire or if you lack physical fitness. And, don’t become a health assistant volunteer if you tend to faint at the sight of blood. Instead, take roles that are better suited for you and leave the rest for others to take up. Alternatively, tell the volunteering organisation what your skills are and let them find a position better suited to your aptitude and interests. It’s far more helpful to devote a few hours in doing something that you can do well, rather than volunteering many hours towards something you’re not suited for.
4. Be careful about taking on volunteer work that is “close to home”. What we mean is, ensure that your personal problems and emotions don’t spill over into your volunteer work, in a way that it impacts negatively upon you. For example, if you have been abused yourself and you have decided to help others who are abused, be absolutely certain that you have worked through issues that are likely to be raised in your role as a volunteer. You don’t want to break down when confronted with an issue that is still very raw for you. This is not to say that you shouldn’t find catharsis in facing the issues head-on through volunteering, but it does mean that you must be strong enough to cope up with your emotions as they are likely to be presented back to you by someone else suffering from it.
5. Be aware of the fact that there are certain stages in your life when volunteering may not be a good option for you. Although temporary, there will be periods in your life when you’ll have to step down from volunteering. These may include: death of a family member, exam time, birth of a baby, illness and such. Each of these activities rate highly and you are well within your rights to put all your efforts into seeing yourself and your family through the temporary disruption. In time, you will have recovered or moved on from the hard part and be ready to return to helping others. This is about knowing when to let others help you for a short time. On the other hand, volunteering can sometimes be the only reality you have to hang onto, to provide you with stability, such as when you’re going through a divorce or when you’ve lost your job. Carefully weigh your personal, physical and emotional demands as compared to what energy you may have remaining to expend on others; be honest before overdoing things. You’ll be a better volunteer if you take time out to strengthen yourself first.
6. Avoid volunteering for something just because a friend is volunteering. You must care about the cause that you volunteer for; a reason such as “my friend is doing it, so I should too,” is unsound. By all means, join a friend if both of you are truly keen on the work involved, but if you only do it for your friend’s sake, you may end up resenting the volunteer work and perhaps even your friend. In such circumstances, tell the over-enthusiastic friend that you support him or her, but that your volunteering interests are being placed elsewhere.
7. Don’t be bullied, coerced or co-opted into volunteering. It is not unusual to be elected at a meeting which you do not attend, or to be pushed along by a crowd unwilling itself to take on a position that a club/school/organisation needs filled. If you are present at such a vote, strongly vocalise your refusal to take up the position. State clearly that you are not in a position to take up such a responsibility at this point in time. If it happens in your absence, send a gently worded letter refusing the position to the board, setting out brief reasons why you do not accept the nomination. Or, simply say you do not accept. You must want to undertake the volunteer work, otherwise you may face challenges pertaining to time management and other commitments.
8. Question authorities who seek to over-rely on volunteers. If you feel that an organisation or school is asking too much of its volunteers, speak up and say that this work ought to be performed by a paid personnel. In such cases, exercise your letter-writing or phoning skills and ask the school principal, the local municipality or your locally elected member why the funding is so low for certain activities. Additionally, ask that paid employment be considered or additional financing be provided to ease the pressure off of over-worked volunteers.
9. Ensure that volunteering does` not sap your time/ energy/ finances/ good will. If you really want to volunteer but you can’t, think of other ways to help out. If you have the money but no time, donate the money. If you have no money, but have the time, donate your time. If you have neither, donate your messages of goodwill and support. Be creative; even writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper to talk about the good deeds being done by others is a great volunteering exercise, often overlooked by many. Thoughtfulness, praise and encouragement for those who are volunteering is the most important contribution of all.
10. Don’t risk your safety. If you feel unsafe, consult the person in charge and let them know. For example if you are asked to venture into an unfamiliar part of town, late at night and alone, ask that someone go with you. If you are in a building site without a helmet or gloves, ask for safety equipment. Trust your instincts. If you are denied any of the safety precautions you requested, you are within your rights to leave.
11. Be wary of any organization that asks you to pay them in order to volunteer, especially if you are strapped for cash. There are many other worthy organizations out there that do not charge, and will provide more hours for less effort.
12. If you don’t have enough money to get by, then you’re the one who should be benefiting from volunteerism. Some people would rather volunteer than have a job – that’s fine, but if you end up bankrupting family members in order to not have a job, it’s simply unacceptable.
Cross posted from: www.wikihow.com