I was talking to someone yesterday about good attributes a volunteer should have. Curious to see what the World Wide Web had to offer, I performed a couple of Google searches—one for “How to be a better volunteer.” The first post I happened to find was one on WikiHow, entitled: “How to Know When Not to Volunteer.” Interested, I clicked. And there, among the list of scenarios, I found that I had violated several: Offering to volunteer when I didn’t really have time; Volunteering for activities I didn’t have the temperament for; Volunteering just because a friend did; and the list continues.
You can read the first part of the article here and jump to the actual post on WikiHow. Have you ever volunteered when you “shouldn’t” have?
Volunteering is an important and essential contribution from all members of society to help others, ourselves and to keep life running smoothly. But it’s possible to overextend yourself and experience burnout. This article is not intended to discourage you from volunteering. Rather, it is about exploring those occasions when there exist very good reasons for not offering your volunteer services or when, at the very least, you need to vary your volunteer offer.
1. Stop offering to volunteer if you do not have the time. If you cannot devote the necessary time, don’t say that you can. You create problems for other volunteers when you cease turning up or rarely turn up. It is also disruptive to have your absences occur at key moments when you said you’d do something but were unable to follow through. It’s better not to offer at all than to let someone down. This is especially important if you have signed up to visit nursing home residents. Lonely elderly people will quickly come to depend on your visits and won’t understand if you stop showing up.
2. Decline if you are already over-committed to volunteering. If you are already on a parent’s board, and making cookies for each bake sale, and helping adults to learn English in addition to working full-time, you may be starting to spread yourself too thin. Do not feel obliged to take on more, even if somebody asks. Volunteer overload is not good for you, your family or your work colleagues and it certainly isn’t good for the volunteer organization that can’t rely on your attendance because you’re overbooked. You may explain to the asking organization why you cannot extend yourself at the time, and remind them that you are open to volunteering in the future, when your current obligations have been met. However, you do not owe any explanation whatsoever. You can simply say “I am not available.”
3. Avoid volunteer activities for which you don’t have the temperament. Don’t become a volunteer firefighter if you’re afraid of fire or you lack physical fitness. Don’t become a volunteer health assistant if you faint at the sight of blood. Don’t volunteer in your child’s science classroom if you don’t relate well to children. Let others take the roles that you’re not suited for. Hunt around for roles better suited to you. Or tell the volunteer organization 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 to doing something that you can do well rather than volunteering many hours towards something you’re not suited for. [MORE]
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