Why you might not like volunteering

If you feel that you don’t enjoy volunteering, you are not alone. A lot of people go into a volunteer experience with the best of intentions. But they wind up disappointed by something that should be making them feel good. Does that mean you should give up volunteering for good? Or that you just have to suck it up since it might be good for your career? Or simply that doing good doesn’t have to feel good.

Here are things people have told me about their own volunteer experiences:

– When I signed up, I wanted to use my skills. But they have me in a corner stuffing envelopes and making copies. It’s boring!
They aren’t managed well, so things are going wrong all around. Feels like unmanaged chaos.
– They mean well, but are just too busy to manage me properly. Managing volunteers well takes time and effort — and training.
– The people who work there don’t pay attention to me at all. I feel like an outsider. But I want to feel like part of the team.
I hoped to be contributing to something important. But I don’t see all that much going on.
– They don’t know what to do with me. Some days I just sit waiting for something to do.
Different people tell me what to do. And I have to drop everything and listen to my latest “boss”.

Questions you might ask before starting:

Please tell me a little about the work that goes on in this office.
What kinds of things do you need help with?
What do you see me doing at first?
Who will be managing me?
Will there be an opportunity to use my skills such as __?
What hours will I be working? (You negotiate this together.)
Have you had volunteers before? What did they work on? (If not, they may need help clarifying specifics and finding time to manage you.)
What kinds of unexpected things might come up?

-Mafalda A.


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