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Old 09-02-2015, 03:10 PM   #21
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I have not had great experiences with volunteer work. The last position I was interested in they wanted all the newbies to work weekends. The paid volunteer organizer and all the old timer volunteers were trying to convince me why this was really the best position possible and how fun it was (although they only worked weekdays!). I thought I have not even finished the interview yet and these people are all giving me a snow job.

I give cash and my clutter to the charity thrift shops now for the charity part of my life. I prefer to do drop in kind of activities like meet up or the senior center activities for organized social pursuits. Then I don't have to have any kind of set schedule.
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Old 09-02-2015, 03:23 PM   #22
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Can't you sum all those reasons into a succinct "Too much like work"?
Interesting take. Made me think for a minute because I rarely ever hated "the w*rk". I just came to hate what we all call "w*rk". Semantics, to be sure but I think most here know what I mean.

Volunteer w*rk has all the potential for reward (and for BS) of real w*rk - but you don't get paid! Already it starts with that strike against it!

I try to keep most of my volunteer activities limited to specific, definable, closed-end duties - not organizational positions. Duties MAY become on-going - IF I find them personally rewarding and IF I see that they are making a "big picture" difference. I agreed to be fill-in secretary within an organization and then found that I liked it and was good at it. When the opportunity arose, I took over the position for almost 25 years.

Now my volunteering is more on the order of providing rides for students attending English As Second Language classes or taking older folks to their standing social-group meetings or to church, etc. The feedback is almost always positive and it's immediate, thus rewarding. Who needs to be paid for that? But YMMV.
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Old 09-02-2015, 03:28 PM   #23
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When the frustrations of volunteering being to feel like volunteer "work", than it is time to leave. Otherwise, the effort feels like regular w*rk but you don't get paid.
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Old 09-02-2015, 03:29 PM   #24
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I think I would only volunteer as a docent or to lead guided nature walks. Something I do occasionally already. Nothing organizational.
I just did that!

The Open Space canyon where I live is asking for docents to lead hikes. Since I know the trails quite well I offered to be a hike leader.

There is some 'training' to fill in info on history, environment, flora/fauna, but I look forward to that. And the occasional hike now and then will be good for me as well.
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Old 09-02-2015, 04:07 PM   #25
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It really is a shame that in many organizations where you volunteer those 7 reasons apply. I still volunteer at one historic site. I work in the gardens....weeds don't talk back. I told the volunteer coordinator what I would and would not do and they have never asked me to do anything else. I volunteered at other places (same thing working in the gardens) and they would ask you to help stuff envelopes for fund raiser, take children on tours, dress in period clothing, transport and setup displays. I showed up at one park (after a 1 day orientation) and couldn't find the person I was supposed to work with. Turned out they went to another park about a half hour away and wanted me to come there and help school children paint a fence. Some places treat you like you are paid help and other places think if you volunteer you have nothing else to do so you'll put up with any crap. I don't volunteer for thanks I volunteer because I can make a difference by weeding, mowing, planting, edging. Tell me what to do and get out of the way.
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Old 09-02-2015, 05:08 PM   #26
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I do extensive volunteer work with 2 groups, both long-term commitments. After reading the other comments, I realize that I have great gigs - both use skills I developed during my career and I get very good appreciation from both leadership and peers about the value of my contributions. I'm starting to wind down my involvement with one of the two, and have another 18 months on the other commitment, but I'm now realizing that it may be hard to find other gigs I enjoy as much. Very interesting.
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:36 PM   #27
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I just did that!

The Open Space canyon where I live is asking for docents to lead hikes. Since I know the trails quite well I offered to be a hike leader.

There is some 'training' to fill in info on history, environment, flora/fauna, but I look forward to that. And the occasional hike now and then will be good for me as well.
This is a good example of where you can educate yourself quite a bit in natural history in general, native plants, birds and insects of your local area, etc. And then you become a valuable nature guide. You can pretty much choose your own assignments!
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:08 PM   #28
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I have volunteered for a few organizations, some for quite a few years and one for just a short time. I found that either I finally got frustrated with the lack of support from those in charge and their unwillingness to deal with problems that only they had the authority to address or I got frustrated with the lack of enthusiasm from the other members.

For the past few years I volunteer my Saturday mornings for NPR with Radio Reading Service for the blind as one of the readers for daily programs. I enjoy reading with other volunteers, many of whom have become friends, and plan on staying as long as I am able to improve my skills to provide a quality program for my listeners. I suppose it was just a matter of finding the right fit with an organization that is sensitive and responsive to both their listeners/customers and volunteers.

Cheers!
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:35 PM   #29
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Being retired for only about 2 years, I find I'm not bored enough to volunteer.

In some sense, volunteers take away the need for a company to hire a person, or it allows the company to provide enriched service at no additional cost. I'm pretty sure the CEO of many hospitals appreciates it, and benefits from it.

I did watch my mom volunteer at the hospital years ago and she seemed to enjoy it while they handed her lots of the trivial tasks.
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:18 AM   #30
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I've been driving for Meals on Wheels for 2-3 times a week for the last two years. It takes about an hour and a half a drive. One driver and rider per route. Very flexible choice of days, I've met a diverse group of great people, and the clients are so grateful you get plenty of positive feedback.
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:42 AM   #31
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Can't really argue with that. I naively thought leaders would be a little more attentive to volunteers since they aren't getting paid. However the leaders are unpaid too, so they're taking the different but considerable crap that goes with leadership without pay too.

It's all starting to make more sense...
I will say there have been two moderate disappointment in retirement. One is I miss the sense of being part of something large than myself that a good job/career can provide. Nothing says you are being appreciated more than paycheck, plus a good raise or a bonus, and some recognition by bosses and coworkers of a job well done. The second was finding that most volunteer positions are not very good. I had hoped that volunteering would help with the first.

Since retiring 16 years ago I've volunteered for 10 separate activities, in four areas, ocean conservation, politics, historical preservation, and entrepreneurship. While I've enjoyed aspects of almost all of the activities. I've only felt three made use of my brain/experience and only one was really fulfilling. By far the most interesting job has being on the board of for medium non profit. However, the areas that I find interesting developing marketing strategies, worrying about budgets, and develop employee policies, certainly sound a hell of a lot like work to most people..

The author pretty much nailed why the rest haven't panned out. I've been volunteering down at the beach at Oahu's premier snorkel spot. It is a nice group of people and the "office" location couldn't be nicer. But it's been 5+ years since we've had a good volunteer coordinator and 2+ years since the great park manager retired. I've already cut back my time there and I'll probably quit next spring after I hit 10 years.

As in many areas I think Silicon Valley leads the way. From what I gather rather than have the early 20 something be be the volunteer coordinator and late 20s marketing person supervise the 50 and 60 years old stuffing envelopes or manning the phone banks. Many charity/non profits in SV hire 20 years old to stuff envelopes (Ok maybe not so much of that going on anymore) man the phone banks and grey haired volunteers develop the marketing strategies and develop the volunteer programs.

By far the most effective organization at using volunteers I found in Hawaii was the Pacific Aviation Museum. In no small part because the paid staff was roughly 20 people and their were 200+ volunteers of which 100+ put in more than 200 hours a year and dozen were over the 1,000 hour/year. Volunteers did everything from running the IT department to coordinating volunteers,restoring airplanes, leading tours, developing merit badge programs, and performing historical research. The big problem most volunteer programs have is the one size fits all mentally as is demonstrated by this thread.


You couldn't pay me to weed, and yet I'll happily take children on a tour. For splitwdw, the exact opposite is true. Yet for most organization both task need to be done but only offer one option and have zero ability to do something different.
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Old 09-03-2015, 06:53 AM   #32
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Note the article is written by someone whose business is leadership development specializing in volunteerism, so not surprising he would find this to be the number one reason people stop volunteering.
Good point. I'm sure the author didn't do a lot of special research for this article to come to this conclusion. He can't fix the most likely real issues, that people don't have time or don't really like the work, but he can (for a fee) try to fix your leadership problems!
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:17 PM   #33
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Many of you have a lot of experience with this, but it's new to me and I am well into my first serious effort at ongoing volunteering (volunteering my time before retirement was all short term/project efforts - work hard for days/weeks, then done).

Unfortunately it hasn't been enjoyable, but I am trying to find a way to make it beneficial to myself and the organization instead of throwing in the towel (for now). If I do quit, #2 will be my primary reason. I just want some unsolicited feedback on what I'm doing, good-bad-indifferent. When I ask for feedback, I get a pat 'looks great', 'thanks', 'keep up the good work.' Frankly not looking for recognition (though once in a while might be nice).

Volunteer Power: People Don't Quit Volunteering Because they are Too Busy
Well I don't know about anyone else, but for me, a key question is what will I be looking for by volunteering (I use the word "will" as in it's something I'll have no time to investigate for at least a year). In other words, what are the qualities I want out of the experience?

After much reflection, I've decided I want creativity, ingenuity, and self-expression. As my interest is working with young people trying to get a job, those values shouldn't be hard to meet.

What I do not want, and will have no trouble abandoning, is any organization with bureaucracy, politics, or like nonsense. Perhaps the best feedback we can hope for is that we've made some kind of contribution, even if only noticed by ourselves. After all, if we're volunteering our time in something we believe in, isn't contribution what it's ultimately all about anyway?
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:32 PM   #34
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What I do not want, and will have no trouble abandoning, is any organization with bureaucracy, politics, or like nonsense. Perhaps the best feedback we can hope for is that we've made some kind of contribution, even if only noticed by ourselves. After all, if we're volunteering our time in something we believe in, isn't contribution what it's ultimately all about anyway?
"Bureaucracy, politics, or like nonsense" is indeed not desirable, but you still have to have some organization. The group of volunteers needs to at least be on the same page, with the same goals. There has to be some coordination, which likely includes feedback, recognition, assignments among other things. Duplicating efforts, or missing tasks, isn't effective. While it's nice to see the fruits of your efforts ("if only noticed by ourselves"), that alone is not enough IMO.
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:58 PM   #35
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Here's an approach to take when volunteering:

If they say thank you they know you are there. They've told you what they want you to do and assume you are doing it.

If you weren't there, they would have to do it and they are busy with the other assignments they volunteered for.

Most volunteers don't get a lot of feedback on the work they do for an organization. For the most part the employees are grateful you are there, but they are busy as well. If you haven't messed up, then you are providing a crucial service and you should know that inherently.

Unlike paid employees, you won't get feedback unless it is of the negative kind. The paid employees save their energy for dealing with all the other happy antics every organization requires of them. You're a volunteer, you don't have to be a part of that - consider yourself lucky.

If you feel you are making a contribution to helping the organization with it's mission, then that's all you can expect as a volunteer.

Rita

Well said. As a volunteer amongst other volunteers, I'm not sure why one would expect to be appreciated by the other volunteers. I find expressions of appreciation a bit embarrassing myself. I know I'm helping. That's all that really counts.


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Old 09-03-2015, 03:22 PM   #36
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We've only been ER'd 6 months, but official volunteering hasn't been a significant part of our life, somewhat contrary to our expectations before ER. Burnout from all the corporate organizational BS has been the main cause of our reluctance, but so have the numerous warnings on this forum. To us, one of the greatest joys of retirement is that we do not have to expend so much time defending our boundaries, ie "thanks for inviting us, but we don't have the time to do ____".

We certainly didn't retire only to "do nothing", although I certainly respect those who do. Part of the reason we retired is to be of better service to others, to build "social capital" in the words of one author. For us, the best way to do this may be what we jokingly call "peer-to-peer volunteer". In other words, we build our modest network of friends and help (and be helped) where appropriate. Of course you can reasonably argue that organizations such as churches and not-for-profits may leverage resources and expertise, but we also know they can be awash in BS and inefficiency.

Some examples of our approach include the time we are spending with a few friends who are suffering from serious illness or enduring the pain of family disfunction. Most of our time together would not be called fun or entertaining, but it has been immensely rewarding to us personally.

We recently remodel and sold our old house. We spent 2 years and tons of $$. If we consider our labor free, as volunteers, then we barely broke even. I'm afraid to consider how much we "lost" if were were paid for our time and skill. Still, a young family got a great deal on a beautiful starter home and DW and I have the wonderful satisfaction of a job well done and the feeling we made a small part the world a better place for a few people.

We wouldn't have done much without FIRE since our rat-race lives were pretty much all consuming. So we are developing a bigger concept of "volunteering" than just showing up to an organization and doing what we're told. I'm sure many of you do lots of good for family, friends and stranger in you FIRE, even if not in an official volunteer capacity. We believe that this is a big part of living the good life!
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Old 09-03-2015, 03:43 PM   #37
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"Bureaucracy, politics, or like nonsense" is indeed not desirable, but you still have to have some organization. The group of volunteers needs to at least be on the same page, with the same goals. There has to be some coordination, which likely includes feedback, recognition, assignments among other things. Duplicating efforts, or missing tasks, isn't effective. While it's nice to see the fruits of your efforts ("if only noticed by ourselves"), that alone is not enough IMO.
I think it depends. Most situations do involve coordination of effort, but some involve more "garbage" than others, as we all know. I do know people, and have read blogs of people, who are quite fulfilled in their volunteer work and satisfied with the organizations they're affiliated with. I've done so in the past, and even though I recall the organization was rife with politics, I overlooked it as I believed so strongly in their mission and in what I was doing.

We're all different, but I am in no way looking for feedback from an orgnization, as I did too much of that when working (I'm now in the "Quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" camp). In my case, my satisfaction will come from the clients I'm helping. Again, I believe this links back to the importance of each us asking ourselves what qualities exactly are we looking to experience in the situation. After all, if our own needs aren't being met in some way, we can always go to the beach instead.
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Old 09-03-2015, 03:50 PM   #38
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Like many folks here, I have also been associated with many volunteer organizations over the years. One thing that has always driven me away eventually is a "requirement" to attend meetings. One organization that I especially liked but finally left asked me to attend quarterly meeting all over Texas. One meeting required a 4 hour drive (one way) for a 2 hour meeting.

My current volunteer commitments do not require me to attend meetings, though I am usually invited to attend them. I have made it amply clear that I am there to help the organization on my own terms and am not interested in sprucing up my resume with fancy job titles. All of my time is devoted to the good works of the organizations and none to meetings.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:33 PM   #39
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I volunteered three times. Once for the Army, once for airborne, once for SF, When my obligations were done, I was done volunteering for ever.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:56 PM   #40
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"Bureaucracy, politics, or like nonsense" is indeed not desirable, but you still have to have some organization. The group of volunteers needs to at least be on the same page, with the same goals. There has to be some coordination, which likely includes feedback, recognition, assignments among other things. Duplicating efforts, or missing tasks, isn't effective. While it's nice to see the fruits of your efforts ("if only noticed by ourselves"), that alone is not enough IMO.
Most aspect of volunteer activity should be enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding, be that helping a kid to learn to read, planting flowers, or giving tour. Generally there less pleasant aspects of the task so for instance, filling out the assessment forms, weeding, or greeting visitors at the door. But these are essential for the organization to be successful. Some one needs to coordinate and assign both the good and bad aspects, make schedules etc. so politics and bureaucracy is inevitable.

If you are putting in a say 4 hours a week, it can be hard to see what impact your efforts are making on the overall progress. So newsletters, volunteer appreciation lunches/dinners which highlight that this year we helped 124 kids increasing their reading level by an average of 2.5 grades reinforces that hey I'm doing some real good with my volunteer activities.
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