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Old 08-31-2014, 05:55 AM   #21
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I'd be curious to know if others have discovered a way to avoid the above pitfalls.
Other than described above (only work on your own terms) I found the best way to contribute to non-profit or volunteer is actually working in the private sector: work in a high-paying job and give away a part of your income.

Last year I earned about three times the salary most non-profit employees make. So in my example I can employ two full time people in a non-profit and still have a non-profit salary for myself. It's tax deductible too.

On top of that you easily become one of the most celebrated well-doers in the charity instead of a contributor having to demonstrate every minute of your time is well spent and having the reminder you are burning up scarce resources.

I also rather consult for a private company at 200 USD an hour and give away 70 usd of that than getting constant nagging at 130 USD an hour why I am not working for free because "we are a charity".

Just a thought.
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Old 08-31-2014, 08:06 AM   #22
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Since I ERd, I've enjoyed "mundane and unchallenging" volunteer tasks - drywalling, building trails, hauling water jugs at races, etc. I just show up at the local recreation area and ask what they need. I have no desire to be in charge of anything at this point.
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Old 08-31-2014, 11:08 AM   #23
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Makes me wonder how some of these organizations that seek volunteers ever get anyone to work for them. There is an organization where I live that provides transportation services for disabled veterans to a major medical facility that's about 70 miles away and were seeking volunteers to do the driving. Obviously a good cause but when I contacted them to offer my services I found their attitude a complete turnoff. The entire discussion on their part was only about the rules, regulations, and time commitments that I must follow in order to be able to volunteer and not to waste their time if I wasn't able to fully commit to all of them. It was as if they were doing me a favor by allowing me to volunteer for them. I'm certainly not looking for someone to roll out the red carpet to get me to volunteer but showing a little gratitude wouldn't hurt in the recruitment process.
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Old 08-31-2014, 02:18 PM   #24
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My hub volunteered for Meals on Wheels. He just drove one day a week but they really liked him so asked if he would drive a full week, every other week - for pay. He just makes $10 an hour. About 18 months later he is sick of it, the clients complain about the quality of the food, the mgr of the program is very disorganized (don't give him enough meals, he runs out!, etc). He told them he was going to stop, go back to driving one day a week for no pay.

I volunteered for a group - it was very menial work (this was OK to me) but the minute they figured out I could do other things they wanted me to take on more, do fundraising, etc.

So I agree, it's difficult to volunteer and get it just right. I am thinking about volunteering for special events only. I used to do this when I lived in another state, like for the American Cancer Society - they have some type of event, I work, and that's it.
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Old 08-31-2014, 02:50 PM   #25
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Wen my stint in the Army and reserves was done, I was done with volunteering, forever.
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Old 08-31-2014, 03:02 PM   #26
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Providing the homeless, working poor and refugees with a meal today was a mundane and boring activity. It was also rewarding, uplifting and humbling. I received more than I donated.
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Old 08-31-2014, 04:21 PM   #27
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So I agree, it's difficult to volunteer and get it just right.....
I volunteer for a local trail group doing maintenance and event support.
I also work doing taxes for money.

I had to try a couple of venues for both before I got it right (for now).
I guess it is a trial and error process.
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Old 08-31-2014, 04:36 PM   #28
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Volunteering for special events only is a great way to go.
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Old 08-31-2014, 05:19 PM   #29
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I was working for a place that packs food for food banks, they buy wholesale then we pack in individual sizes like breaking down 50lb bags of beans to one pound packages. It was kinda fun but they only allow 2 shifts of 2 hours a week because they have too many volunteers. Schools and scout troops and companies like to send in big groups for a shift or two a year. It was a waste of labor hours a machine could have done it faster and better if we weren't free labor we could have been replaced for about a dollar an hour. They only had people working because people wanted to and it gave them a chance to tell another group about the mission to feed the hungry. Our two hour shifts started late and ended early not worth driving there. All the meaningful jobs were paid jobs like fork lift driver. I told the volunteer coordinator I was an accountant and could do office work but they never offered me something worth doing.
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Old 08-31-2014, 05:34 PM   #30
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What's mundane or worse for some may not be for you. I volunteer for the local nature foundation and Appalachian Trail club. A lot of what I do is trail maintenance. Many don't want to weed whack a mile or trail, or hike with a pick mattock to clear water bars. I don't mind it at all, and take pride in keeping my sections of trails in shape .
Something like that actually sounds like something I would enjoy doing. Locally, we have the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington DC, on the Maryland side of the Anacostia river. Sometimes they have volunteers help out to clean up, as a lot of crap gets washed in from the Anacostia River. I have fond memories of going to that place as a little kid with my parents, and have been back a few times as an adult. I'd actually get a kick, I think, out of helping to keep it looking good.
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:32 PM   #31
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Maybe it depends on where you volunteer and what your expectations are. I volunteer at a nature center and a historic site doing gardening work. I also help with special events. These places are a great fit for me. I still work so fit this in after work and some weekends. I don't want to be the boss of others. I don't need an important job. We have had people come to volunteer and then don't want to do any jobs that are "beneath them".
Before I found these 2 places, I was asked to volunteer at another historic site. It was quite a distance to travel but I had heard the gardens were interesting. I was told they really needed someone that could whip the gardens into shape and didn't have enough gardening volunteers. First week they had me stuffing envelopes. Second week I painted the staff lunch room. Third week no one was there when I showed up & everything was locked. Fourth week I was asked why nothing was getting done in the gardens. I un-volunteered from there that day.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:05 AM   #32
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Volunteering for special events only is a great way to go.
+1
Being a motorcycle enthusiast, and more of a 'lone wolf plus friends type rider', special events like charity runs, etc pop up all the time. But what brings the most satisfaction for me is when the 'as needed' fund raisers come up. People in pretty much immediate needs, whether from accidents, disease, loss of loved ones, or whatever. It's a very humbling heartfelt feeling to help and donate, whether close friends or total strangers.

I have been soured on 'organized volunteer groups' for a while, though I still donate to my favorite charities. Let me explain. One group I was with for several years brought a lot of satisfaction for a while. I was even named volunteer of the year once, among 125 volunteers on this particular committee, pretty much through sweat equity. Not that I was looking for some stroke afterwards, as I am a pretty private person, but the shine did not last long. They didn't really care how hard people worked, but cared more how big the billfold is and how influential your connections are. When they found out I'm pretty much just a worker bee, well you can guess what took place after that. I took it okay for a couple more years but had heard enough of the worn out 'but it's for the kids' guilting, so I cut back considerably. What finally was the last straw for me was the deceit to the public from the upper echelon all those years. They always used to brag to the public that 100% of our fundraising goes to the scholarship funds for students. I was proud of that. Well after an investigation including IRS receipts showed that only 10% went to scholarships, and the other 90% went to the general fund, which, btw, said echelon was called out on, that's when I said "that's it, I'm getting away from this toxic atmosphere and these toxic people. I'm outta here!"

It's a shame, because I met, liked and still am friends with a lot of the other worker bees...

Sorry for the rant, but I feel better now.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:13 AM   #33
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My hub also volunteers for the Audubon society in our state. He does maintain a trail and did man the "desk" for awhile....then winter came, he was just sitting there reading. He did end up doing marketing for them for a year - submitting programs to various newspapers and such to help promote.

Maybe the best thing to do is to change it up. We are also thinking about doing something like that charity that builds houses for the poor (name escapes me right now). Doing that for a week - we have good DIY skills. Has anyone done this?
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:18 AM   #34
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There was a paid job posted for my town - it was to help seniors, take them to the store, doctors appts, etc. I called to ask about this but they said you had to be 100% available - there was no set hours - they might call you the day before and tell you to show up at a certain location. I did not think this would work for me.

I've also been thinking about volunteering in the local shools - seems like this would be more "set" hours.
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Old 09-01-2014, 04:12 PM   #35
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Maybe the best thing to do is to change it up. We are also thinking about doing something like that charity that builds houses for the poor (name escapes me right now). Doing that for a week - we have good DIY skills. Has anyone done this?
Sounds like Habitat for Humanity. I haven't personally worked on a build as I'm afraid I would do more damage than good (DIY isn't my strong suit). But our church participates on at least one build each year and people really enjoy it.

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I've also been thinking about volunteering in the local shools - seems like this would be more "set" hours.
Schools need lots of volunteers - especially mentors and tutors at the middle school level, at least in our area. Be advised that volunteering with kids in just about any role now requires a formal application process with a lot of information on your background as well as a criminal background check. Just so you're prepared.
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Old 09-01-2014, 04:48 PM   #36
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I volunteer about 300 hours a year for VITA and maybe 40 hours a year or so for my HOA. Knowing how to say "no" will eliminate most pitfalls. You can only be taken advantage of if you allow it.
I do TaxAide; not mundane ... have to keep up with the regs and certify every year, Federal + 2 states. Fellow volunteers are an interesting bunch and the clientele are very appreciative.
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Old 09-02-2014, 09:10 AM   #37
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We managed to "volunteer" by just figuring out what we did that would be useful for a non-profit, and then offering those services. As opposed to signing on as a volunteer, and then doing whatever is assigned. A big part of this for us is giving back to the places that we enjoy so much.
-----------------

I like Nords term: self-directed volunteerism. I think that makes a huge difference. YOU figure out what you can offer, and the terms that you are willing to work under, and then you interact with the causes that are important to you. This can happen quite naturally as you get involved with the organizations and then see where you can contribute.
+1

My first year in retirement I underwent training for three different volunteering positions, but found, to my surprise, that I wasn't ready/interested to go back to being under someone's thumb. Their needs, their schedule, their rules . . . at that time it smacked too much like returning to a j#b.

It worked out best when I allowed it to happen organically, just as audreyh1 suggests above. In my case, as I got more involved with a university learning program for retirees, I got itchy to teach a course in order to share one of my particular passions. Because I got to set the rules, meaning where, when and how often, I find I enjoy everything about it.

Perhaps that makes me less altruistic than some, but that is what I found worked well for me.
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Old 09-02-2014, 11:11 AM   #38
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My first year in retirement I underwent training for three different volunteering positions, but found, to my surprise, that I wasn't ready/interested to go back to being under someone's thumb. Their needs, their schedule, their rules . . . at that time it smacked too much like returning to a j#b.
I could see myself having the same reaction after achieving the hard-won independence of early retirement.

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It worked out best when I allowed it to happen organically, just as audreyh1 suggests above. In my case, as I got more involved with a university learning program for retirees, I got itchy to teach a course in order to share one of my particular passions. Because I got to set the rules, meaning where, when and how often, I find I enjoy everything about it.
I think you're both onto something. This is enlightening...
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Old 09-02-2014, 11:56 AM   #39
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+1

My first year in retirement I underwent training for three different volunteering positions, but found, to my surprise, that I wasn't ready/interested to go back to being under someone's thumb. Their needs, their schedule, their rules . . . at that time it smacked too much like returning to a j#b.
I have a feeling I wouldn't be cut out to be a volunteer because my attitude is along the lines of hey, I'm not being paid for this, I'm doing YOU a favor by even being here, so you'll be grateful for the help you get. Start barking orders at me, micro-managing every little thing, throwing in a little office politics and so on, and I'm gone.

Back in college, I helped out with the youth group in our church, for about a year. The guy who was the actual youth leader was pretty cool at first, but it didn't take long for his D-baggery to rear its ugly head.

The last straw ended up being one fall when we were going to take the kids to a corn maze. Half of them rode over in my car, and the other half in his. It was understood that the kids were paying their own admission to this thing...we weren't springing for it. Well, when we got there, we found out that a good number of the kids didn't have money. The youth leader told me that he'd cover some of the kids, and I'd have to cough up admission for the rest. When I told him no, he got mad with me and said that either I paid for them, or I couldn't go in...just like I was one of the kids! I was just a college kid myself at the time, making about $7/hr working part time at a department store, and covering most of my college costs myself!

Well, I reminded him that half of the kids rode over in my car...would he like to be tasked with taking ALL of them home, in his? He ended up covering the rest of the kids, but that was the final straw. I washed my hands of helping out that youth group after that. Not too long after that, I think that group actually got disbanded, as membership dropped off.
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Old 09-02-2014, 03:30 PM   #40
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Sounds like Habitat for Humanity. I haven't personally worked on a build as I'm afraid I would do more damage than good (DIY isn't my strong suit). But our church participates on at least one build each year and people really enjoy it.
Habitat is a good one to do if that's your 'thing'. I like framing and drywall. Not so hot on the painting, so I just don't go on those days.

I've worked on probably six or eight houses. Sometimes just one day per house, other times I come back for many phases of the build.

Usually there wil be a scheduled team (from a megacorp, or a church or something), but there's always room for another hand...especially one who knows the ropes (most volunteer teams I meet have just a few that have been on a build before).
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