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Volunteering seems like work
Old 02-06-2020, 09:14 PM   #1
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Volunteering seems like work

I've tried out various volunteer roles to help fill my time and interest during my first attempt at retirement, and every role so far has felt like work.

I have to drive to a particular location on a certain day(s) and time, follow a fixed set of rules, stay there for a fixed time, and have somebody else oversee my volunteer activities.

I enjoy helping others immensely, but the rules and rigidity takes away from the pleasure of volunteering. It all reminds me of working for a micro-managing boss. I actually have more flexibility when working.

I dream of volunteering where I can help people directly when and where I feel like it, and not have somebody else telling me what to do and when to do it. Can this dream of mine become a reality?
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Old 02-06-2020, 09:35 PM   #2
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Yes, definitely. I do trail work on both the AT and local trails managed by a nature foundation. Occasionally there are big projects done at a certain time, but it's not mandatory attendance. Most of the work is done independently, and I do the work whenever I want, fitting it around other things I want to do, the weather, and how I feel. It's kind of expected that I do things every so often, to keep the trails in good shape, but a few years ago I had knee surgery that kept me out for the whole spring and summer. Someone else stepped up for me, and they didn't fire me.

If the flexibility is important, find something like that where you are mostly on your own and can mostly set your hours.
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Old 02-06-2020, 09:42 PM   #3
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You have to consider if you are a new volunteer, they won't be as inclined to just leave you on your own as you are technically representing that group, and they need to make sure that you show up when you say you will, are pleasant and helpful if interacting with clients/workers, able to do the tasks that need doing in the priority that they deem needed in the manner in which they'd like them done. Consistency is key in most cases.

The early days are the awkward part of volunteering. It does suck to feel a bit like a job in the early days, but once you've proven yourself, it does get less job-like as they trust you to do things without such oversight.

But if the work you're doing seems boring or restrictive - try something else, maybe something that doesn't involve people interactions and scheduled time/shift work. If it's not a cause you believe in or you're frustrated, there are other things out there for you that may be a better fit and not as dreary as others.

For instance, I like volunteering with animals - wildlife rehab, therapeutic horse riding for children, etc... I love animals more than people mostly but also because I honestly don't mind any aspect of working with animals - even the clean up parts are familiar and meditative for me more than annoying and I feel good about the fact that I don't shirk from getting my hands (or boots) dirty.
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Old 02-06-2020, 09:44 PM   #4
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I've been doing some skill based volunteering at home. I set my own hours. Some of the skills organizations need are web development, design, SEO and "auditing" which seems popular on Catchafire.org. Non-web related skills include writing (especially grant writing).

There's also United Nations Volunteers where you can find skill based volunteer jobs with "UN entity partners." They have a lot of writing, web/software development, and translation volunteer jobs available, most but not all being with entities outside the US. All remote, from home.
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Old 02-06-2020, 10:59 PM   #5
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I have found that much of my volunteer work has to conform to the schedules of others who are doing work in a paid capacity. However, I do have a lot of flexibility because my participation, being a volunteer, is optional, and that gives me some leverage.


Much of my volunteer work is with area schools, so I do have to abide by their schedules and those the main teachers set up for their activities I partake in. However, that doesn't mean I will get up at 6 AM in order to visit a school's club which meets at 7 AM before regular school's hours. So, I pass on those.


In the years I worked part-time, it was often a challenge to work into my weekly schedule all of these visits on weekdays during the day. It was a juggling act and I sometimes had to forgo doing all of the volunteer work I wanted to do, along with my evening hobbies which I couldn't usually do on the days I worked. Full ER was the way I resolved that.
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Old 02-07-2020, 01:17 AM   #6
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You can definitely find volunteer work that doesnít feel like work. For me, the keys are:
1. You have to enjoy what youíre doing and feel it adds value.
2. No set schedule, make your own hours.
3. Convenient location or remote from home.

I resigned from some volunteer gigs because they definitely felt like work (HOA Board, a large non-profit that wanted me to essentially do a job for free). However my volunteer work with a local university has been rewarding and fun, while requiring almost no mandatory meetings.
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Old 02-07-2020, 05:51 AM   #7
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I say keep looking for the right fit.

Iíve been retired for almost five years and have tried some volunteer gigs that I quickly dropped, and a few others that I kept with. I now find myself over committed, so will need to start cutting back on the activities I no longer enjoy
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:05 AM   #8
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I have been volunteering for 19 years one day a week at a Mental health facility for ~ 6 hours daily and another day at a Habilitation Center for ~ 2 hours daily. Of course there are Agency obligations and protocol which give both structure and some rigidity. I personally find it extremely rewarding; however, volunteering is not for everyone. There is a good amount of structure and reporting to paid higher ups which could seem like work. Choices.

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Old 02-07-2020, 06:22 AM   #9
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Yes, it is possible. I teach a free class for veterans via the local university student vet association or a military base if I am visiting my daughters. I pick a date, they confirm a class and announce it internally and I advertise via contacts. I manage the attendees, handouts etc. and administer a test for certification on Lean Six Sigma.


The target audience is underemployed or transitioning Vets. I always tell them I'm on my payback tour, serving those that served. I just taught my 20th class, serving ~400 Vets total since 2013. My goal is 500 in the next 1-2 years and 1,000 if I'm fortunate with my health (I'm retired Navy).
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:23 AM   #10
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OP , we all have had that experience. Takes some time, sometimes years ,to find something that fits.

In some volunteer roles , I have become extremely resentful of other volunteers who feel the need to ' manage ' , especially those who are unqualified to do the work themselves. I have left some roles because of this.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:24 AM   #11
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You could adopt a section of highway locally in your area to ensure it stays clean. This would probably have to coordinated with the state, or county where you live.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:58 AM   #12
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The only way not to have some structure, rules, schedule and a boss, would be just go doing activities for people on your own time.
I volunteer for a few organizations and there has to be a boss somewhere in the equation with schedules and structure.
If not happy giving your time that way I would stop and do something you are happy with.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:24 AM   #13
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1) Don't do something you don't absolutely love
2) Don't volunteer where another volunteer is designated as "super manager"
3) Don't volunteer where paid staff micromanage.
4) Don't volunteer where they ask for volunteers, you respond, and they don't respond back to you. That's a red flag, just forget about the place, don't try to insert yourself.

Find a place where like minded volunteers are easy with each other. I've managed to find 3 different organizations like this. In each case, we have very flexible hours. Of course there is some structure, you have to be there when it is open. Otherwise, the staff gives us a list, and let us do our thing. None even ask for a commitment of when we show up next. It is now my social lifeline, I have more socialization at an average of 6 hours a week than I did at 60 in my j*b at Mega.

Here's the thing, I like doing "handy" work and have some skill at it. Turns out they are desperate for the help, and I think that's why we are left to our own devices. I.e. supply and demand. There are other volunteer gigs that have volunteer oversupply and I found those to be no fun at all.

One more thing: beware of places you volunteer where corporate groups come in and overwhelm you with help. I still give Habitat for Humanity a chance every now and then, but sometimes it is no fun when you are making progress and a big group comes and just overruns the site. Habitat is a great organization and I'll go occasionally, but it can be a bit too much like work for me personally.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:27 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Yes, definitely. I do trail work on both the AT and local trails managed by a nature foundation. Occasionally there are big projects done at a certain time, but it's not mandatory attendance. Most of the work is done independently, and I do the work whenever I want, fitting it around other things I want to do, the weather, and how I feel. It's kind of expected that I do things every so often, to keep the trails in good shape, but a few years ago I had knee surgery that kept me out for the whole spring and summer. Someone else stepped up for me, and they didn't fire me.

If the flexibility is important, find something like that where you are mostly on your own and can mostly set your hours.

+1
I volunteer at a state park. Besides the larger projects like bridge and pathway repair when I'm hiking the back trails I pick up litter, trim overgrown pathways, cut and dig out invasive plants. I let the volunteer coordinator know what I'm going to be doing plus keep track in my online calendar. You can make your own schedule. I still work so I do this after work in Spring and Summer and some weekends. Some parks have nesting boxes that you can monitor for different species of birds. You visit the nesting boxes once a week from Spring to late Summer and keep a record of activity. You go once a week, any time or day. Some parks have native plant gardens that you can work in. We also plant trees and keep an eye out for invasive insects. You do need some training at the beginning and you have to have a background check (in my state) because we sometimes work with children.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:31 AM   #15
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+1
I volunteer at a state park. Besides the larger projects like bridge and pathway repair when I'm hiking the back trails I pick up litter, trim overgrown pathways, cut and dig out invasive plants. I let the volunteer coordinator know what I'm going to be doing plus keep track in my online calendar. You can make your own schedule.
On my last disaster recovery volunteer opportunity, we had a nice gentleman join us. He is a big proponent of this kind of work. He mostly works AT east and other big trails out west. He had nothing but good to say about the work.

I'm not sure it will fit my physical capabilities, however. Otherwise, I'd probably give it a try too. That, and I dig out invasive plants in my yard and hate it. Unfortunately, that is something I can physically do, but I don't like it. I'd rather be setting up erosion stop rails and that kind of thing, but not sure I can handle it.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:40 AM   #16
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Yes, some volunteer roles can definitely be rewarding, you have to find them. But some are as bad or worse than a bad work environment - except you can quit without worrying about income. ***

Why?

Remember those paid career co-workers at all levels who made your life miserable? They retire too (and their wives don’t want them around ). The ones who enjoyed their “power” over people, gravitate to leading volunteers in retirement. The ones who demonstrated leadership and financial acumen during their careers are often considered prime candidates to lead volunteer orgs. Too bad some boards who choose them don’t stop to consider those candidates people skills too...

I spent three years in a toxic volunteer organization (yacht club), one year on the board thinking I could change the entitled, self absorbed, do nothing bozos in control by doing better. They just took advantage of my work to enhance themselves and didn’t change at all. They won, I walked away, they’re still running that org into the ground.

Now I volunteer for a community sailing center and a senior golf league, enjoy both. But I keep myself detached by doing projects with a discrete start and end, and mostly not accepting a permanent role. IME there’s no shortage of (mostly not) “good ideas” as long as “someone else” implements them and does the leg work. So doers are in demand and projects can be rewarding, I just say I’m busy when a dumb idea comes along - they’re usually easy to spot.

Leading volunteers isn’t always a picnic either.

*** That can be the rub with leading volunteers. Since they don’t need the job for income, they’re unrestrained in criticizing (often things they don’t know about). Or threatening to quit every time something doesn’t go their way.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:51 AM   #17
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Yes, some volunteer roles can definitely be rewarding, you have to find them. But some are as bad or worse than a bad work environment - except you can quit without worrying about income. ***

Why?

Remember those paid career co-workers who made your life miserable? They retire too. And the ones who enjoyed their ďpowerĒ over people, gravitate to leading volunteers in retirement. The ones who demonstrated leadership and financial acumen during their careers are often considered prime candidates to lead volunteer orgs. Too bad the boards who choose them donít stop to consider those candidates people skills too...

I spent three years in a toxic volunteer organization, one year on the board thinking I could change the bozos in control. They won, I walked away, theyíre still running that org into the ground.

*** That can be the rub with leading volunteers. Since they donít need the job for income, theyíre unrestrained in criticizing (often things they donít known about). Or threatening to quit every time something doesnít go their way.
Great points midpack.

For me, I DO NOT do boards anymore. I find the personality types attracted to board service do not match with my happiness.

As for leading volunteers... I have a small story. I just started working at a nice little local non-profit. I was invited. (Turns out it is who you know a lot of times, unfortunately like the work world.) Anyway, they had a volunteer leader who was very picky and apparently criticized other volunteers and staff quite a bit. The story is people put up with it. But one day, someone critized him. He dropped everything and walked out never to be seen again. The witnesses all confirm it was ridiculously trivial, but they also feel he wasn't getting his way on things enough and it was building. Everyone seems pretty happy now!
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Old 02-07-2020, 08:06 AM   #18
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I've tried out various volunteer roles to help fill my time and interest during my first attempt at retirement, and every role so far has felt like work.

I have to drive to a particular location on a certain day(s) and time, follow a fixed set of rules, stay there for a fixed time, and have somebody else oversee my volunteer activities.

I enjoy helping others immensely, but the rules and rigidity takes away from the pleasure of volunteering. It all reminds me of working for a micro-managing boss. I actually have more flexibility when working.
Yup, I had the same experience. I was looking forward to volunteering at an animal shelter, but it ended up just feeling like work. That's the last thing I want right now -- something that feels like a job.

I had to clock in. I had to understand a bunch of rules and policies, and I had to make sure I followed them. I had to commit to being there at a certain time every week. I had to go through orientation. I had to be supervised and trained. I had to commit to a certain number of hours. I had to dress a certain way (lame t-shirt and name badge around my neck). I'm not saying I don't understand the need for all this. It just came as an unhappy surprise to me.

The work itself was also uninteresting and unrewarding -- cleaning out kennels, basically. I didn't feel like I was helping the animals; I felt like I was helping the shelter with its to-do list. Also, it was work that other people were being paid (not much) to do, and I was doing it for free, so I felt like unpaid grunt labor.

I stopped shortly after I started. It felt like a job. I am 7 months into retirement, and I don't want anything that feels like a job.

I hope to volunteer in the future at something else. I haven't given up on volunteering. I just found my early experience unsatisfying. My attitude now is that I'll keep my eyes open for opportunities to help out, and I'll see what comes my way.
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Volunteering seems like work
Old 02-07-2020, 08:11 AM   #19
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Volunteering seems like work

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I dream of volunteering where I can help people directly when and where I feel like it, and not have somebody else telling me what to do and when to do it. Can this dream of mine become a reality?

Maybe you donít need a volunteer gig to do this? Perhaps all you need is an awareness of people in need in your local community (or a way to develop that awareness) that match the skills you have to offer. And then you can respond as you please.

I love my volunteer gigs. I visit nursing homes with my therapy dog and volunteer for hospice. I set my own schedule with the nursing homes and donít really report to anyone (except the therapy dog registration agency yearly). Of course, there are standards by which I must abide and I agree with these. But no oneís hovering over me (except to pet the dog).

Same is true for hospice volunteering. I state how many hours and what days Iím available and fill out a visit report online when Iím done. During the visits I am generally with the hospice person alone while the caregiver takes a break to have lunch with a friend or some other recharging activity. Thereís a little more paperwork and training with this (as one would hope I think) but I didnít find it onerous considering you are spending times with people and families during a very difficult episode in their lives. I would say one needs to be suited to sitting gently and supportively alongside things that canít be fixed, only cared for (you already know if this is or isnít you...).

I do think volunteering (or simply doing good in your community) is greatly enhanced when you engage in activity deeply meaningful to you as several others have noted.

Frederick Buechner said, ďYour vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the worldís greatest need.Ē

Sometimes it takes a lot of experimenting along the way
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Old 02-07-2020, 08:41 AM   #20
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Y
I had to clock in. I had to understand a bunch of rules and policies, and I had to make sure I followed them. I had to commit to being there at a certain time every week. I had to go through orientation. I had to be supervised and trained. I had to commit to a certain number of hours. I had to dress a certain way (lame t-shirt and name badge around my neck).
Don't blame you. That's not for me.

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Maybe you donít need a volunteer gig to do this? Perhaps all you need is an awareness of people in need in your local community (or a way to develop that awareness) that match the skills you have to offer. And then you can respond as you please.
This is a really good point. Our neighborhood is aging, and a group of us look out for some of our older neighbors and help out with simple stuff. Very satisfying. No clocks, no supervisors, no orientations required.
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