This isn’t what I signed up for

Have you ever signed up for something thinking it was going to turn out one way, but having it turn out differently?  How did that make you feel?  What do you do when all of a sudden you’re unhappy with your present situation but people are depending on you to do your job?  What about when it comes to volunteering?  My past posts have focused on the positive aspects of service.  However, let’s be honest, volunteering isn’t always a bowl of Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream (my new favorite).  Because it’s not a paid gig, most people look at volunteering as not being very important.  As a result, if a volunteer is placed a situation where he or she is unhappy, most of the time he or she will just stop showing up to volunteer.  However, in thoseoccurrences when your volunteer position is vital to an organization’s success, how do you say to the leadership: “this isn’t what I signed up for?”

Tips for Talking About Volunteering

Be honest:  Just because you are a volunteer doesn’t mean that you are expendable.  Staff members at the organization do value your time, energy, and opinions; however they may not have the time to tell you that because they’re busy trying to run an organization.  Shoot your point of contact within the organization an email honestly saying that you were looking for a volunteer opportunity that would allow you to do X,Y, or Z.  Tell them that the roles and responsibilities don’t align with what you originally anticipated.  Ask if there is another role or position for which you might be better suited.  Or ask if there is a way to better tailor your current position to your original expectations.

Refer to the position description:  When describing a volunteer position, most recruiters create position descriptions that outline the roles, responsibilities, and duties of a volunteer.  Referring back to this will give you an opportunity to make sure you didn’t misunderstand the requirements of your position as a volunteer.  If it turns out that you did misunderstand your role, let the leadership know.  The last thing they want to do is to force you to complete tasks that you dread; it looks bad for the organization to have volunteers volunteering for jobs that they hate or aren’t good at.

Ask for a reciprocal relationship:  Most people don’t think of their service as anything more than that.  However, you must think of your service as a partnership.  You are offering services, talents, and skills to an organization because you are looking to get something out of it.  Whether you need documented service hours or you are seeking the sense of satisfaction from giving back, you are still receiving something as a result of your service.  Thus, it’s ok to ask an organization to reciprocate by offering you an opportunity to lead a project or even to receive training in a specific area.

Make suggestions:  Just as most people think that organizations are not interested in developing a relationship, they think that organizations are not open to their suggestions.  WRONG!  If you have an idea that you think would be beneficial to the organization and that will make the lives of volunteers easier, than by all means; SUGGEST IT!  The worse thing that could happen is that the organization’s leadership says no. 

Recruit some help:  A lot of volunteer recruitment occurs as a result of word-of-mouth.  If you are in a volunteer position that is exceptionally challenging, but you enjoy it none the less, than talk it up to your friends!  That way, they come volunteer their services and give you a little relief in your role as a volunteer because your duties are divided between two people. 

Tell us about a particularly challenging service experience that you were able to get resolved by talking about it with the organization!

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