I’ve volunteered for a variety of causes over the years, and I’ve had a chance to lead some volunteer groups as well. It’s given me some fascinating insights.
People volunteer for many reasons. Perhaps you supported school efforts because of your kids. Or you got into a sports or arts activity because you enjoyed it. Maybe you got involved at church for your spiritual development, or a charity because you wanted to help others.
It’s easy to volunteer for something – almost any group will warmly welcome contributions of all kinds.
I’ve observed, though, that it can be extremely difficult to extract yourself from these kinds of activities. Why is that?
- The group is so strapped for help that your personal involvement is vitally important.
- You’ve developed friendships, and feel that you’re abandoning friends if you should leave.
- You worry that you’ll miss all the appreciation that you’ve grown accustomed to.
- You feel guilty because they depend on you so much.
These are all valid feelings, but they shouldn’t cloud your judgment. If you’re struggling with having enough time, or losing inspiration, or even getting bored – it’s time to think about moving on.
I’ve found that it’s useful to spend some time pondering each volunteer commitment once a year. That’s primarily because most groups seem to have a yearly cycle, whether that’s associated with the calendar year, school year, church year, or fiscal year. Many times, officers are elected to a one year term. There’s a natural cycle when new members are most welcomed, and it’s easiest for old members to gracefully retire.
When you’re thinking about these obligations, ask yourself:
- What were the most important reasons why I got involved with this in the first place?
- What’s changed – in the group, in my family, and in my mindset?
- Is there something pressing me to change, by leaving the group or changing my role in it?
- What new opportunities do I need to open up my time and energy for?
Volunteer activities can be a big drain on your time and energy, and sometimes your wallet as well. That’s fine, as long as you still have the passion behind your contribution. When you’re feeling that the passion is slipping, it’s either time to re-energize yourself, or move on to the next stage of your life.
Gracefully, respectfully, and happily.