Do you get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you see a photo of an older adult tutoring a young child or holding the hand of a homeless person? Those images often are used to encourage #retirees to #volunteer for non-profit organizations. After all, many of us have the time. Researchers tell us that giving back to the world has intrinsic benefits. Volunteers report higher life satisfaction than people who don’t volunteer.
That sounds good, but what if you hate the idea? Not all volunteering, but what if you hate the way you’ve chosen to volunteer?
You are not alone.
People everywhere have accepted volunteer assignments that are making them miserable. It happened to me and I’m fixing it. About a year ago, I trained to become a volunteer for an organization I deem to be the cream of the crop. The people are selfless and caring, the cause is 100% worthy, the potential for personal satisfaction is unmatched.
What’s the problem? It’s a chore. I have tried to analyze exactly what I don’t like about my responsibilities. I can’t put my finger on it. First, I adopted the attitude that I would give it time. I have been at it for over a year. Second, I changed volunteer jobs inside the same organization. Not the answer.
Guilt set in for a while. Other volunteers talk about the satisfaction they have from their work. What’s wrong with me? That’s a loaded question but unrelated to our topic here. The truth is that it doesn’t matter why a volunteer job is not working. It is after all, volunteer.
What I learned during this painful process may help you or a friend if you end up in the same predicament.
Acknowledge the warning sign if you feel uneasy when you head out the door to volunteer that probably means you would rather be doing something else.
Lose the guilt of not enjoying your assignment. Every organization isn’t for every person. The beauty of volunteering is that you get to choose.
Most importantly, Move on. Keep trying on different organizations until it feels right. You’ll know.
Soon, I’ll be moving on, not from volunteering but from that organization. I’m fortunate that my unsuccessful experience isn’t my only volunteer experience. I love tutoring third graders in a nearby elementary. (My math facts have never been sharper.) I enjoy a good road clean up with my fellow Rotarians. A downtown mission for the homeless is on my radar for a volunteer spot next year.
If you’re volunteering now, you’ve probably tried on more than one gig before landing where you are. Giving up volunteering may enter our minds when we end an assignment. The satisfaction of contributing to others is hard to match especially with children out of the house.
If it helps, think of volunteering like dating. We usually don’t marry the first one. After all, we have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find that handsome prince or princess.