5 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Volunteer Role
Every year I take time to pause and evaluate how and where I spend my time – as a professional, volunteer, community member and mom. I feel it’s important to treat your time as a precious resource, being intentional on where it’s spent.
After taking a closer look at all the various volunteer roles I hold, I realized it was time to cut ties with an organization I had been a part of for 3 years.
I thought I would share some of my reasons for stepping away from this role to help you as you reflect on how you give of your own time.
I entered this volunteer position wanting to make a difference, particularly being a voice for families raising children with special needs. Recognizing the lack of parent voices at the table, I signed up wanting to share my personal experience as a mom as well as my professional experience working in advocacy.
While my voice was initially welcomed to the table with enthusiasm, it soon became clear that the corporate culture of the organization didn’t value patient or family voices. As an activator, I was committed to bringing a different perspective to the table, while looking for ways to reach out and include other families in the conversation about the care of their children.
It took some time to realize my desire for change, or at least including different perspectives, was not a priority of the organization which seems focused on maintaining the status quo.
2. Obligation vs passion
When you are giving of your time in an environment that is a misalignment of your strengthens and skills, it can dampen your passion.
As I reflected on my volunteer role, I came to recognize I was staying due to a sense of obligation, even guilt. As a mother raising a child with autism, I’m passionate about advocating for these amazing children and their caregivers. I was concerned if I left the table, so would this voice – as I know first-hand the stresses on families and limited time or energy left for volunteering.
Looking at the various volunteer roles I hold, I chose to focus my energies on the areas that still spark my passion and where I could truly make a difference.
This is a common concern many volunteers in the healthcare sector share. In the movement to include more patient and family voices at the table, too often the position is seen as a checklist item versus the volunteer being a key member of the team.
Why does this happen? I believe it’s a mix of corporate culture (maintaining the status quo), staff training (understanding the value volunteer voices can bring and how to include these individuals in a meaningful way), and staff time (staff are too overloaded with work to spend time developing relationships with volunteers or understanding the gifts the person brings).
All of this comes down to respect. Respect for a volunteer’s time, respect for their insights and opinions, and respect for how this role benefits the organization (instead of being a checkmark or burden).
In my case, I found my input was dismissed or not respected more times than it was heard. Meetings were cancelled with little notice, emails took weeks to get a reply, or not returned at all, and promises were not kept.
But the tipping point was the lack of respect of my most valuable resource – my time. As a consultant, each hour I spend volunteering is an hour not spent on client work – work that pays to keep the household running. This is why I am careful about the volunteer roles I take on, saying no to many worthwhile organizations.
To fulfill my passion of being a voice for families raising children with special needs, I realized I need to focus on roles where my time is respected and I can make a difference.
5. Scope of impact
I didn’t feel I was able to make much of an impact in my three years as a volunteer with this organization. Nor did it seem I would be able to moving forward as many of the conversations and work I had done on including family voices had gone nowhere.
As an activator, I’m passionate about looking for ways to better to support children with special needs. I take my volunteer roles seriously, spending time talking to other families, hearing different perspectives, researching issues and bringing an educated voice to the table, not just my personal thoughts.
To be an effective volunteer takes a lot of time and energy – something that is limited as a working mom.
Being protective of my time, I know the scope of impact I could have with this organization was minimal, at best.
After much soul searching, and conversations with my husband and friends, I tendered my resignation. As someone who takes my commitments seriously, it was not something I did lightly.
However, having taken the time to thoroughly review my volunteer role, I’m releasing the guilt and embracing the new opportunity – whatever it may be.
I am not rushing to fill the space in my calendar. Rather, I’m going to focus my energy on my other volunteer roles and be open to what the future brings.
I encourage you to set aside time to review your own volunteer commitments. Ask yourself – are you excited about your role? Does it spark your passion and do you feel you are making a positive difference? If not, review the steps above and decide if it’s time to move on.
The world needs your passion and energy. Make sure it’s being heard!