I’ve been a volunteer for as long as I can remember… and I’ve held a lot of positions and put in a lot of time. I can honestly say that since I was 15 years old I’ve averaged a minimum of 8 hours a week, with many of those years averaging 15.
Doing quick math I’m at over 8000 hours of volunteer time in my life, so I feel like I can tell you the top 10 things that SUCK about being a volunteer:
- The politics – Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with politics when you’re giving your time for free. It’s a vortex that can suck the life out of you and yet one of those things that has to be managed.
- The naysayers – “You SHOULD be doing it like this…” said every person who’s never volunteered, ever. It’s funny how quickly they step back once you ask them to step up.
- The time no one sees – You take on a small project that somehow morphs into something much bigger and no one sees or appreciates the time, effort and patience you put into it.
- The lack of support – You’re trying to coordinate something big and amazing for everyone to enjoy, but is anyone there to help you? Nope. Everyone’s busy.
- The diehards – You know, those people who are ALWAYS there. The ones who do the work behind the scenes and stay late to clean up. What sucks about them is that they get burnt out and their experience can be tainted because of this. Boo.
- The ungrateful children – You’re volunteering for your kids and they kick up a fuss, “I don’t like this (food, craft, activity) Are you kidding me?
- The messy house – “Must be nice to have so much time to volunteer” Yes, that’s right, I have a 36 hour clock while everyone else works on 24 hour time. My house is probably messier then yours… or my husband has been kind enough to step it up and support me the week before an event. Somethings got to give, none of us can do it all.
- The grief – When you’re not able to attend a meeting or event and feel guilty and like the whole world is going to fall apart if you’re not there.
- The process – The process between those that gets shit done and those that need to process the process. Time and place for everything… but for doers, this can be a very frustrating place to be!
- Lack of recognition – Is it worth it? Why bother? Does anyone see / know / understand why I’m spending so much time on this? Does anyone care???
So in celebration of “National Volunteer Week” here’s what I have to say.
Thank you to those that take on the tough jobs and get them done. Who put up with the crap and have shitty days. To those of you who take time out of your families to make our communities a better place. I know that volunteering can be an amazing, wonderful experience. That good volunteers can be found in every corner of my community doing all sorts of fabulous work that make these streets and houses form a place I love to call home.
Thank you to the volunteers who have had a tremendous impact on my life. To the Leaders who taught me how to hike, how to plan, how to challenge myself. To the teachers who taught me business and didn’t mind teaching me hard lessons. To my parents, whom I’ve inherited the volunteer gene from. To my mentors, whose volunteerism and passion for great things taught me more than anything a textbook about leadership could. I’m sure you too had bad days, but you stuck it through, and I am forever grateful.
Thank you to the next generation of leaders who are out there learning how to build communities and are now there in my children’s lives today. There’s too many people to thank but I hope you know that I SEE what you’re doing and I’m so grateful to have you in my kid’s corner.
Happy National Volunteer Week. I hope this week is one of celebration of your highs and of all the great things you do. And if anyone is causing you extra challenges this week, do what my dad once did. Send them to the “complaint department” (And he stuck a sign on an outhouse) I’m still laughing…