Author Topic: Balancing Volunteer Work  (Read 2120 times)

GillyMack

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Balancing Volunteer Work
« on: October 06, 2020, 03:30:32 PM »
On these forums, one of the things suggested as a fulfilling post-retirement activity is volunteering.   I am essentially retired and spouse has just joined me.  I took the path of reducing my working hours gradually over the last 5 years until I barely work anymore (only for one client when asked intermittently).  The kids had left the nest.  And I became involved with 2 different arts/cultural non-profits when friends asked me come help out.   I'm now on the Board for 1.  Since Covid, all my volunteer time is done remotely. I've dropped back to essentially keeping up both organizations websites, but that has grown in scope. 

Fulfilling?  Yes, often.  Met new people?  Yes, in one organization especially.  With the other, the pleasant acquaintances have never led to anything outside the group work sessions (back when we could meet in person). 

Last week, I was in a Zoom board meeting that was dragging on and on and going down ridiculous rabbit holes, when I had flashbacks to what I most hated about corporate life.  This is as bad as work, I thought. Why was I doing this, I wondered.  And this week, I've received emails from both organization asking me to do something that is complicated/time consuming that I don't want to do and in one case, would have to learn how to do.

So how does one keep volunteer work in balance?  How do you keep it from growing into "work"?  Covid has hurt the missions of both of these groups and I would feel guilty just walking away.

And part of me wonders, if I don't do this volunteer stuff, what will I do with my time?




FIRE 20/20

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2020, 11:56:17 AM »
I think this is varies depending on different personality types and volunteer opportunities.  Most of the volunteering I've done since FIRE has been with things like tutoring where there is either a fixed or at least limited time and effort commitment.  For myself, I would probably avoid joining any boards so I don't end up in any board meetings for exactly the reasons you mentioned.  During my career I was fine being on various boards and committees but that was partly because they were just another meeting and I was used to those.  Now that I'm fired I shudder at the thought of spending any time in a meeting.  So I just don't take volunteer opportunities that involve that kind of work. 

One nice thing about volunteering is that you should be able to make it work on your terms.  Is there other work you could do with those organizations that might not involve board meetings?  In other words, is there something in between walking away and doing work you find distasteful?  As for the complicated/time consuming work that you don't want to do - why isn't saying "no" an option?  It's not like they can stop paying you.  :)

As for the last question, that's something only you can answer and the best way to answer it is to try.  Can you step away from your volunteering commitment for a couple of months and see what happens to your days when you don't have any volunteer activities?  I avoided any commitments for about 6 months after FIRE to see what the FIREd life was like, and after that started adding in volunteering.  I found that I my days were full, but they were full with the things I wanted to do.  Sometimes that was just reading, but I consider a day spent reading to be a day well spent. 

seattlecyclone

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2020, 04:57:04 PM »
Right, "no" is a great word. You are allowed to turn down volunteer work that you think is beyond your interest or time capacity.

And this week, I've received emails from both organization asking me to do something that is complicated/time consuming that I don't want to do and in one case, would have to learn how to do.

This right here is where you use this excellent word. Politely and firmly state that you're not going to make time for these tasks, and they will need to ask someone else.

cool7hand

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2020, 09:55:04 AM »
I like the Derek Sivers heuristic: if it's not a "hell yeah!", it's a "no". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vy7FTqxeWE

Loren Ver

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2020, 09:35:53 AM »
This is a hard one.  I struggle with making sure I am doing things that I find value in not things that other people ask me to do.  It sounds like sitting in meetings chasing rabbits holds little value to you.  At the same time, I think we do need to accept some unpleasantness when dealing with other people, no need to drop the whole thing just because this happens sometimes. 

So, you need to figure out what parts you find fulfilling, and do more of those parts while reducing the  parts you don't want to do.  Also, if you can talk to the meeting moderator and let them know that you don't have time to attend meetings that don't stay on topic, that might also help with keeping things on track.  Communication is important.  If they can't accommodate, it might be time to start extracting yourself or just reducing what you do.

In reality, you can offer them two things: an amount of time (wasted in meetings?!?!?) and a set of skills (I'll do x but not learn new stuff if you prefer).  You get to decide how much of each you want to donate.

Loren

GillyMack

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2020, 11:45:56 PM »
Thank you to all of you for your comments.  I've been thinking a lot.  It does look like I need to be better at drawing boundaries and saying no.  It truly to have someone else say that.

I did write an email saying that I was not qualified to do a task and that they would need to find someone else. Which is true.  I'm not going to offer to learn. And it will probably mean that the task won't be done anytime soon because they don't have many resources.  So I did draw a line. 

My term on the board is up sometime in the spring and I think I will decline to renew.   I think I have to think about what things are fun/satisfying to me and which things are not. And try to prune.  Thanks again for listening.   
 

 

Missy B

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2020, 11:43:01 PM »
Gillymack, please consider (since you're not intending to come back anyway) offering your feedback during the meetings when you see they are going off course. This will be uncomfortable, but so necessary. Running meetings is a high-level skill that a lot of people don't have, and badly run meetings are enormously costly. It costs an organization volunteers. It can cost them attendance (members don't come to repeatedly badly run AGMs, or do with dread) and other participation.
It's feedback you could give them when you leave, but honestly its not very useful then. Everyone will have forgotten the specific things that happened (and assume someone else was the problem) in the different meetings.
Also, general observation of mine is that volunteer organizations often don't seem to be very motivated to use people's time efficiently, as they aren't paying for it.

NAVRESLDO

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2020, 02:05:37 PM »
This is a good question and I just discussed this with my daughter this AM.  We are both big supporters of veterans and she asked me about joining a mentoring organization.  I told her I was not interested.  For me the key has been avoiding the middle-man in volunteer work. 

There are many organizations that have a goal of connecting givers with needy.  I had worked through some organizations pre-COVID, but since my support is teaching an 8 hour class I have started to connect directly to Vets.  My current wait list is ~100 with >500 Vets trained (from Nagasaki to Horn of Africa) since 2013.  That means I have no one to "report to" and I set the schedule as I have availability.  I have more "admin" type work organizing the classes, but it is me directly connecting to Vets, which I appreciate.  It boils down to supporting people, not an organization (which I have seen too many bloated organizations). 

Trudie

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2021, 04:52:32 AM »
Gillymack, please consider (since you're not intending to come back anyway) offering your feedback during the meetings when you see they are going off course. This will be uncomfortable, but so necessary. Running meetings is a high-level skill that a lot of people don't have, and badly run meetings are enormously costly. It costs an organization volunteers. It can cost them attendance (members don't come to repeatedly badly run AGMs, or do with dread) and other participation.
It's feedback you could give them when you leave, but honestly its not very useful then. Everyone will have forgotten the specific things that happened (and assume someone else was the problem) in the different meetings.
Also, general observation of mine is that volunteer organizations often don't seem to be very motivated to use people's time efficiently, as they aren't paying for it.

Good feedback, particularly the last sentence.

I am currently on two boards, one of which is my church council.  In some ways, I have been grateful that the pandemic has allowed me to prune some activities that weren’t really satisfying.

Church council is particularly tricky.  Churches are classic at wasting peoples” time.  I’ve started not making myself available for all meetings.  I”m a genera council member, and it seems there is pressure to take on more.  Because I have a finance and accounting background Inoften get asked to take on Treasurer and those kinds of roles, but I don’t want to commit to a time-consuming volunteer job that so closely resembles the work I retired from.  We have an organizational meeting next week and I”m dreading it.  I’m already starting to work on my “no” speech.

flyfig

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Re: Balancing Volunteer Work
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2021, 11:43:50 AM »
I've been struggling with this as well. My passion is dog rescue and at one point, I was doing so much (fostering 4 -5 dogs at once, doing marketing/IT/Grant writing/financial office work) with several organizations that I tallied it at over 90 hours a week. It was nuts and I was repeating the no boundaries issues that I had in my working life.

I had to start saying no and once I started, it got easier. The rule is now, the organization should value me as a person, my contribution should feel meaningful and impactful and I limit how much time daily/weekly/monthly/yearly I commit to various organizations. There are only so many hours/days a week that I can volunteer and its a one-in and one-out rule. Picking up one new thing means that one old task drops off. We move a lot (SO works still) so I get to work with different organizations as we move so I have been trying out doing different tasks and exploring very different organizations (teen groups, food banks) to see what additional interests that I have.

With COVID, I've connected with some old friends and its been great to be available for them as they are exploring their interests. One friend is doing his own startup and another one is exploring ideas for a non-profit.

I think this is part of the journey post-FIRE. I stumble a lot but just keep muddling through.