I am an avid volunteer. Last year, I spent my 21st birthday volunteering picking up trash on the side of the roads in an effort to prevent waste runoff into oceans. Volunteering is something I feel energizes me and fuels my passion to make a change in my community. However, as someone who enjoys to volunteer I have had many positive volunteer experiences, as well as a few negative ones. My friends once encouraged me to volunteer at a fundraiser to help local food banks in my area. I was told to wait on tables, and was asked to work for several hours without a break, was treated rudely by volunteer coordinators and the people I was waiting on. By the end of the night, I was drained and in a bad mood. It was then I realized that while volunteering is a great thing to do, sometimes there are reasons not to volunteer.
Here are some reasons not to volunteer:
- Don't do it for college applications
Your intention to volunteer should be a selfless, not self-fulfilling one. Having something to add to your resume or college applications should be an unintended benefit of volunteering.
- Don't do it because "everybody else is doing it"
This is the trap I fell into during my fundraiser volunteering. It's great to organize a volunteer event with your friends! But, don't only volunteer because your friends are doing it.
- Don't do it to practice your leadership skills
Volunteering is not about ego and often times you will find yourself following orders rather than giving them. Your desire to help should be stronger than your desire to be in charge.
- Don't do something you don't enjoy
Volunteering should be a rewarding experience that will fuel your passion to do good. Don't do something that is unenjoyable and draining.
- Don't do it if you're not actually helping
Your time is valuable, don't spend it volunteering where your help isn't truly needed.
- Don't do it if it is stressing you out
While volunteering is something great to make time for, it can be hard to do so amongst school and other activities. If you can't seem to make it fit in your schedule don't force yourself to volunteer.
Reasons to Volunteer:
- You want to make a difference
Volunteering for organizations or events that help causes you care about is a great way to make a difference.
- Compassion towards others
You have a desire to help others.
- Willing to share a knowledge or skill that you have
Enjoy playing the piano for others? Head to a nursing home and play it for the residents. It's a good way to do something you enjoy and help others at the same time.
The ability to volunteer is a great privilege and when done with the right intentions can make just as much of a positive impact on you as it will the community around you. Keep track of your experiences as a volunteer to reflect upon and perhaps to inspire others.