Are you in need of a good volunteer? I’m your girl! I appreciate the opportunity to give back to any community in which I partake and because of this I am always involved in at least one organization’s volunteer program, usually two or three at a time. This sounds like tooting my own horn, but I have a purpose for this post and its for the benefit of you and me both, all of us community volunteers who deal with the same question: when is it time to quit?
I first started volunteering as a high school student in church youth groups and as a camp counselor. Through college I was on student council and traveled to our state capital and Washington DC to speak on behalf of community college students. In adulthood it has varied from marriage ministries with my husband, mom’s group leadership team, life group in our home, serving at a local homeless shelter, a neighborhood association defined by our city, and on the PTO.
I’m a strong advocate for volunteerism because 1. it benefits society and 2. it benefits myself personally. It feels good to give a piece of me for the betterment of others. I will always be volunteering in some form. That said, I am also a strong advocate for a slow-paced life. I hate (HATE!!) being overly busy. There is nothing I enjoy more than being with the people I love, having time for real conversations and real meals. On occasion, these two advocacies duel within myself, and I’ve discovered that many other dedicated volunteers feel the same way.
What to do? When should I quit one thing to allow time for another thing? Who will take my place and will they do well as I pass on the work that I’ve babied? Is it possible to love an organization and still want to quit?
Here is what I know: There is a time and a place for everything. When my children were very young, mom’s group was the perfect place for me and my hours. Eventually motherhood shifted from diapers to preschool and I knew that my time in that group was not as important as it used to be. So I took the friendships that I made there and moved on. My time and my place didn’t fit as perfectly into that group anymore, so I quit. It felt right to quit, which is an abstract concept to a dedicated volunteer, but it is how I learned about quitting.
Please let this be clear: I don’t quit because I am unhappy about a certain something that happened or a singular decision that was made. Volunteerism is not all happy and easy and feel-good all of the time. It involves a lot of hard, unseen work. I don’t quit because things aren’t going my way. Rather, I commit to give my best work until my time and my place aren’t fitting well into that organization anymore.
Another example: after a year as an alternate board member I was elected secretary for a neighborhood association. I enjoyed this for nearly two year but eventually I started dreading the meetings. My time was drawing to an end. Nobody wants the begrudged hours of an unhappy volunteer. As I waited for my term to end, I continued to give my best and then passed on my job to an eager individual who would serve the association better than I could at that time.
I knew that my time was over because the job no longer sparked joy. Volunteering isn’t always joyful, but overall the good of it should outweigh the bad by a reasonably margin. Otherwise, I am wasting my time and, equally importantly, I am standing in the way of someone who could be offering themselves in the position that I am dreading.
So I asses. Does this job still spark joy? Do I spark joy in the organization or am I just showing up out of obligation?
I am currently faced with this decision. It started with a quiet shift from pleasurable moments to a bummer meeting. Now there’s been a few in a row and I’m starting to develop a grudge for an organization that I fully support and really adore. I think my time is done. Its time for someone else now. As for me, its time for something else now. Even as I write this now, I am becoming convinced within myself that my time and place are moving on and I need to pack my bags and head out the door.
As for you, dedicated community member, is it time for you to pack your bag? How do you know when its time to quit? Please take a moment to comment below and help us all out with your thoughts on this thing that seems to get us all hung up. I’d love to know how you handle these decisions.
…An afterthought…As I contimplate my words above, I think that it’s worth mentioning that there can be in-between ways of handling these decisions. There have been times when I simply give back some of my work load and then continue volunteering with a lighter pack. I’ve also had to involve others in these decisions, especially my husband as we have long been involved in marriage ministries and thus those volunteer choices are made together. I certainly don’t mean to say that a strong community volunteer gives all or nothing, there are happy mediums and they can fluctuate as your life changes. Right? Right!