Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
User avatar
Topic Author
snackdog
Posts: 900
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2014 4:57 am

Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by snackdog » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm

Lots of people plan to allocate their new found spare time to volunteering once they retire. I fall in that camp.

However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?

livesoft
Posts: 72116
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by livesoft » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:14 pm

I don't have any tips other than don't create your own drama about it. I've met some great people doing the volunteer activities that I do, but I couldn't live with those people. If you have been a big gun in your past life, then don't attempt a take over either. :)
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

monicarick
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by monicarick » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:30 pm

I tried volunteering at 4 different locations last year and could not stick with any of them. I tried to lay low and just perform my duties but there was always the "know it all" that made being there unpleasant and the in-fighting was always present. I thought I would find a bunch of friendly people welcoming to all new comers performing a common good. But no luck.

stoptothink
Posts: 7872
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by stoptothink » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:34 pm

livesoft wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:14 pm
I've met some great people doing the volunteer activities that I do, but I couldn't live with those people. If you have been a big gun in your past life, then don't attempt a take over either. :)
My takeaway after spending 8yrs in upper management for two different organizations in this arena (non-profits who depend a lot on volunteer work): accept that there will be incredible (mind-blowing) waste, inefficiency, and that most of the people you will be surrounded by will have good intentions but little work ethic and no idea how to get things done, and you will be fine.

scubadiver
Posts: 1193
Joined: Sun May 04, 2008 9:48 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by scubadiver » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:37 pm

snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
Lots of people plan to allocate their new found spare time to volunteering once they retire. I fall in that camp.

However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?
Of course the feedback is not uniformly positive. Is there something that does get uniformly positive feedback? Interview a group Powerball winners who took home $50M jackpots and you'll find some people complaining about taxes, greedy relatives and the difficulties of maintaining a 20 acre vineyard without a background in horticulture. :)

Do you have any friends or family that currently volunteer and have positive comments about their involvement? If yes, do any of those activities catch your interests?

Start small. Look at 3 or 4 things that align to some degree with a passion of yours and pick one. Give it a try for six months. See where that leaves you.

Good luck!
Last edited by scubadiver on Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 10646
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 pm

Think small. I volunteer with a bunch of geezers who split firewood and deliver it to town residents. We only do it for a few hours a week, but it’s a great time.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

Wilderness Librarian
Posts: 183
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Idaho

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:42 pm

One possibility I have thought for myself but haven't tried is short duration vol. activities which people have to pay for the experience. Such as vol. trail maintenance for Sierra Club or data collection for scientific research projects or archaeological digs (Earthwatch etc.)

My experience with vol. activities such as church work or political campaigns has been negative so I gave that up many many years ago.(Unrewarding grunt work and if you do anything even the slightest thing they try to get you to do more and often in such a manner to make you feel guilty if you say no). So I would rather give them money rather than time. Also I tend to be a loner and do not seek or even enjoy much social contact so the above mentioned pay and work for short discrete definable projects suits my personality.

User avatar
baconavocado
Posts: 450
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:03 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by baconavocado » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:44 pm

I've found that it can be difficult. It's kinda like finding an exercise group - it has to be an activity that you enjoy or is important to you, it has to be at a time that works for you and a place that works for you, and most importantly, you have to like the people that you're working (or exercising) with.

I can usually get a few of those things going, but not all at once. My wife has had more luck. The only tip I can offer is to try a bunch of different situations and see which works. The ones that seem most obvious at first might have important drawbacks - time, distance, or people. I eventually did find one that works for me.

gtd98765
Posts: 626
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:15 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by gtd98765 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:45 pm

I have dipped in to volunteering at several different organizations in several different fields. Some were more pleasant experiences than others, generally because of the people involved. I have stuck with two orgs out of the five or six I tried out. I would suggest trying several different groups (e.g., something in arts, something in housing, something with youth, etc) and seeing how you feel about them. Keep trying groups until you find a cause and a group of people you like.

It is worth the hassle when you feel like you are making a contribution and find a connection with your fellow volunteers.

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 1984
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:41 am
Location: 56th and Wabasha, Ashtabula, OH

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:46 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 pm
Think small. I volunteer with a bunch of geezers who split firewood and deliver it to town residents. We only do it for a few hours a week, but it’s a great time.
Good on you, but I’m curious as to why these people need firewood. Are they heating with it, or just for cozy evenings around the fireplace? (my favorite wintertime activity :happy).
When you haven't got the coin you're always in the way — Geo. M. Cohan

User avatar
abuss368
Posts: 20129
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Where the water is warm, the drinks are cold, and I don't know the names of the players!
Contact:

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by abuss368 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:01 pm

I am presently on 3 boards including 2 boards at our local university. It takes a lot of time. I have been considering streamline over the next couple/few years.
John C. Bogle: Two Fund Portfolio - Total Stock & Total Bond - “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."

Mr. Rumples
Posts: 912
Joined: Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:16 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Mr. Rumples » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:05 pm

Decide what you want to do. Set limits. Insist on being respected. Don't feel guilty about walking away. There are only a certain number of days left, spend them doing what you like.

blackburnian
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 12:40 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by blackburnian » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:13 pm

Most important, in my experience, is to find a cause you really care about and where you can have some independence. I loved teaching English to immigrants (and will do it more when I retire). The overall program was underfunded, the paid staff were poorly trained, and the materials were bad, so that part of it was frustrating. But the students were wonderful and incredibly appreciative, and within limits, I could run the class however I wanted; I just made up my own lesson plans and mostly ignored the assigned textbook.
If you find people annoying, volunteer at the animal shelter!

Copper John
Posts: 214
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Copper John » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:22 pm

Find an area that you are passionate about. Passion can't be faked! Also try to define limits as to what you are willing to give up in terms of time and commitment and what you are not.

For example, I am retired and I dreamed of not being to be anywhere at a specific time when I retired and enjoying total freedom in this regards. I am also passionate about wildlife viewing and wildlife conservation. I was lucky to to find a volunteer position monitoring raptor (eagles, hawks. falcons) nesting sites and collecting data.I pick specific days of the week , but I do not have to be there at a specific time.

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 1984
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:41 am
Location: 56th and Wabasha, Ashtabula, OH

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:24 pm

blackburnian wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:13 pm
If you find people annoying, volunteer at the animal shelter!
It doesn’t work — there are people there. Serving as a forest fire lookout like Jack Kerouac did in the Pacific Northwest would be more to my liking.
When you haven't got the coin you're always in the way — Geo. M. Cohan

Copper John
Posts: 214
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Copper John » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:25 pm

Copper John wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:22 pm
Find an area that you are passionate about. Passion can't be faked! Also try to define limits as to what you are willing to give up in terms of time and commitment and what you are not.

For example, I am retired and I dreamed of not being to be anywhere at a specific time when I retired and enjoying total freedom in this regard. I am also passionate about wildlife viewing and wildlife conservation. I was lucky to to find a volunteer position monitoring raptor (eagles, hawks. falcons) nesting sites and collecting data.I pick specific days of the week , but I do not have to be there at a specific time.

User avatar
Steelersfan
Posts: 3812
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:47 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Steelersfan » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:28 pm

I volunteer with four organizations. All were really good experiences until the president of one left and was replaced by someone who's clearly not up to the task, and was very frustrating to work with. I'll drop that one at the end of the year and continue with the other three. I may add one back.

Just find one (or some) where you like what they are trying to accomplish. If one doesn't work out, find another. There are lots of needs, and plenty of good ones.
Last edited by Steelersfan on Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

iamlucky13
Posts: 1898
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:28 pm
Location: Western Washington

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by iamlucky13 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:33 pm

snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.
It sounds to me that sometimes volunteering is being described as like real work. I agree.

From a certain perspective, that's all the more reason to do it! Organizations dealing with needs you care about need help because the work doesn't sell its self.

Also, you help in an additional way if you can contribute to the cause without being one of the people responsible for bad structures, decision making processes, rules, entitlement, etc. Each person contributes to the culture of an organization.

Lastly, you need to decide how much time you're willing to commit and manage what you volunteer for accordingly. I think it's also worthwhile to include in the causes you support something that simply interests you, even though it may not be of a high societal value. For example, I have volunteered with a maritime history museum because it was closely aligned with personal interests, and a homeless organization because I believed the work they did was of high societal value. I think this provided a good balance.
Nicolas wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:46 pm
Good on you, but I’m curious as to why these people need firewood. Are they heating with it, or just for cozy evenings around the fireplace?
A lot of people still heat with it in some parts of the country. For those that do, the lowest income households tend to be the most dependent on it. A pickup load of wood can save them $200-400 in electricity or oil depending on local prices, and can be especially critical when the power is out or if another heat source in their home develops a problem they can't afford to fix right away.

It also offsets a respectable amount of oil, propane, and coal use.

criticalmass
Posts: 1523
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:40 pm

Yes, volunteering is very rewarding. Find something that you enjoy doing, involves working with good people, and is available during the time you want to volunteer.

If you cannot find anything locally, consider helping a teens in crisis center or teen shelter. They need a variety of skills, everything from technology to teaching skills (even finance), to building projects.

User avatar
Sandtrap
Posts: 11041
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Location: Hawaii No Ka Oi , N. Arizona

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Sandtrap » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:52 pm

snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
Lots of people plan to allocate their new found spare time to volunteering once they retire. I fall in that camp.

However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?
I sang and played Hawaiian music regularly in various hospice centers, VA centers, and care homes for many years.
When we had a "trio", (bass, lead, guitar) and vocal harmony, it was wonderful and the shows became larger and larger venues over time. But, there was practice, who showed up and not, and who "bailed out last minute". Things were simpler as a Duo. And, then finally after years there was just me and my guitar as when I started.
It was very rewarding. We played on stage in large venues of 100's of senior and care home folks and their families. And, even for small gatherings, it was always appreciated.

I've also done "youth at risk" counseling and that was also very rewarding.
Find what you enjoy doing. (helps if you're good at it).

Tips:
Keep it small and simple.
If you have no control of your time and schedule, then that can take the fun out of it.
There are the invariable "people games" and "egos" (right out of high school again) that happen. Have an exit strategy.
If you're not appreciated and having fund, then stop.
Doing it with a partner or friend helps a lot.
Nothing about volunteering should be a "hassle". After all, you're the one donating your time and efforts.
Never feel used or taken advantage of.
If you don't come home after volunteering with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. . . stop.

* Also, ask the moderators here how you might donate time and efforts. (Wiki editing, etc)
And, if you have a background in finance, business, economics, etc, etc, you might consider donating time here to help others as you are able to. That can be extremely rewarding.

j :D
Last edited by Sandtrap on Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know

User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 10646
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:53 pm

Nicolas wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:46 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 pm
Think small. I volunteer with a bunch of geezers who split firewood and deliver it to town residents. We only do it for a few hours a week, but it’s a great time.
Good on you, but I’m curious as to why these people need firewood. Are they heating with it, or just for cozy evenings around the fireplace? (my favorite wintertime activity :happy).
Many people in the NE heat with firewood. All the trees we split were taken from town forest and were dead of natural causes. They can rot on the ground or be burned for heat; same carbon result from what I’ve been told.

I burn trees that died on my property; same idea.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 1984
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:41 am
Location: 56th and Wabasha, Ashtabula, OH

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Nicolas » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:57 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:53 pm
Nicolas wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:46 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 pm
Think small. I volunteer with a bunch of geezers who split firewood and deliver it to town residents. We only do it for a few hours a week, but it’s a great time.
Good on you, but I’m curious as to why these people need firewood. Are they heating with it, or just for cozy evenings around the fireplace? (my favorite wintertime activity :happy).
Many people in the NE heat with firewood. All the trees we split were taken from town forest and were dead of natural causes. They can rot on the ground or be burned for heat; same carbon result from what I’ve been told.

I burn trees that died on my property; same idea.
Thanks, few people heat with wood in my area and I don’t know anyone who does. I burn wood from my own property also but just for cozy evenings. :happy
When you haven't got the coin you're always in the way — Geo. M. Cohan

User avatar
Elsebet
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:28 pm
Location: Erie, PA

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Elsebet » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:11 pm

I volunteer with the local Master Gardener program. I have to put in 25 hours of volunteer time and 10 hours of CE (continuing education) which is about the max I'm willing to do since I also work full time. Most of the 25 hours happens in the nicer months of the year (April -> Sep) so it is a bit tough for me since those are hours I could be spending improving my own property but am instead staffing a booth answering questions for clients. I have considered quitting at times for several reasons but I am going to try to stick it out since in retirement I'd like to work part-time at a plant nursery and I hope the experience will help in that regard. In 6 more years I'll be considered an emeritus (10 years total service) and my required time commitment goes way down, hope I can make it.
"...the man who adapts himself to his slender means and makes himself wealthy on a little sum, is the truly rich man..." ~Seneca

mtn biker
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by mtn biker » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:22 pm

I have volunteered in many capacities, from being president on multiple boards to just showing up on trail days for our local mountain bike trails to providing anesthesia on medical trips. I'll give some thoughts.

If it's an "official" job, take it for a limited time period. For example, sit on the board of a non-profit, but say you are only willing to do it for 2 years. Over time make sure to remind the board as needed. If you agree to stay fine, but that way if you are sick of it in two years you have your out planned in advance. I have found that is about the limit of my energy for most boards, by then I have completed my "work", added my input, and developed connections. Bonus if it's during a building campaign or other critical venture, when you can do a lot of good and leave the non-profit in better shape after your stint. But man, those stints can suck the life out of you, so it better be a cause you believe in.

Find something that meets a need YOU have. For example, working on mountain bike trails is great, I need the exercise, I enjoy the trails when I bike, and I meet great friends. So find a hobby you love and then volunteer in a capacity that benefits all involved.

Find volunteer work with limited exposure to other volunteers if needed. Usually it's the other volunteers that get to you, so find something you do alone. That could be database entry for a historical society working in the basement all alone (my wife does this). Or delivering meals on wheels, where you spend 99% of the time driving and seeing those you are helping, and 1% with other volunteers. Or work on trails by yourself, trimming branches and raking leaves. If other volunteers are annoying, just volunteer where you don't work with them but you enjoy the work.

As someone else said, if you want a great volunteer gig with people who are awesome to be with, there probably needs to be a barrier to entry. It could be money, like volunteering with a medical team to do surgery overseas. You have to pay your own way, so the people doing it are vested in the trip and are going to give it their all, no half assed volunteers when you are paying $1000+ to go on the trip. You don't need special training, but you do need to find what you can contribute to the team and do it well. Other barriers to entry can be non financial, like if you have special training and can put that to use for local non-profits, being sure to limit your volunteer work to your specific skills. Barriers to entry come in lots of forms, and can be useful to weeding out those you don't want to be surrounded by.

Finally, don't be afraid to walk away. Don't hurt people, don't leave them in a lurch or burn the place down when you leave, but don't stick around if it's sucking the life out of you. Assume you will do volunteer work that turns out poorly, it's part of the process. Just don't try to save sunk costs, extract yourself the best way possible and move on. You simply can't know what will work well until you try things, and you are likely to try things that fail, as you know by now that's life. It's like finding friends, you don't make a great friend by spending all your time with people you don't enjoy. And as you find the people you enjoy, and who have the work ethic and skills to be great volunteers, and show yourself to be the same, you will likely find what works for you.

boglegirl
Posts: 337
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:41 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by boglegirl » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:39 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:52 pm
...
I sang and played Hawaiian music regularly in various hospice centers, VA centers, and care homes for many years.
When we had a "trio", (bass, lead, guitar) and vocal harmony, it was wonderful and the shows became larger and larger venues over time. But, there was practice, who showed up and not, and who "bailed out last minute". Things were simpler as a Duo. And, then finally after years there was just me and my guitar as when I started.
It was very rewarding. We played on stage in large venues of 100's of senior and care home folks and their families. And, even for small gatherings, it was always appreciated.

I've also done "youth at risk" counseling and that was also very rewarding.
Find what you enjoy doing. (helps if you're good at it).
...
This is a beautiful post. Thank you for using your musical talents to bless the residents of those homes.

About the "youth at risk" gig: If anyone is interested in that, I highly recommend checking out CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for foster youth). In my area, the staff and the volunteers are all really fantastic people. And you'll really make a difference in a child or youth's life.

User avatar
GerryL
Posts: 2779
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:40 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by GerryL » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:57 pm

I'm not doing nearly as much volunteering as I thought I would when I started into retirement over five years ago. For many of the same (negative) reasons that others have raised. But I do like to do at least some volunteering, especially since my former employer pays causes $10 for each hour I work for them.

My 26-year career as a volunteer at the local zoo has actually ended. The program changed so much that it was no longer enjoyable or interesting. That was unfortunate.

I find that instead of having a regular gig (or two) where I go like clockwork every week, which was what I anticipated, I prefer doing one-offs. Need somebody for a specific task? Call me. I try to get signed up to do financial literacy presentations in high schools through Financial Beginnings and keep my hand in at a few other local organizations. But I am fine NOT having structure to my days.

Then each year I fly cross country to volunteer at a couple of great ape sanctuaries in Florida for a couple of weeks. That is a privilege and a treat that I intend to keep up as long as I am physically able.

User avatar
White Coat Investor
Posts: 14704
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:11 pm
Location: Greatest Snow On Earth

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by White Coat Investor » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:59 pm

snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
Lots of people plan to allocate their new found spare time to volunteering once they retire. I fall in that camp.

However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?
I'm surprised that people think volunteering is somehow better than a job. Just as there are bad paid jobs there are bad volunteer jobs. Just like you can be self-employed for pay, you can be self-employed as a volunteer.
1) Invest you must 2) Time is your friend 3) Impulse is your enemy | 4) Basic arithmetic works 5) Stick to simplicity 6) Stay the course

friar1610
Posts: 1729
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: MA South Shore

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by friar1610 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:06 pm

A lot of good advice in these posts. One rule I have adopted in various volunteer gigs (primarily tutoring): never agree to attend staff meetings. If they insist, find another gig.
Friar1610

heyyou
Posts: 3703
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:58 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by heyyou » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:13 pm

As mentioned multiple times above, find what suits you. I did, so "good luck to others on their quests."

Volunteer, remote hiking trail maintenance (either solo or crew backpacking to wherever the trees had fallen onto the trans-state hiking trail, then disassembling those trees into movable pieces) helped my early retirement years to be the best years of my life. We joke that the work requires someone with a strong back and a weak mind, and that we were the most qualified candidates. Work which requires completion with no emphasis on speed nor cost, is quite the change from working for money for three decades at Mega-Corp.

User avatar
tc101
Posts: 3333
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:18 pm
Location: Atlanta - Retired in 2004 at age 54

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by tc101 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:14 pm

Pick one thing and one thing only for your volunteer activity. It doesn't make sense to divide you limited time among several activities unless you are just doing it for your own entertainment.
. | The most important thing you should know about me is that I am not an expert.

bac
Posts: 79
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:19 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by bac » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:27 pm

I retired on a Friday (the 13th), and applied the following Tuesday at a food pantry I had previously supported with food and monetary donations. While I wanted to do good with my newfound time, I also wanted to keep some structure in my life.

That was in 2008, and I've stuck with it. I'm blessed with colleagues, both volunteer and staff, who are almost uniformly wonderful.

Yes, there can be challenges. Some of the clients have issues beyond hunger; for instance, one senior citizen called me a Nazi because I resisted letting him have school supplies intended for children. And I learned that even non-profits can have internal politics, and now limit my involvement to hands-on work.

On balance, though, I feel like I get more than I give.

User avatar
F150HD
Posts: 3074
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:49 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by F150HD » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:44 pm

a past thread on volunteering referenced this article.

I think of it now when considering volunteering for an activity on any scale, esp if on a board or in charge of people...

https://www.physicianonfire.com/hospital-board-sued/

YMMV

User avatar
jabberwockOG
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu May 28, 2015 7:23 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by jabberwockOG » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:22 am

Find a Habitat for Humanity local chapter in your area. With some minor exceptions everyone I have met at HFH job site has been a joy to work around. I have also benefited more than I have given, drastically improving my amateur handyman skills, and learning how to build super high quality houses, and working with extraordinary people.

My suggestion is volunteer doing the opposite of what you were good at or what filled your days when working for a living. During most of my career I managed individuals and teams. I was also responsible for growing the business, building customer relationships with Fortune 500 clients, and for hitting challenging revenue goals.

At HFH I deliberately go for the most labor intensive jobs and usually work by myself or with one or two others (as equals). I prefer that other folks manage/decide major and minor issues. I just make sure that when I build a wall that it is plumb and sqaure, and solid as a rock. It will be standing strong long after I'm dust. : )

Also I don't get emotionally involved in any project or team, and avoid any and all "office politics" which happens in any organization. After a career working with Fortune 100 clients, it was at the end very clear to me that none of that stuff matters, or is worth a rat's patoot.

User avatar
flamesabers
Posts: 1817
Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2017 12:05 pm
Location: Rochester, MN

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by flamesabers » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:48 am

I think volunteering is worth the hassle if you can find a cause you're passionate about and the organization is operated at least somewhat decently. If you have a family member or friend you can volunteer with, I think that will make the volunteer experience all the more pleasant.

However, if you're volunteering just to follow the crowd, I think it's less likely it will be a pleasant experience for you.

Wilderness Librarian
Posts: 183
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:50 pm
Location: Idaho

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:03 am

White Coat Investor wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:59 pm
snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
Lots of people plan to allocate their new found spare time to volunteering once they retire. I fall in that camp.

However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?
I'm surprised that people think volunteering is somehow better than a job. Just as there are bad paid jobs there are bad volunteer jobs. Just like you can be self-employed for pay, you can be self-employed as a volunteer.
I really doubt many feel it is better than a paid job. It affords different sets of experiences and different sets of gratifications. I was a librarian for 40 years. Although I enjoyed my career I would never volunteer for a library. But I might volunteer for things I could not secure true employment such as data collection for scientific field work.

Kyleethecollie
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:45 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Kyleethecollie » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:15 am

The best thing about being retired is not having to be somewhere at a particular time. Or on a particular day. Since most volunteer opportunities require one or the other, I've never gotten involved in "formal" volunteering activities. However, one of our local churches runs a soup kitchen that feeds 200+ people a day (breakfast and lunch). And since I like to bake -- and am trying not to gain too much weight as a consequence -- I do a lot of baking (cinnamon rolls, soft pretzels, gingerbread, cakes, muffins), keep a couple portions for us and take the rest to the soup kitchen. The staff there appreciates getting home-baked goods, and I have fun trying out new recipes--on my own schedule. :happy

Fallible
Posts: 7423
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Fallible » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:30 am

In retirement, I've done volunteer work for several organizations and nonprofits in areas where I hoped my career experience could be helpful. Overall, I think I have made contributions, but how effective I and other volunteers could be depended on how well we were trained and organized and how clear the goals were. As noted by some posters here, these are often lacking and volunteer efforts largely wwasted. I found this true at the nonprofits, where volunteers are especially needed. In some cases, the volunteers themselves, with limited help from busy (and often overworked) staff, got organized and set up work routines. Still, volunteering is worth the hassle if you truly believe in what you are doing and you're realistic about what you can achieve.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. ~Richard Feynman

Workable Goblin
Posts: 100
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 8:37 pm
Location: Honolulu, HI

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Workable Goblin » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:38 am

Nicolas wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:24 pm
It doesn’t work — there are people there. Serving as a forest fire lookout like Jack Kerouac did in the Pacific Northwest would be more to my liking.
Alas, that's going away.

smectym
Posts: 845
Joined: Thu May 26, 2011 5:07 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by smectym » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:59 am

I suggest one only volunteer where one is driven by a deep commitment to the cause and the organization, such that not being allowed to do that work, for that organization, would come as a blow. Volunteering as gracious condescension, or as checking a box or plumping up a resume is pointless, and perhaps evil. Above all, resist the urge to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless, which is the ultimate “Hey, look at me” cringe moment. Please don’t do that.

Speckles
Posts: 48
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:36 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Speckles » Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:12 am

Yes, it’s worth the hassle. I’ve enjoyed volunteering for organizations, where I learn new skills.

Habitat for humanity (for handyman skills) has been mentioned already. Volunteer fire department or Ski Patrol for medical/first aid skills. Botanical gardens for gardening and landscaping skills. Ham radio club for electronics.

I’m happy to do grunt work and they’re happy to teach. The intellectual stimulation is a key to making it enjoyable. Good luck!

Specks

crre
Posts: 44
Joined: Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:07 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by crre » Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:06 am

find a no hassle volunteer gig.

i've tutored a brother and a sister going on ten years now. they are refugees whose parents don't speak the language and are barely literate in their own language. they were getting a lot of "help" from the schools that was doing subtle damage -- getting tests read to them, no spelling correction on their written work, basically extremely low expectations with no basis in reality.

we started with reading (dr. suess for the younger one, harry potter for the older), writing and `rithmetic. i meet each for two hours a week. it was slow going at first, there was a lot of learned helplessness. but the youngest is now studying math at the highest level her high school offers and getting a's and b's, and the older one aced his matriculation exams and is working this year with plans to attend college in the fall.

Theseus
Posts: 788
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:40 am

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Theseus » Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:39 am

I agree with most people who said find something you are passionate about and just stick to one. I have tried 3 different things and only one I really enjoy (and can put up with some nonsense) is with SCORE. Being entrepreneur myself, I really enjoy working with entrepreneurs so I end up spending a lot of time to help them. OTOH two other positions were related to helping people with employment (job search, and resume etc.) just didn’t work for me. So I just increased my available hours at SCORE instead.

Vanguard Fan 1367
Posts: 1730
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:09 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 » Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:28 am

heyyou wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:13 pm
As mentioned multiple times above, find what suits you. I did, so "good luck to others on their quests."

Volunteer, remote hiking trail maintenance (either solo or crew backpacking to wherever the trees had fallen onto the trans-state hiking trail, then disassembling those trees into movable pieces) helped my early retirement years to be the best years of my life. We joke that the work requires someone with a strong back and a weak mind, and that we were the most qualified candidates. Work which requires completion with no emphasis on speed nor cost, is quite the change from working for money for three decades at Mega-Corp.
The strong back isn’t a joke for me. My wife warned me before I went to a situation where she knew there might be some heavy lifting. It can be difficult for me to say no so I permanently damaged my back. So be careful in volunteering and take my wife’s advice and say no to heavy lifting if you need to.
Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

User avatar
Tamarind
Posts: 2169
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:38 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Tamarind » Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:39 am

Keep your expectations low and your boundaries firm.

Just as with paid work, not everyone will be competent. Just as with paid work, you may be asked to let the mission take priority over your plans or well being.

If you don't sign up for more than you can handle, steer clear of drama, and don't get personal about others' work, then you'll likely make a good contribution.

User avatar
tennisplyr
Posts: 2597
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:53 pm
Location: Sarasota, FL

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by tennisplyr » Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:52 am

Find something that you're really passionate about, limit the time/involvement in it and lower your expectations about what you get out of it. Try to ignore the difficult personalities...you're not going to change them. Remember it's not about you, it's about what you're doing for others.
Those who move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.

OldBallCoach
Posts: 256
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2018 5:22 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by OldBallCoach » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:07 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:39 pm
Think small. I volunteer with a bunch of geezers who split firewood and deliver it to town residents. We only do it for a few hours a week, but it’s a great time.
Now this sounds awesome...tell me you guys drink a few beers and smoke cigars and I am in...when I retire from football this sounds like a solid plan. You help keep people warm, get some exercise and have a few laughs...thats spot on...and THANK YOU for doing it sir or madam.

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 1984
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:41 am
Location: 56th and Wabasha, Ashtabula, OH

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by Nicolas » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:08 am

Workable Goblin wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:38 am
Nicolas wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:24 pm
It doesn’t work — there are people there. Serving as a forest fire lookout like Jack Kerouac did in the Pacific Northwest would be more to my liking.
Alas, that's going away.
Too bad. Thanks for the link.
When you haven't got the coin you're always in the way — Geo. M. Cohan

User avatar
JoeRetire
Posts: 5291
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:44 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by JoeRetire » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:12 am

snackdog wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:11 pm
However, the feedback from those who have done it is not uniformly positive. I hear a lot of complaints and eventual burnout from those who don’t like the others involved, the structure, decision making process, rules, entitlement, etc.

Any tips for being successful at finding a volunteer role?
My number one tip - don't expect uniformly positive feedback about anything in retirement.

People are different. They each view the world through different lenses. Find your own path and ignore what others says.

One of the nicest things about retirement is that you are free to experiment with lots of things, free to drop them if they don't meet your needs and to continue if it's a source of pleasure.
It's the end of the world as we know it. | It's the end of the world as we know it. | It's the end of the world as we know it. | And I feel fine.

livesoft
Posts: 72116
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by livesoft » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:27 am

Just remember: All those annoying people you meet are just like you and me: Also annoying. They are right now posting on another internet forum describing all the annoying other volunteers that they have to deal with while volunteering.
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

livesoft
Posts: 72116
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Is volunteering worth the hassle?

Post by livesoft » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:28 am

OldBallCoach wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:07 am
Now this sounds awesome...tell me you guys drink a few beers and smoke cigars and I am in...
We always go to "Book Club" after some hard work volunteering. Cheers!
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

Post Reply