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Why Volunteers Get Demotivated (an Insider View)

Most people who choose to volunteer think it’ll be a great experience, but that’s not the case for everyone. If you volunteer and feel like you hate it, the problem may not be with the volunteering, but with some factors related to the organization or your assignment.

10 Reasons Why People Dislike Volunteering

1. Feeling That the Mission Isn’t in Line With Expectations

It’s not uncommon to go into a volunteer service with the best of intentions and then feel like you’ve been punched in the pit of the stomach. The problem is that you may have also volunteered because you wanted a sense of fulfillment. And when you don’t experience that fulfillment, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

When you volunteer, you may have a clear idea of what it’ll be like. But what you experience may be very different from your expectations.

For example:

You go to volunteer at a hospice. You imagined that you’d be helping patients with their terminal illness before you die, but you didn’t anticipate everything that was involved in your task.

We can’t anticipate everything that happens in our lives, but we have the power to control how we respond to those unexpected situations.

You may feel good about volunteering at first, but you may become attached to those who’ve passed away. If so, volunteering can become an emotional burden rather than a pleasant experience.

2. Unable to Be Flexible and Adapt to Change

If you don’t engage with new experiences, you’ll miss out on the opportunities that life has to offer.

When we expect something, we’ve to expect to be disappointed. We may also think a certain way and when people don’t act according to our expectations, we can easily become frustrated or angry.

If you go into a situation with a positive attitude and expect good things, you’re more likely to have an enjoyable time.

If something doesn’t go the way you thought it would, it’s important to keep an open mind, learn from it and move on. That way, you don’t spoil what should be a constructive and learning experience just because one thing didn’t go as planned.

I firmly believe that “everything happens for a reason” and the reason you ended up in hospice may not be the reason you originally thought of.

3. Being in the Wrong Volunteer Role

Passion and enthusiasm are great when it comes to volunteering, but being in the wrong volunteer role can make your volunteer experience very unpleasant.

The role is one of the most important things when you’re volunteering.

For example, if you tend to be a leader and your assigned role is to clean up files or create social media posts, don’t wonder why you don’t like volunteering. You’re unhappy with your role, not volunteering.

If you have the right assignment, your volunteer service will be a positive experience where you can learn, grow, gain skills, and maybe even happiness. But if you’re in the wrong volunteer position, it can be a waste of time and make you question why you’re doing this work.

Volunteer roles are as follows

Leader – The leader’s main volunteer role is to help each volunteer understand why they’re here and what they should learn from their experience. They also help dedicated volunteers adjust their roles as needed to ensure everyone is on track to grow both personally and organizationally.

Knowledgeable – They make sure everyone understands the organization’s mission, vision and values by explaining them over and over until all volunteers know what they mean to them personally. They help train and coach new volunteers or younger volunteers in areas where they need additional support, such as public speaking or grant writing.

Execs – Execs keep the agency running by helping with day-to-day tasks such as answering phones, filing, copying, data entry, and other administrative tasks to keep the agency functioning at a high level.

Representative – Representatives build connections with people outside the organization by networking, writing grants, getting involved in the community, or growing the list of community members.

It’s important to be realistic about your volunteer experience and what kind of volunteer position you can get. For example, young people who just finished high school or are college students can’t expect to get straight away in a leadership volunteer opportunity. It’s important for community service organizations to ensure that they have the right person, the right skill for the right volunteering opportunity.

4. Relationships

In the workplace, it’s easy to get along with some people and difficult to get along with others. In volunteering, it’s exactly the same when it comes to social interaction.

Just because you work for free doesn’t mean you can’t be just as stressed and upset with your “volunteer group” as an employee would be.

Sometimes problems can arise when there’s a lack of communication between your fellow volunteers. This can lead to misunderstandings and pressure in your volunteer environment.

Be careful when getting involved in a new volunteer situation. Make sure you get along well with your volunteer group and volunteer coordinator, or you could have a stressful experience where you don’t feel appreciated or valued.

5. Health and Happiness

If you notice that you’re having problems, find the right person to talk to about it, such as your volunteer coordinator or the person in charge of the volunteer program.

You may be able to solve the problem yourself, or you may find that you’re happier somewhere else. In any case, it’s better than suffering in silence!

6. Wrong Timing

If you start volunteering because you’re available for the task, but then something happens and your priorities change, then it’s no longer right to volunteer. That’s why you absolutely need to make sure your priorities are aligned with volunteering before you start it.

For example, if you’re getting involved because you like meeting new people or because you want to get an inside look at how things work, it’s probably best to choose an organization that interests you the most.

Volunteering should be something that you enjoy and that makes you feel connected to your community and your fellow human beings. If that’s no longer the case, then scale back your involvement until it works again.

7. Feeling Disconnected From the Vision of the Organization

At some point in your life, you may consider volunteering for an organization, but what happens if one day you realize that the organization’s vision is different than yours?

The organization’s vision and your vision may differ in a number of ways.

For example:

  • The organization’s vision: provide charitable services to the poor.

Your vision: Help residents with their daily tasks at home.

  • The organization’s vision: To provide shelter for the homeless.

Your vision: To provide temporary shelter for homeless people in the organization’s offices so they have a safe place to sleep at night.

  • The organization’s vision: to improve the living standards of villagers by providing educational opportunities and other services.

Your vision: improve the learning environment; provide more facilities for students (e.g., clean drinking water, electricity, and more teachers).

Even if the volunteer organization and yourself are volunteering for a good cause, that doesn’t mean you’re working for the same vision.

It’s important to understand why you’re volunteering and what the volunteer center needs. If you think it’s to help a cause, but it really isn’t, you’ll be disappointed when you realize afterward that your efforts didn’t do as much as you’d hoped.

And if you don’t know what the organization needs, how can you help? So before you commit to anything, make sure you:

  • Educate yourself about the goals of volunteering.
  • What does the organization hope to accomplish?
  • What do they need from volunteers?
  • What volunteer commitment is desired?
  • How much experience do they hope to get from volunteers?
  • Find out if this volunteer opportunity is for you.
  • Why do you want to volunteer with this organization?
  • Do these goals align with your own personal goals and values?
  • Is it something that will help you improve your skills and advance your career?
  • Are you able to commit enough time to make a difference?

Discuss these questions with the company and make sure both parties understand each other’s expectations. Once you’re on board as a volunteer, keep in mind that there may be opportunities for professional development or networking within the organization. Be sure to take advantage of them.

8. Feeling Overwhelmed

Volunteering can be exhausting. Not only are you under pressure to do everything right, but you also have to face the fact that other people are counting on you.

But that pressure is exactly what makes volunteering so rewarding. You’re not doing it for yourself, but for a cause that needs your help, whether it’s a school or a volunteer center.

Unfortunately, many volunteers are overwhelmed because they’ve no idea what they’re getting into, which can lead to them leaving their volunteer work in the middle of a project.

9. Unrealistic Goals

To avoid this, know yourself and your own limitations before committing to a potential volunteer project. If you know you don’t have enough time to dedicate to an organization, you shouldn’t commit.

Volunteerism isn’t only meant to enrich your life, but also the lives of others, so make sure you’re committing for the right reasons and at the right times.

10. Not Being Recognized Enough

This is a big problem for most new volunteers and for people with a lot of volunteer experience.

The volunteer organization for which you perform community service doesn’t always give volunteers enough recognition, appreciation, and respect for their hard work and valuable contribution.

If you don’t get enough recognition, it can become a disappointing experience for you, leading you to leave the organization sooner or later.

Some nonprofits may also question your commitment because after a short time you can’t volunteer as much as you did when you started, while others may wonder why you want to volunteer at all if you can’t make it.

Keep in Mind

You signed up to help your community, not to get patted on the back every time you show up.

Don’t expect recognition just because you did something good. Instead, see your participation as a positive contribution to society. The organization will notice and appreciate what you do – eventually.

The problem is that many nonprofits have limited resources and volunteers who work hard and have little time to give each volunteer the attention they need, especially when they’re busy with their larger tasks.

That doesn’t mean they don’t care about you; it just means they’ve more important things to do than rub shoulders with every volunteer every time they walk through the door. That’s why it’s important to think of your volunteer efforts as part of a volunteer group with a common goal, rather than expecting individual attention for every little action.

If you approach volunteering this way, it may not take long for someone to realize what an asset you’re and how much they appreciate your involvement!

Choosing the Wrong Place

Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. However, it’s important to know that volunteering abroad can also go wrong if you choose the wrong place.

If you’re from the northern United States, where you’re accustomed to cold to mild temperatures, and then spend six months volunteering in Costa Rica, the heat, language, local community culture, etc., might affect the way you think about volunteering.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get involved, but it’s better to do your research on the area to make sure everything works out with your volunteering.

Volunteer Abroad

Volunteering abroad can be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change your life.

You have the chance to meet new people, explore new places, experience a different culture, and learn about yourself. It’s best to think carefully about the type of volunteer work you want to do abroad.

  • Are you looking for an adventure that will challenge you physically, emotionally and mentally?
  • Do you want to learn something about yourself or others?

It’s also important to think ahead and consider how you can make your community service abroad more enjoyable.

  • Where do you want to go?
  • How long do you want to go?
  • What kind of volunteering job do you want to take on?

These are all questions that will help you shape your volunteering abroad experience.

Being in a Negative Atmosphere

Maybe you’ve experienced people you help being rude to you. Or maybe a person in your company gives off a negative vibe. Maybe the atmosphere isn’t what you expected.

Volunteering is supposed to be a positive experience, but when people approach it with a negative attitude, it can make things worse for everyone involved.

If you’re volunteering at an animal shelter or helping an elderly neighbor, you want your attitude to be helpful and encouraging. If you approach it with a negative attitude, you can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone else.

Ask yourself the right questions

  • Is it because of the people you’re with?
  • Is it because of the environment?
  • Is it because you aren’t doing what you love and what you’re good at?

Do the people around you make you feel good and make you happy. If not, then there’s no point in being there anymore.

If you feel like a fish out of water, it’s time to quit. Ask yourself if you want to stay in the same place for more than a year. If the answer is no, take that as a sign that you should look elsewhere. After all, volunteering is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

Feeling Obligated

If you feel obligated to volunteer, maybe it’s time to do something else.

Maybe you have an experience that makes it easier, or someone else can point you to those things. Either way, if your heart is telling you something is wrong with your volunteering, listen to your instincts and follow them!

5 Signs That Volunteering Is Getting to Be Too Much

  1. You’re not getting enough sleep.
  2. You’ve stopped spending time with friends and family.
  3. Your health or mental health suffers.
  4. You feel overwhelmed at work or at home.
  5. Your volunteering negatively affects your other commitments or relationships.

How to Quit a Volunteer Position

Giving proper notice makes it much easier for both you and the organization you’re volunteering for. If things don’t go as planned.

Being honest about your reasons for resigning will prevent hurt feelings, misunderstandings, or resentment from damaging your relationship with the organization.

A long time ago, I volunteered for a great organization that I felt was misleading volunteers in ways that impacted the people we were helping. When I left them, I made a list of feedback, but they never responded and I thought maybe they thought I was just criticizing their efforts. Years later, I went to their website and saw that some of the changes I suggested are now part of their program.

Sometimes you may not even realize what a difference you can make as a volunteer, but doing your best has a positive impact if you’re patient.

How to Make Volunteering Enjoyable

There are many volunteer assignments, but not all of them are enjoyable. Volunteering in less than ideal conditions can be frustrating, especially for those who’ve never done it before.

If you think about how to make volunteering enjoyable, you’ll do it again and again and recommend it to others.

To make volunteering enjoyable, you can try the following ideas:

  • Choose an organization that’s close to your heart. If your heart isn’t in it, you’ll probably feel unhappy and not want to come back.
  • Choose a volunteer program you’re interested in. Some volunteer work requires certain skills, many others don’t. You may be surprised at what you like to do or what’s a good fit for your interests and skills. You may even get a new volunteer job offer from someone who saw how good you were at volunteering!

For example, you could volunteer at your local community center and be spotted for volunteering to organize special events. Community members may recommend a special thing you did or talk about your experience and volunteerism to someone who’s the power to recruit you for a permanent paid position.

  • Find a place where you feel comfortable and welcome. Don’t go somewhere just because someone tells you it’s a good place to volunteer. If the people there seem uptight or uninterested, you probably won’t feel comfortable there.
  • Do a little research so you can choose an organization where people are friendly and make volunteers feel welcome and appreciated for their work.
  • Treat other volunteers with respect and remember that their opinions are just as valid as yours. Many are dedicated volunteers like you, while others get involved just in social interaction.

Some may be older volunteers or younger volunteers. As in any volunteer organization, incidents may occur, new volunteers will join, a new volunteer opportunity may arise…Volunteerism, whether in international nonprofits or in your local community, is full of surprises!

The most important thing to remember is that you’re doing it for a good cause and that your volunteer efforts and your volunteer job matter more than you might think, even if your volunteer coordinator doesn’t always tell you that.

Remember that participating in a volunteer program isn’t only a volunteer opportunity for everyone, it’s also volunteering for a good cause.