I probably say no to more than 75% of the volunteer requests I get. There, I said it. You may think that means I don’t like to volunteer (or that I’m a selfish troll) but you’d be wrong. In fact, I spent more than 12 hours as a volunteer in one week recently and they were probably the best 12 hours of my month!
How can both of these be true? Because I’ve learned that,
If I apply the same principles to my volunteer time as I do to my paid work, magic happens.
As often as possible, I say yes only to those requests that allow me to use my gifts or to experience joy, or even better, BOTH.
This means that if you’re having a bake sale or need a hot meal for a family in a tough spot, then I am your girl. Conversely, if you need someone to coach a soccer or swim team, I’m not taking your call. Need someone to run a 5K with a bunch of 3rd – 5th grade girls? Call me. Looking for a chaperone for a trip to the water park or petting zoo? Not so much.
There are too many volunteer opportunities to spend time doing ones you hate.
And you’re actually not doing anyone any favors by signing up for things and then showing up grumbling and complaining about it the whole time. We’ve all volunteered alongside those people and it is no fun for A-N-Y-O-N-E.
I didn’t always understand this. In fact, I used to say yes to almost all volunteer requests, feeling like “If not me, then whom?” was the right guiding principle. I’m sure I martyred my way through more than one meeting or event. But then a wise older friend enlightened me.
That thing I hate to do? Someone else might actually love it. And I could be taking her spot.
Look, we face no shortage of ways to use our gifts in the community around us, and we should be doing our fair share. But that doesn’t mean we have to do everything. In fact, if we’re careful to align our volunteer time with our gifts and passions, it will feel more like play than work.
As an experiment, read this list. Notice which things you feel drawn to and which ones make you wrinkle your nose.
Coaching a 5 year old soccer team
Running financial scenarios for a nonprofit
Making costumes for a high school play
Building homes with Habitat for Humanity
Serving on a PTO board
Making soup for shut-ins
Being a Girl Scout leader
Feeding cats at a shelter
Chaperoning a 2nd grade field trip to a farm
Setting up for events at the church hall
Playing logic games in a 4th grade classroom
Picking up trash in the park
Judging a Junior High Science Fair
Chairing a United Way campaign
Cleaning tables in the school cafeteria
So how did that go? I’ll bet you could easily swipe right or left on each of those. And you may think everyone would have the same responses you did. Au contraire.
In fact, despite the fact that you’d hate doing some of these, each one of them is an activity that someone in my circle truly loves to do. Imagine that!
Let’s make this our new standard when it comes to volunteering our time:
Will this opportunity use my gifts and/or bring me joy?
Because really …