Why You Should Be Careful in Where You Volunteer

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been recently looking for a place to volunteer in my area that would allow me the opportunity to give back to my community. I have seen a few opportunities but have not found anything that I can really do, unfortunately. Some charities want for you to work during the day which I cannot because of my work. Some require you to wait months for the next training session. Even some are asking for volunteers for things that you really should provide payment. For example, I saw an ad for a regular preschool that was looking for a receptionist to volunteer during the day. The preschool was for profit and it seems they just don’t want to pay for a person to come by and do the work so they set it up as a “volunteer”opportunity. Some of you may know how I feel about that.

This bring me to my point. First let me just say that I have loved volunteering for some charities and feel like its one of the best things you can do for your community. It truly is great for the mind, body, and soul. With that being said, I have learned to be picky about what places I will help because of some bad experiences. I have volunteered for charities who don’t care at all for their volunteers and therefore have high turnover. Its amazing how many places mistreat people who come in with a genuine feeling of compassion to help. I understand that administrators in charities have a lot on their plates but some of the things I have seen really make me question whether they wanted people helping them out or not. I volunteered once with this organization who I will not name but they helped with people who had been displaced by various circumstances. I went there for over a year. When I asked if I could get a letter from the administrator as a recommendation for grad school, she tells me she can’t because I had not filled out an attendance book which no one had told me I had to when I first volunteered. I really liked going there and helping, and I do consider that as its own reward but the fact that she was so mean and totally ignored the fact that I had repeatedly been volunteering there for a year was a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow. I had even made it a point to check in with her each and every time so she would know I was there for that year. When I let her know that no one informed me that I needed to fill out any book, she got even nastier and told me some one really should have explained that to me. Uh, yeah. That would have been nice. Despite that, she refused to write me a letter acknowledging more than a few hours of volunteering with them. Needless to say, I have not been back to that grossly disorganized place.
Recently I have tried to volunteer with an organization and even set up a meeting with the head coordinator of the place. I emailed her the day of and did not hear back. I called her and left her a message. I didn’t heard back from her. The next day, she sends me an email saying that something came up and she couldn’t meet me. That’s fine but when can we set up a time to meet again? I didn’t hear back again. Finally, I sent her an email telling her to withdraw my name from her list because it seemed like they didn’t need volunteers. I did not want to hunt someone down just to be able to volunteer when there are so many other places who really need the help.
As with donating to charities, you want to make sure that your contribution is needed and truly appreciated. I am not saying these places should worship you for helping them but I also think that some could stand to be a little bit more tolerable to the people who are working for free. If you do volunteer, make sure you ask questions beforehand of what you can expect. If you can, talk with others who have volunteered with the organization and find out if they have had positive experiences. This may save you a headache down the line and let you know if something is really worth your time and energy. I am certainly not dissuading anyone from volunteering but a little knowledge does go a long way. Hopefully you can avoid what I went through.

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