Have You Ever Had a Disappointing Volunteer Experience?


There’s just something about volunteering that gets me all excited and fired up about life. I love helping others and joining in causes that are important to me. Maybe, in life’s balances, it’s to counter the fact that I spend 40+ hours a week doing things that ultimately aren’t really all that important. Don’t get me wrong; I like my day job enough most days. But let’s face it – nobody’s life is really going to be drastically better if there’s lawn spray on the front cover of the company’s circular this week instead of a riding lawn mower. (Or maybe I’m underestimating the power of advertising and a bottle of RoundUp?) But at least when I’m volunteering for a good cause, I get jazzed because I could be doing something that’s really going to make a difference to improving someone’s life. But when volunteering isn’t such a great experience, what do you do?

One of my volunteer goals for 2009 was to get more involved, step up my game. So I applied to join the leadership ranks in one of the organizations I was starting to get pretty involved with already. When I was selected, I was so excited (my friends and family didn’t stop hearing about it for a week). But so far the experience hasn’t been anything like I thought it would be and, considering how much respect I have for this organization’s mission as a whole, that’s been really disappointing.

The desire to help is there. The connection to the cause is there. Why aren’t things getting any better? A part of me doesn’t want to believe what’s happening, so I keep plugging away. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. So I risk becoming the face of insanity by trying again – eagerly offering to help lead projects, extending open-ended invitations to do whatever needs to be done, offering up as much input as I’ve got in me- expecting a different result. No dice. I don’t want to be completely turned off to this group because, as I said, I care so much about the cause. However, methinks it may be time to pour out a little Colt 45, sing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” and walk away.

Maybe I’m just better served as a regular shows-up-for-everything type of volunteer with this group? I’m really bummed that my first attempt at upping up my volunteering game has gone so badly, since this was truly a step outside of my comfort zone. However, I won’t let my disappointment stop me from making future attempts to be more involved with other groups that help the people in Atlanta. After all, I believe my further growth as a person will make it possible to do even more good on a whole new level.


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