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Volunteering as a non-profit employee

Something I always struggled with when working full-time (and who are we kidding, it was way more than full time) at a social service agency was my desire to volunteer or give back outside of the work I did for a paycheck.I have always felt strongly everyone should volunteer their time in some capacity, at least those who have the time and resources to do so.While working as a program director in a high stress, crisis-based environment I, unsurprisingly, found myself emotionally and physically taxed on most evenings and weekends.I would sign up for volunteer opportunities and then cancel at the last minute.Or I would put off registering for things that I was really interested in and felt passionate about because I just wasn’t sure if I would be able to get out of work on time or if I would be on-call and have to respond to an emergency or work an extra shift.And to be honest, there was also a part of me that sort of like a volunteer, (though I was certainly getting paid for the work I did) because I worked so many hours without a commensurate salary.

My inability (or possibly even unwillingness) to volunteer my time outside of my professional sphere, left me feeling unfulfilled and sometimes just plain guilty.In yet another way, the demands of my job rocked the work/life balance boat.Now that I’m in a place where I have more flexibility and time, I’ve been able to volunteer in a few different ways and it feels great!Giving back is good for the soul, and non-profit professionals need all the soul food they can get!

So, what can the sector do to support overworked and underpaid employees in their desire to volunteer their time elsewhere?Many of our counterparts in the for-profit world offer institutionalized days/projects for volunteering as a team, provide flexibility for employees to volunteer their time individually and even offer opportunities for sabbaticals in which folks can volunteer at a non-profit while taking significant time away from their job.I’m aware that limited resources, both personnel and budgetary, might not allow for set-ups like that for a lot of non-profit employees, but I’ve also been privy to the creative powers of these very organizations!Also, seems like a no brainer to me – everyone benefits when employees feel fulfilled and organizations of all types have the volunteers they desperately need to keep the doors open…

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