Newsletter: This time, it's personal

by Sharon Gavin

"I cannot know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know is that the truly happy among you will be those who have learned to serve." ~ Albert Schweitzer

The scientific research is in and if you’re reading this column it’s probably something you already know: Volunteering is good for your community and good for you, too.

Yes, caring for others on a consistent basis does make us happier but here’s the caveat (in Latin!): “Quod non habes dare non potes.” (“You can’t give what you don’t have.”) These days, for some, “volunteer burnout” is just as real – and just as serious – as career burnout.

How can we deal with it? Well, as the old adage says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, it’s far better to take care of ourselves now…so we can care for others later.

Think taking good care of yourself is selfish? Well, according to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, that’s a myth. Since “happier people are more likely to help other people, [are] more interested in social problems…do more volunteer work, and…contribute more to charity”, good self-care is a good investment for all of us.

How can you avoid volunteer burnout? First, take a look at what you’re doing now; make sure that it’s something you really care about, love, feel passion and excitement for.

Second, make sure it’s something you can do. We all have to figure out what works for us and our families. If it doesn’t really fit – your skills, your interest, your schedule – perhaps it’s time to look for another opportunity.

Third, pace yourself. Maybe you only have one hour once a month – if that’s what’s you’ve got to give let your organization know and be okay with that. You’ll give more when you can.

And finally, think small. Micro-volunteering opportunities let you do a lot of good in a little time; you can also do small projects in your own community that don’t require a lot of commitment.

Remember, Oregon Volunteers! is committed to supporting volunteerism in our state, and part of that is supporting our volunteers.

Posted on February 3, 2010 in Volunteering, Civic Engagement.