Make Changes To Rejuvenate Your Volunteer Spirit

Karen Overstreet  |  12/22/2005 11:20:26 PM

News You Can Use For January 2006

Louisiana’s relatively mild winters and its Mardi Gras season keep most folks from singing the blues after the Christmas holidays. Yet, often packed away with the holiday decorations is the interest in volunteer activities.

People who have been especially active may begin to suffer from "compassion fatigue," a term coined after 9-11. The extensive storm damage in Louisiana along with the normal needs can overwhelm even the most generous person.

But LSU AgCenter family resource management specialist Dr. Karen Overstreet points out that businesses, schools, churches and other organizations that sponsor charitable activities during the holidays need help year round. If you’re beginning to lose interest in your volunteer work, she says try making some changes before giving up.

If your efforts have been primarily financial donations, try getting involved with a project. Seeing first hand what the needs are or feeling the joy when someone has been helped often will change your perspective. The same is true if you have been doing office work, manning the phones or other activities removed from personal contact with others.

If you are happy with the organization with which you are volunteering, but feel yourself burning out, ask for a new assignment. If you have been a regular, offer to train your replacement, so there will be continuity. Most organizations would prefer to have reliable volunteers change assignments than lose them completely.

If the organization is large enough, it’s usually better not to work with the same group as before. No two people do things exactly alike, and you won’t be tempted to interfere with the new person.

Have you had it up to here with people’s needs? Then switch completely. Try working at an animal shelter, the zoo or a museum. Public libraries, public radio and television stations and environmental groups all need volunteers. It’s important that volunteers recognize potential burnout before it becomes a problem. Developing negative or jaded feelings toward those you are trying to help may be a sign that it’s time for a change. The change may help you put things back in perspective.

If you feel like you’re on the go too much or you aren’t physically able to keep up, look for things you can do from home. If you still want to be part of an organization, ask about making phone calls, handling correspondence or other tasks that could be done from a remote site.

You could write notes to shut-ins, send cards to new parents or provide follow-up information to visitors for your church or other organizations. If you like people but don’t drive or have transportation, invite committees to meet at your house.

"Don’t just skip your shift or leave tasks uncompleted," Overstreet says, explaining, "That’s not fair to the organization or those counting on you."

If you have lost your enthusiasm for your volunteer work, take a break and try something different. A new task, a new group of co-workers or a completely new mission may be just the spark you need to put the joy back into your service.

For related topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter home page, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Karen Overstreet (225) 578-1425, or Koverstreet@agcenter.lsu.edu

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