Resigning from a Volunteer Role
By Carolyn Brown
Where would the world be without volunteers? In a bottomless hole, I am sure. Volunteers contribute an estimated $4 billion per year to the New Zealand economy!
The benefits to the volunteer are just as significant: new skills, new friends, feeling valued and knowing the organisation (and society!) appreciate your efforts too. Volunteering is also highly recommended as a mood enhancer, confidence booster, and perfect antidote to rejection letters from companies that do not know how awesome you are yet.
(If you are after some of these benefits, here is a shameless plug to check out the Do Good Volunteer roles.)
Such is the abundance of warm fuzzies received from volunteering; it can be difficult to say goodbye when you no longer have time to spare. Having been in the roles of a volunteer coordinator and as a volunteer, I know firsthand how much of a difference it can make for everyone involved if you treat the job as you would paid employment, including when you leave.
Know that whilst you will be missed, organisations are used to volunteers coming and going, and will survive without you. This is not to undermine your contribution, just don’t feel guilty about leaving because you no longer have the time to spare, or it no longer works for you.
If you have decided it is time to leave, there are several things you can do to make it easier for the hole you leave to be filled.
Notice is mandatory
Start with giving notice. Unless your stint was a one-off, be sure to give the organisation the same amount of notice that you would for paid employment. Your role was necessary. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have needed someone to do it, so leaving them in the lurch could undermine all the good you did for them. The more notice you can give, the better. Or go one step further, help them find someone else to do your role for them – priceless.
It’s not you; it’s me
Knowing why volunteers leave is essential for any volunteer organisation so be sure to let them know in your resignation letter. If it was because you no longer had the time, they can’t do much about it, but if you had an issue with the specifics of the role or the organisation’s culture, they need to know. Volunteers are increasingly difficult to come by and are expensive to recruit and train, so if something is wrong or requires fixing, they will usually appreciate the feedback. You might not even have to leave if they can fix the reason why.
Pass on what you have learned
If you can, offer to stay and help train the new person in your role. If you don’t have the time, be sure to pass on in writing any ways you found to make the job quicker/easier, or even have a quick catch up with them to pass on anything that is super important.
No one likes a disappearing act, unless you are a magician. Be sure to treat every aspect of the job as you would if you were a permanent employee, including saying goodbye. Always leave in good spirits; you never know, that volunteer role might become a paid role in the future that you would love to have. Be sure to leave a good impression, so your CV is put straight to the top of the pile.
Stay in touch
Keeping in touch with a volunteer organisation once you leave is a good idea, especially if you would like a reference in the future. Some for-purpose organisations have a Facebook page to join or hold reunions for past and present volunteers. Hopefully, you will have had an amazing experience volunteering for them and, may at some point, have time again to volunteer. Remember, as with paid employment; you should never burn the bridges of an awesome experience.
Leaving on good terms ensures the warm fuzzies you received from volunteering stay with you for a long time afterwards, and who doesn’t want that feeling to last.
About Carolyn Brown
Carolyn enjoys writing stuff that engages readers, makes them feel like they are in a conversation with the screen, and doesn’t require a dictionary on standby to make sense of what she has written.
When she is not creating content, she likes to keep busy volunteering for various not for profits; throwing sticks to her step-dog as they walk along North Beach in Christchurch, and enjoying the company of friends. If you would like to know more, head on over to her website www.writecopynz.co.nz or email her at [email protected]