I put some time into recent responses on Quora and figured I'd share them here, too, since I clearly need to work on writing more consistently.
There are not three specific disadvantages to volunteerism but several issues that one must consider before committing their time and effort to an organization or cause.
First of all, not everyone can afford the time to volunteer since it is unpaid work.
Even if one has the time, their organization of choice may not have volunteer opportunities at a time or place that one can commit to. Many opportunities conflict with work schedules or require volunteers to drive long distances.
Not all organizations can accommodate would-be volunteers who have disabilities or injuries that limit the type of service they can provide. I, unfortunately, had to end my time with one organization because running injuries hampered my ability to participate in the capacity volunteers needed to.
Many volunteer positions require significant physical demands of their volunteers and have injury risks even for fit people. These positions can include building and demolishing structures of varying strength.
- Organizations may provide insufficient tools or tools in poor repair, making the work even more challenging.
- They may require volunteers to provide their own tools and safety equipment such as gloves and goggles.
- They may require long shifts in dangerous weather conditions.
- They may have insufficient shift coverage so that a volunteer cannot even take a moment for water or a bathroom break without leaving their position empty.
Many organizations can better serve their communities or clients with monetary donations than with unskilled volunteer labor.
- It does cost organizations both time and money to train volunteers and provide supervision until the volunteers can confidently and reliably fulfill their roles.
- Anyone can organize a food drive, but food banks can help many more people and provide better quality food with monetary donations because of the tax breaks they get and the connections they have for buying food in bulk. And monetary donations also give food banks the resources to buy specific items that their beneficiaries need more than whatever was in the back of a donor’s pantry.
A lot of volunteer work is boring grunt work that someone needs to do: think envelope stuffing, block walking, phone banking, door greeting, and so on.
Social and political issues and how they impact someone’s paying job may prevent them from volunteering for causes they feel passionate about.
- If one is a public advocate for an organization such as Planned Parenthood, which receives a lot of public censure for providing necessary services, one must consider the potential repercussions if disapproving family, church members, coworkers, etc. hear about that volunteer work.
- If the volunteer is employed in an “at-will” state, they could even be fired for their decision to publicly support certain organizations.
And it can be frustrating to volunteer for an organization that has not planned well or is not prepared to direct volunteers to where they need to be and could leave volunteers with inadequate resources to serve others, maybe putting the unwitting volunteers at the face of complaints from clients or event participants/attendees.
There are, of course, many more potential disadvantages to volunteerism, but it’s up to each individual to be informed and weigh the possibilities for themselves before committing to helping an organization or while deciding whether to continue that volunteer work.
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