Volunteering is certainly a noble cause. Here in America, we get tax benefits for donating to charitable organizations. In many cases, employers encourage their employees to volunteer, by providing a number of hours per year that they can bill out to volunteer activities.
Great Recession’s Volunteering Impact
The very sad reality is that most people who are able to bill out volunteer hours through their employer simply cannot do so. In the post-Great Recession corporate world, employers expect ever more of their employees, just simply to keep their jobs. I know of many professionals, having put in over a decade of service to their employer, who are maxed out on vacation time. They are not permitted to accrue more vacation time. I had one friend, just last night, complain, “Yeah, I’m working for free now. My manager just doesn’t get it, and now he wants us to take on this other, massive, project.” It is not that they do not WANT to take vacation time, it is that they CAN’T take vacation time. The requirements of the job have necessitated that the person be available ALL the time.
Now add volunteering into the mix. Sure, theoretically, someone who can bill 40 or more hours per year out to their employer as volunteer time can do so, but the work still piles up. One local company gives their employees ONE FULL MONTH per year that they can bill out to volunteer time. One Month!! Even smaller companies often provide a week. But, the work still HAS to be done. With slim budgets and resistance to hiring, there is, often, no one to back fill the position while someone is away serving their community through volunteer work. If someone is unable to even take vacation time, and de-stress with a trip to Maui or Mammoth, it is highly unlikely that he or she is going to be able to take volunteer time away from work. Thus, what volunteering they do do is often IN ADDITION to work. And with, often, working 50 or 60 hours per week, their “work week” suddenly becomes one grand continuum of work, multitasked between items for the place providing the paycheck, and items for the volunteer job. It is no wonder that Volunteer Burnout has reached a crisis level.
Volunteer Burnout looms large at non-profit organizations large and small. A very popular astronomy event was very nearly not held this past year due to Volunteer Burnout. The local chapter of the National Space Society, with which I was closely affiliated, closed, in large part, due to Volunteer Burnout. These are just two local examples of what I know to be a national problem. With International Volunteer Day quickly approaching, a billion dollar global volunteer burnout crisis looms. This article addresses the issue, with suggestions on how to tackle it.
How we avoid Volunteer Burnout
At Sandy Eulitt Stellar Experiences, we recognize that we have skills imperative to a 21st century global economy. We WANT our local community to excel in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education. We WANT every student, regardless of age or socioeconomic status to graduate from high school proficient in AT LEAST trigonometry, conceptual physics, introductory chemistry, and biology. We feel that these are the MINIMUM skills necessary to go to college, graduate from college, and compete in an increasingly technology dependent workplace. America has been a service economy for decades. STEM skills are the backbone of a service economy. We believe our communities are better, stronger, with people who possess these skills, and the jobs to hire them.
To that end, we REQUIRE every employee to do volunteer work. Because of our skills and equipment, the demand is high, and new opportunities arise daily. We handle this very simply: we keep our overhead low, sell online only, and a portion of every product sale goes towards funding volunteer opportunities. The more product sold, the more hours volunteered. It is that simple. Even if time is donated, there are still travel expenses, meals, possible lodging, and other ancillary expenses. We also believe that volunteer time is time away from family and friends. Our human resources are rewarded with perks, recognition, and encouraged to include their family and friends in volunteer opportunities, to the extent feasible.
Because volunteering is part and parcel of our, “day job,” we reduce stress and avoid volunteer burnout. We carefully manage volunteer requests, not forcing people to work extra hours or forego time with family and friends in order to make up for the volunteer time. We strive to achieve balance, not just between work and personal lives, but between income generating and volunteer opportunities. Balance is the foundation of corporate success, and happy employees. A happy employee is a successful employee.
Help us help our communities
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of every product in our online store goes to fund STEM Education outreach, tutoring, technology and events in our local, regional and national communities. Make a difference TODAY by completing a sale.
Thank you, as always, for your support.