Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

Then Stop Saying “Yes”

Carefully consider the impact of saying to yes to volunteering on your time and your other priorities.

Before you say yes to volunteering, carefully consider your values and the impact on your time and your other priorities.

I grew up watching my parents volunteer and serve in their community. And now my son has the bug. Several years ago we joined a children’s organization dedicated to American history. The children actually have leadership positions with the adults providing guidance and supervision. Over time my son has watched the older kids conduct meetings and when given the opportunity, he has said “Yes” to a variety of roles from serving as a committee chairperson to his current role as a President of our local group. Yet, when its time to do the work (or wear a suit and tie), he’s irritated by his involvement.

We are approaching the end of the program year and we’re finishing up projects and preparing several articles and reports. He says to me, “I hate this. Why did you sign me up?” I looked at him and pointed out, “Yes, I did enroll you in this organization, but you’re the one who continues to say yes when they ask you do stuff.”

This conversation lead me to examine my own reaction to volunteering. Sometimes, I really resent the intrusion on my time. I get frustrated working with different personalities and work styles. But who do I have to blame?

I concluded two things.

1. I have to model responsible volunteerism for my son. Not only agreeing to serve, but carefully considering the commitment before I accept. I don’t have to say yes. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to just be a member and not volunteer.

Organizations can help by not asking the same people over and over again and by making it easier for people to refuse. Better to get the “no” up front than think you’ve got a task covered only to be disappointed later when the person later fails to produce.

2. I have to “stay in my lane”. When I delegate a task, I have to trust and accept the end result and when I have a specific task, I need to stay focused on that task and not get sidetracked doing other people’s work.

Organizations can help by keeping tasks small and focused. Be up front about the expectations and the time commitment so individuals  can make informed decisions.

Over and over again, I see people who are overwhelmed by their commitments and ultimately resent the time they spend on them. Saying NO takes practice, but ultimately, it brings productivity and peace.

What about you? Have you found yourself over-committed? How did you cull commitments? Have you ever managed over-committed volunteers?


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