When to Say “When” – Drawing Boundaries on Volunteerism

Solopreneurs and new business owners, especially those just starting out, can benefit big from volunteering in their Draw the linecommunities. Not only does involvement help organizations in need, but it can also lead you to new professional connections, allow you to develop new skills, demonstrate your leadership capabilities, and enable you to beef up your portfolio.

Powerful stuff! But as you dig in and commit your time and energy to volunteerism, be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Volunteering should be a win-win. The organization and the community should benefit from your involvement; the experience should give you a positive return on the hours, talent and effort you’re investing to the cause. It should enhance, not detract from your personal and professional life.

Here are a few signs and signals that you may have taken on more than is good for you and/or your business:

  • You’re unable to find time to network to effectively build your business.
    Although volunteering gives you the opportunity to make connections, it might not afford you the ability to directly promote your business or services to the people you meet. If your commitment takes too much time away from your business development activities, you could be missing out on attracting new clients and generating revenue.
  • You’re not “present” with your family – even when you’re in the same room with them.
    It’s likely that physically you can’t always be around your loved ones as much as you’d like to when working on your business.  So when you are, they deserve the attention of your whole brain. Being in business for yourself takes plenty of mental energy in its own right, adding significant volunteer responsibilities on top of that will further push you to your limits. If you’re constantly distracted and thinking about other things when in the company of your family and friends, consider re-evaluating and adjusting your volunteer roles.
  • You’re irritated rather than energized.
    Volunteering should make you feel good. Sure, you’re giving precious hours and talents, but if the volunteer opportunity is the right fit, you’ll nearly always feel rejuvenated by your commitment. If you find that you’re consistently dreading meetings, getting annoyed by emails and phone calls from others in the organization, feeling resentful about donating your time and skills, or all of the above, you might need to cut the cord or drastically set some boundaries on what you will – or won’t do – as a volunteer.

Again, volunteerism is a marvelous way to breathe life into your business and personal life. Just be aware that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Before you commit, do an honest assessment of the amount of time you can – and are willing – to spend. If you’re already committed and have found yourself on the verge of burn out, make a change – and don’t feel guilty about it.

Has volunteerism played a role in your professional life? How have you kept your volunteer commitments in check so they’ve continued to work for – rather than against – your business?

Solopreneurs: 3 Things to Consider before Saying “Yes” to a Volunteer Opportunity

Solopreneurs’ entrepreneurial skills and experience – and our flexibility in scheduling our work – make us attractive candidates for leadership positions at community and professional organizations. We’re the quintessential volunteers. Driven to make change. Dedicated. Available.

And volunteering on committees and serving on boards of directors brings you tremendous opportunities for both professional and personal development.

By giving your time and talent, you can:

  • hone your skills as a leader,
  • make new business connections, and
  • enjoy participating as part of a team (even solopreneurs don’t want to always be in solitude!)

But before you jump in and grab the first volunteer opportunity that comes your way, you need to recognize that volunteering takes time, energy and focus.  Sometimes lots of all three! Avoid overextending yourself by considering…

  • Time commitment expected

Ask the organization how many hours it expects you to devote to the position each month – and for how long. Naturally, monthly involvement could vary depending on what events and activities are in progress, but get an average. And what is the term of the position? Are you committing to one year? Two? Three? Then take inventory of your existing commitments – volunteer, professional, personal – and carefully assess whether or not you can accommodate the responsibility.

  • Meetings schedule

Find out when and how often your committee or board meets, and ask  if the organization requires people in your position to attend a minimum number of meetings. Verify that the days and times of required meetings won’t impede your ability to serve your clients. If it’s likely that business commitments will regularly trump your availability to attend meetings, the opportunity might not be a good fit for you.

  • What’s in it for you?

Admirable as it is to volunteer your time to the greater good, you need to be sure you’re gaining something from the experience. Think long and hard about the knowledge, skills, connections, and credentials you expect to take away. Don’t feel guilty about wanting something in return for your efforts! Organizations benefit most from volunteers who have enthusiasm and purpose. It stands to reason that you’ll be more energized and committed if you see both personal and professional value in your involvement.

Volunteering can boost your business acumen and bring personal fulfillment, but the decision to do it needs careful consideration. Make sure you: believe in the cause, can accommodate the commitment, and will derive benefits that justify the sacrifices you’ll be making. If you do, both you and the organization you’ve selected will reap the rewards.

Your turn: What volunteer endeavors have helped – or hindered – your business success? If you’ve had volunteer experience, what advice for managing the commitment do you have for other solopreneurs?



Volunteering: Your good works can be good for you professionally!

In one of my first posts here on The Insatiable Solopreneur, I shared about the give and take aspects of volunteerism.Volunteerism: Full circle

I’m passionate about volunteering.

I’m equally – if not more – passionate about letting you know that it’s OK to seek more than just the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped a worthy cause. When you volunteer your time, talent and energy, there’s no shame in expecting something non-monetary in return.

Read more here to find out how you can make the time and effort that you spend volunteering give back to you!