In a world that often feels consumed by the relentless pursuit of career and personal success, financial stability, and socio-economic status, volunteering has provided both of us with a precious opportunity to connect with our communities and give back. Through introducing us to this feeling of giving back to those communities that need support we have gotten much more from volunteering than we could ever give. Volunteering has been a source of pride and joy for many years. The circumstances that have led us to pause our volunteer journeys, have still left us with mixed emotions.

We both faced a common adversary that temporarily halted our volunteering: time constraints. Life, with its various commitments, left us with little room for volunteering. For some, it wasn’t until the pandemic that we were able to refocus on volunteering, realizing the need to prioritize self-care and rekindle my passion for making a difference. While we learned so much during volunteering like how to communicate effectively, tailor our approaches to different people and organizations, and appreciate the urgency of certain issues in the community, it was still hard to keep up with that—and life at the same time. We wanted to keep giving time to the critical role nonprofits play in filling the gaps in society’s systems. However no matter how passionate we were, and are, about volunteering time constraints and external commitments could not be avoided.

Our advice for others considering a pause or end to their volunteer commitments is clear: It’s okay to step back when necessary. Prioritizing one’s health or career does not diminish the value of the time we spent volunteering. There are alternative ways to support your community, and these smaller efforts can still make a meaningful impact!

The Appreciation Gap: How We Feel Volunteers Are Recognized
Volunteerism, while increasingly recognized, still faces an appreciation gap in our opinions. While there is a designated volunteer appreciation day every month and heartfelt thank-yous from nonprofits who are so in need of our help, there’s still an underappreciation of volunteerism in society. Volunteers are often asked, “Why are you doing that for free when you could be earning money?” This wide-spread underappreciation is something that we both believe needs to change if we are to deal with the current widespread volunteer shortages being felt by many.

Final Thoughts: The Paradox of Volunteering
Volunteering presents a paradox. While it fulfills the desire to give and make a difference in the community, it also rewards volunteers personally— it certainly has for us. It’s a reminder that, even in our fast-paced and often self-focused world, there’s immense value in giving back to our communities and making a positive impact on the lives of others. It’s a reminder that, even though we may pause our volunteer journey, we hope to resume it when time allows, because the joy of giving back is an unparalleled experience—please give it a try.

Read the full article about volunteering by Vanessa Matibag and Madeline O'Brien at Alliance Magazine.