11 ways to become a totally ineffective volunteer

oldguyVolunteer:  A person who willingly (and without pay) offers to help an organization or individual.

Have you ever wanted to volunteer?  For most organizations and churches, your willingness to jump in and “volunteer” is a reason to start the happy dance. Volunteering is a the lifeblood of religious organizations and nonprofits.  Honestly, these organizations would be unable to function without those who answer the call to volunteer.

So, if you are volunteering in a church or a nonprofit (or anywhere else for that matter), then “Thank you.”  If you are considering being a volunteer, then what are you waiting for?

Whether you’ve been doing this your whole life or you just started last Thursday, the goal is to be an effective volunteer.  When you are “effective,” you help the group or organization move closer to realizing its ultimate goal.

As someone who has spent time volunteering and working with volunteers, I thought I’d share some of thing things you could do if you wanted to go the opposite route and become an ineffective volunteer.

So, with that thought in mind, here are 10 ways to be an ineffective volunteer:

  1. Don’t buy into the vision.  This is one of the easiest of ways to be an ineffective volunteer.  Hopefully, as you opted to volunteer in this organization, you learned the organization’s vision (where it is ultimately heading) and its mission (how it plans to get there).  After hearing that vision and mission, you opted to go your own route. The vision and mission help everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction. When you don’t buy in, you are pulling the organization in other directions and could possibly be keeping the organization from reaching its goals.  Does it get any more ineffective than that?
  2. Be habitually late or just don’t show up at all. It’s impossible to be effective when you aren’t there.   So, miss your volunteer assignment on a regular basis.  Fail to notify anyone that you will be out.  Neglect to ask someone to fill your slot when you’re going to be out.  Simply, let others pick up the slack. When you are habitually late to serve, you let others know that you can’t be trusted and you aren’t dependable.
  3. Be a low- or no-energy volunteer. We’ve all been there.  There are just some tasks we don’t want to do and we let others know it through our words and actions.  To be a truly ineffective volunteer, show no passion, no enthusiasm or no energy.  Give others the impression you just don’t care and you really don’t want to be there.  If you want to truly be ineffective, let your absence of passion and enthusiasm spread like a virus across the organization.
  4. Your drama > your service.  If you want to be an ineffective volunteer, crank up the drama.  Here are some ways you can do that:
    1.  Spend more time fighting with other volunteers than in doing the volunteer task.
    2. Complain. Complain about everything — volunteers, leaders, attendees, clients, the system, the process, the organization, change.  Complain and never offer a solution.
    3. Backstab, badmouth, undercut others in volunteer or leadership roles.
    4. Insist that everything be changed to the way you want to do it for the one time a week, month or year that you are there to serve.
    5. Argue with participants, clients, etc., who are attending or seeking assistance at the organization you chose to volunteer with.
    6. Belittle, talk down to and bully other volunteers, leaders, clients or participants.  You get the point, right?
  5. Don’t use your gifts.  If you want to be an ineffective volunteer, choose to serve in areas that do not make use of your gifts and talents. It will take more time and energy to work outside of your gifts. It will frustrate you and it will frustrate the others you are serving with. Truly ineffective volunteers avoid using gifts and talents at all costs.
  6. Be the Lone Ranger.  If you want to be truly ineffective, put on the mask and ride out to save the day all by yourself.  Never involve others in what you are doing. Make new volunteers jump through so many hoops that they will quickly get frustrated.  Sure, in the short run, it will look like you have it all in control.  But, over time, other volunteers will realize you are a control freak.  When you serve as the Lone Ranger, your ineffectiveness will lead to even greater ineffectiveness for the organization as more and more volunteers walk away.
  7. Seek the spotlight.  If you want to be a truly ineffective volunteer, then do it because you want to build yourself up, because you want to be the center of attention or because you need an ego boost.  Only volunteer for the assignments that will put you in the spotlight. Constantly take credit for what other volunteers are doing in the organization.  Lift your own name on high. To be truly ineffective, refuse to do anything that does not put you out front.  Ineffective volunteers never compromise by standing in the background.
  8. Burn yourself out.  An ineffective volunteer is a burnt-out volunteer.  To be truly ineffective, overextend yourself, stretch yourself thin and refuse to share your tasks with others.  Ignore the warning signs that you are burning out and keep on going.  Your ineffectiveness will increase rapidly as you become more and more burnt out. Besides, it’s better to burn out than fade away, right?
  9. Expect gratitude and a thank you.  Ineffective volunteers see themselves as being above those that they say they want to help.  When they do this, ineffective volunteers create a gap between themselves and those they are serving or those who are participating in a program.  For ineffective volunteers, it is crucial that this gap be filled with something.  Usually, what ineffective volunteers most want is for the person being helped to feel grateful for what they are receiving.  You can’t thank an ineffective volunteer enough.  If you truly want to be an ineffective volunteer, make sure that the person receiving your help feels that they know owe you something.
  10. Be unteachable.  Learning is life-long process and there are as many lessons as there are teachers in the journey.  If you want to be an “ineffective” volunteer, then one of the easiest ways is to be unteachable.  When you are unteachable, you don’t have to worry about those pesky rules and systems.  You can just make them up yourself, do what you want to and not even care.  Yes, if you want to be an ineffective volunteer, then make sure that you are unteachable..
  11. Just say no. If you truly want to be an “ineffective” volunteer, then don’t ever start. You hear the call for volunteering and, you know that it is something you could do, but you decide to ignore it.  Your best friend asks you to come and serve together and you say that you don’t want to bother with it.  Take your “light” and hide it from the world.  That’s what “ineffective” really looks like.

As you read through those, of course, you understand that the goal is not to be ineffective – the goal is to be effective.  An effective volunteer helps the organization or church to live into its vision, to stay on course with its mission and to, ultimately, impact the lives of others in a positive way.

So, are you serving effectively or ineffectively?


Reignite My Story is based on fact that every life story can be reset, renewed and redeemed.  For more life lessons, visit www.reignitemystory.com. For more, like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter at @reignitemystory.  You may also send email to reignitemystory@gmail.com.

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