Volunteeraholic – Part 1

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

I walk into the sparsely furnished room, folding chairs in a circle. Just a couple of windows – enough to not feel entirely trapped. Everyone looks over as I walk in. Their facial expressions are a mix of interest, annoyance, and a hesitant welcoming. I walk over to the empty chair in the group, feeling slightly awkward I sit down and say…

“My name is Joe and I am a volunteeraholic.”

They drone the standard and reluctant response… “Welcome Joe”

That is the recurring dream/nightmare I have and I suspect that it is somewhat prophetic. And if you know me at all, you will not be one bit surprised.

It’s in my DNA. My genes. My family line. My heritage. My upbringing. I think it’s in my soul.

I really, really, really like to help.

But let me be clear here.

This is not, I repeat not, a “Wow isn’t Joe great for volunteering” piece.


And please don’t think for one second that it is.

This is me identifying an addiction that is a combination of a blessing and a curse, all at the same time.

If you have this “affliction”, then you understand. If you don’t, then let me give you a quick glimpse of what it’s like.

  • Your company has a fundraiser, you volunteer to help out
  • The charity event you just participated in reaches out for input, you are dumb enough to give it, and then end up on the planning committee
  • The event doesn’t go well, so of course you end up running the committee
  • Somehow you find yourself on the board
  • They need someone to head up the XXX committee, you’re the guy
  • Church needs help at a volunteer event – done deal. In fact, you recruit as many as you can to help out as well.
  • Boy Scouts – done
  • Girl Scouts – give me all those darn cookies I don’t care how many girls come to the door
  • Friends need donations for whatever their cause is, count me in.
  • Someone is sick or traveling and they need help filling the volunteer slot – got it.
  • The food for the event doesn’t sound like it will be enough, better bring boxes of coffee, donuts, and grab 100 sausage biscuits from McDonalds on the way
  • Driving to support a cycling event, better have the vehicle lit up like a tow truck and stocked with probably 2-3 times as much supplies as needed
  • Neighbor needs help – done
  • Etc, etc, etc…

Get the picture?

If you are unsure if you are afflicted with this, then take this patented 5-question test:

  1. How many different non-profits did you volunteer for in the past 12 months?
    • 0 (punch yourself)
    • 1 (1 point)
    • 2 (2 points)
    • 3-5 (5 points)
    • 5+ (10 points)
  • How many different non-profits did you donate to in the past 12 months?
    • 0 (punch yourself)
    • 1 (1 point)
    • 2 (2 points)
    • 3-5 (5 points)
    • 5+ (10 points)
  • How many times in the past 12 months did friends ask you for suggestions on how to volunteer their time?
    • None (0 points)
    • 1 (1 point)
    • 2 (2 points)
    • 3-5 (5 points)
    • 5+ (10 points)
  • How many different non-profits do you get newsletters or regular emails from?
    • None (you need to get out more)
    • 1-3 (1 point)
    • 3-5 (2 points)
    • 5-10 (5 points)
    • 10+ (10 points)
  • How many non-profit committees or boards have you served on in the past 5 years?
    • None (that makes me sad)
    • 1 (1 point)
    • 2 (2 points)
    • 3-5 (5 points)
    • 5+ (10 points)

What was your final score?

  • 0 – you should leave the country immediately)
  • 1-5 – Step up your game
  • 6-14 – Average helper
  • 15-29 – Good work, Mother Theresa would be proud
  • 30+ – God Help You – check yourself in for help!

I took the test myself and somehow I scored 1,129 – not sure how that happened. Maybe the test was hacked?

So what’s the big deal? You like to help out. What could be wrong with that?

Great question – glad you asked.

The issue is this – time.

It’s the classic issue of overcommitting yourself. Kind of like being a workaholic, which there are a zillion books are articles about. Except as a volunteeraholic, you aren’t getting paid – at least not in dollars. The reward is intrinsic.

But just like the best drug, if you are wired this way, the intrinsic reward is ridiculously addictive.

And the cycle goes like this:

  1. Volunteer too much
  2. Get burned out and “hit the wall” really, really hard
  3. Shake it off, cut back, recover
  4. Go back to Step 1

The bad news is that there really is not cure for this. So if you have this affliction, then you better buckle up and wear your helmet because that wall hurts when you hit it. And you will hit it – repeatedly. 

The good news, however, is that there will be countless people out there that you were able to help, in whatever way you did. So maybe the world is a slightly better place because of it.

More to come in Part 2…

(see you on www.thecupajoe.com soon)