Project Management

Debunking 6 Myths About Volunteering

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Conrado Morlan
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Christian Bisson
Yasmina Khelifi
Sree Rao
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
David Wakeman
Ramiro Rodrigues
Wanda Curlee
Lenka Pincot
cyndee miller
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
Marat Oyvetsky

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

Governance Models: The Secret to Successful Agile Projects

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

The 4 P’s of Successful Modern PMs


2020, Adult Development, Agile, Agile, Agile, agile, Agile management, Agile management, Agile;Community;Talent management, Artificial Intelligence, Backlog, Basics, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, BIM, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Case, Business Transformation, Calculating Project Value, Canvas, Career Development, Career Development, Categories: Career Help, Change Management, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communication, Complexity, Conflict, Conflict Management, Consulting, Continuous Learning, Cost, COVID-19, Crises, Crisis Management, critical success factors, Cultural Awareness, Culture, Decision Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, digital transformation, Digitalisation, Disruption, Diversity, Documentation, Earned Value Management, Education, EEWH, Enterprise Risk Management, Escalation management, Estimating, Ethics, execution, Expectations Management, Facilitation, feasibility studies, Future, Future of Project Management, Generational PM, Governance, Government, green building, Growth, Horizontal Development, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Inclusion, Innovation, Intelligent Building, International, Internet of Things (IOT), Internet of Things (IoT), IOT, IT Project Management, IT Strategy, Knowledge, Leadership, lean construction, LEED, Lessons Learned, Lessons learned;Retrospective, Managing for Stakeholders, managing stakeholders as clients, Mentoring, Methodology, Metrics, Micromanagement, Microsoft Project PPM, Motivation, Negotiation, Neuroscience, neuroscience, New Practitioners, Nontraditional Project Management, OKR, Online Learning, opportunity, Organizational Project Management, Pandemic, People, People management, Planing, planning, PM & the Economy, PM History, PM Think About It, PMBOK Guide, PMI, PMI EMEA 2018, PMI EMEA Congress 2017, PMI EMEA Congress 2019, PMI Global Conference 2017, PMI Global Conference 2018, PMI Global Conference 2019, PMI Global Congress 2010 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2011 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2011 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2012 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2012 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2013 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2013 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2014 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2014 - North America, PMI GLobal Congress EMEA 2018, PMI PMO Symposium 2012, PMI PMO Symposium 2013, PMI PMO Symposium 2015, PMI PMO Symposium 2016, PMI PMO Symposium 2017, PMI PMO Symposium 2018, PMI Pulse of the Profession, PMO, pmo, PMO Project Management Office, portfolio, Portfolio Management, portfolio management, Portfolios (PPM), presentations, Priorities, Probability, Problem Structuring Methods, Process, Procurement, profess, Program Management, Programs (PMO), project, Project Delivery, Project Dependencies, Project Failure, project failure, Project Leadership, Project Management, project management, project management office, Project Planning, project planning, Project Requirements, Project Success, Ransomware, Reflections on the PM Life, Remote, Remote Work, Requirements Management, Research Conference 2010, Researching the Value of Project Management, Resiliency, Risk, Risk Management, Risk management, risk management, ROI, Roundtable, Salary Survey, Scheduling, Scope, Scrum, search, SelfLeadership, Servant Leadership, Sharing Knowledge, Social Responsibility, Sponsorship, Stakeholder, Stakeholder Management, stakeholder management, Strategy, swot, Talent Management, Talent Management Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Communication, Taskforce, Team Building, Teams, Teams in Agile, Teams in Agile, teamwork, Tech, Technical Debt, Technology, TED Talks, The Project Economy, Time, Timeline, Tools, tools, Transformation, transformation, Transition, Trust, Value, Vertical Development, Volunteering, Volunteering #Leadership #SelfLeadership, Volunteering Sharing Knowledge Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Trust, VUCA, Women in PM, Women in Project Management


By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP

Are you passionate about a cause? Do you want to lend a hand? Whether you’re interested in volunteering in the project management community or using your project skills to help a non-profit, you may be unsure where to start.

As a newcomer to the volunteer world myself, I had no idea what questions to ask or what to expect. So, to help other project managers, I’m sharing six of the biggest myths and misconceptions about volunteering I’ve encountered—and the key questions to ask to make the most of your experience. 

Myth #1: Volunteering is easy. 

Volunteering often means learning new skills and delivering projects alongside people you’ve never met before. That’s why building trusting relationships is key to successful engagement in volunteer opportunities—and it’s not as simple as it may sound.

As a volunteer, you’ll likely be entering into an organization with people who have already made connections and collaborated. You’ll have to prove your worth as a member of the team. Depending on the organization and your role, some specific skills are needed. As you pursue volunteer opportunities, take the time to understand the position by asking these questions:

  • Will the volunteering be in person? Or is it virtual?
  • How many hours per week, on average, does this role require?
  • How does the team communicate? How often?
  • How is information shared among team members?
  • Who will my other teammates be?

Myth #2: Volunteering requires minimal time.

Many organizations run on volunteer work, which sometimes means a lot will be asked of you. You may even end up spending your weekends or evenings working for the organization, even if at the beginning you promised yourself you’d only work a few hours a week. Set boundaries early on to ensure that both you and the organization are getting your needs met. And ask yourself these questions first:

  • What are the actual hours and commitment required? Remember, this is volunteer work—not a second unpaid job.
  • Does this opportunity fit with your personal, professional and family life? Will it generate unwarranted frustration or stress?
  • When will meetings generally take place, on the weekends or weekday evenings?

Myth #3: Commitment is flexible.

Even if it is a volunteer opportunity, you need to commit to deliver or not. Otherwise, your colleagues will be overloaded if you jump ship with short or no notice. For example, I volunteered as a community manager for the LinkedIn group of a local community and when I replaced the former admin, 500 member requests were pending! Not fulfilling your responsibilities as a volunteer damages the association’s reputation and creates added work for other parties involved. Step up or step back!

Myth #4: Communication is simple.

In many work environments, communication isn’t always valued. Volunteering adds another layer of complexity. Volunteers often communicate with teams via emails and instant messenger. Moreover, volunteers don’t always have access to the same team members that full-time staffers enjoy. This can create misunderstandings. Communication—verbal or virtual—must be clear to cut through the static. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • What are your preferred means of communication?
  • When and how can you be contacted?
  • Is there information that you, as a volunteer, will not be privy to?

Myth #5: Only the organization will benefit.

When done well, volunteering should benefit both the organization and the volunteer. Before committing to a role, clarify your goals and how they align with the organization:

  • What can you bring to the organization?
  • What can you learn?
  • Do you want to volunteer for your ego, or to help the organization and its members? Or both?
  • What are the values of the organization? Do they align with your values? 
  • How does this activity reinforce your professional goals and values, without damaging them?

Myth #6: There’s no way out.

Life can change in an instant. Your motivation also evolves. Moving on is not a mark of shame, provided you plan your exit properly. Therefore, from the outset, you should enquire:

  • Is it a flexible position? 
  • How long should I engage?
  • What is the process to stop?

What are some lessons learned from your own volunteer experiences?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: June 01, 2020 05:23 AM | Permalink

Comments (37)

Page: 1 2 next>

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Alexandre Costa Senior Software Engineer| Bango Vila Franca Do Rosário, Portugal
Very true, volunteering is not easy and who have already establish connections takes the lead.
Very nice explanation of the volunteer path we must make.

But I also believe that opportunities should be give to everyone otherwise I do we know they are capable, at least the less critical.

Thanks for the clarifying post.
Alexandre Costa

Eduin Fernando Valdes Alvarado Project Manager| F y F Fabricamos Futuro Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia
Thanks for sharing., very interesting.

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Eduin, thank you. Hope it is helpful. Stay safe, Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Alexandre, thank you for your insightful comments. Volunteering is a very rewarding journey but challenging sometimes. Stay safe! Yasmina

Joshua Yoak Evanston, Il, USA
Nice article. Unfortunately a lot of volunteers have fallen for some of those myths.

Rodrigo Gregorio Manager| Lite-On Singapore Pte Ltd Singapore, Not Specified, Singapore
Very interesting and informative. I used to volunteer for an environmental and another for educational cause. Thanks for sharing.

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Rodrigo,thank you for sharing your experience. Stay safe. Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Joshua thank you for your kind comment. Indeed. Stay safe, Yasmina

Lenka Pincot Chief of Staff to the CEO| Project Management Institute Prague, Czechia
This is excellent article and very helpful for anyone who is interested in volunteering. I can relate to so many points in the article from my own experience as volunteer. Thank you for writing this

Rami Kaibni Senior Projects Manager | Field & Marten Associates New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Excellent points Yasmina. I would add one more myth:

Volunteering is not for people who have time, but for those who have the heart.

Jessica Mooney Project Manager| PPD Orlando, Fl, USA
It's nice to see an article drawing attention to volunteer work. Any thoughts on a follow up article on how to utilize PM skills for volunteer organizations/activities?

Tanna Edwards Project/Admiistrative Assistant -IT| Trent University Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Great article Yasmina. As a life-long volunteer, I can honestly say that I have gained far more than I have given. Life does happen though, so both parties should expect change. Along the way, work together to advance the aims of the organization. Above all, have fun and enjoy volunteering!

Maysa Qasem Janabyia, Northern Governorate, Bahrain
Thank you for sharing your experience on volunteering. Many people do fall into these myths. Your article struck a cord in the world of volunteering.

In my experience with volunteering, one will have to treat any volunteer opportunity as if it is a project and not an ongoing program; One should define his/her level of volunteering, limits, and always choose the kind of volunteering opportunities that will have a defined deadline just like a project does. Many people run into a cycle of volunteering with no deadlines, no targets, and end up being exhausted after a while and regret volunteering to begin with. Another common mistake.

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Maysa, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. And you are perfectly right: I am a new volunteer and I have noticed that volunteers get exhausted and frustrated. Your advice is very helpful. Stay safe. Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Rami, thank you so much for your awesome comment! You made my day. Passion and hear fuel volunteers! Stay safe. Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Lenka, thank you very much for your wonderful comments. I hope it will help future volunteers. Stay safe, Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Tanna, thank you for your awesome comment. Yes volunteering is very rewarding, even for a newcomer like me. Stay safe, Yasmina

Yasmina Khelifi Senior Project Manager| ORANGE Paris, France
Hi Jessica, thank you so much for your insightful comment. I'll think about it. Stay safe! Yasmina

Cynthia Costa Senior Project Manager| Southern New Hampshire University Epping, Nh, USA
Great article Yasmina. I agree with Alexandre in that there is opportunity to share responsibilities with others, bring them on to the team, so that they become more responsible and we more overseeing. It is a game changer to educate and enable new volunteers. Thank you for sharing Yasmina! Cindy

Joan Borger Lead Bus & Tech Consultant| Duke Energy Clover, Sc, USA
Very timely article! I like the questions you posed for each myth, really helpful. Thank you for sharing your volunteer experiences

Page: 1 2 next>

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."

- Mark Twain