How to Tactfully Resign From a Volunteer Position

Whether you are resigning from a voluntary or paid position, approach the situation tactfully and gracefully. You may feel bad at deciding to leave your voluntary work more than you would when deciding to leave paid employment.

This is simply because you will be aware that voluntary organizations need all the help they can get, which is presumably why you started the work in the first place.

It is therefore likely you might care about your voluntary work more than paid work. You should not feel bad about leaving the voluntary position though. Personal demands mean that situations change, and the organization will be aware of that. How do you actually go about resigning from your voluntary position tactfully? There are some rules of thumb that are best followed. Use the following advice to make your transition easy for everyone.

Why do you want to resign?

People resign from volunteer positions for all sorts of reasons. The reason could be you have discovered the position is just not suitable for you, because you are finding the work too demanding or it does not fit your personality. The reason could also be due to more practical things, such as you no longer have the time or a family emergency has arisen. Before you bite the bullet and hand in your resignation, consider if there are other options available.

If you are thinking of leaving because the work schedule has changed and you can no longer commit to that schedule, think about whether you could volunteer in another capacity. You may be able to cut down your hours, volunteer at one-off events or work in a virtual capacity online. If practical changes are forcing your hand to leave, speak to the staff to see if there are other options available. Is your reason for leaving because you are experiencing a problem with the organization? If so, talk it through with a member of staff. You may find there is a solution to the issue and you can stay on after all.

When to Resign

Before you actually hand in your resignation, consider when the best time to leave would be. For instance, if you are working with children or people with learning difficulties, your departure could be tough-going for them. Therefore, try to give a fair amount of warning before you leave so those people can have time to get used to the idea that you will not be around. It is sometimes important to say goodbye properly to those people you have built up a relationship with, especially if they are vulnerable. It also helps the organization greatly if you can give as much notice as possible, as this allows the organization to have the time to find a replacement.

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It is best not to leave during the middle of a project too, especially if your work has been essential to it. If you have no choice but to leave a project unfinished, ask a colleague if they can complete the outstanding tasks for you, or leave instructions as to how the work should be completed. The last thing you want to do is leave your colleagues in a lurch.

How to Tactfully Resign

Resign from your voluntary placement as gracefully as you would from a paid job. The first reason for acting in this way is it is common courtesy. Simply informing the organization the day before you intend to leave will leave the organization short-handed. The organization will therefore not be too happy at your sudden and unexpected departure. However, in times of family and other emergencies, this cannot be helped, and your circumstances will be understood.

Most of the time though, it is best to give the organization plenty of notice so that it has time to prepare. Simply not turning up to work one day is also inconsiderate. Even though you are working in a voluntary capacity, it can be rude and disrespectful to not attend your next shift without telling anyone. The organization will have to quickly decide how it is going to cover you and your responsibilities.

Another reason for why you should officially put in your notice, in the way that you would with paid employment, is so you will be able to receive a reference from the organization. A reference from a voluntary job can be used to secure your next volunteer placement or a future paid job. It is best to leave on good terms, for the organization’s sake and yours. Leaving under unfavorable conditions could backfire in many ways, especially if there is someone within the organization who has the ability to assist you in your career or paid job.

Resigning does not have to be traumatic for anyone. In many instances, your supervisor will be understanding. Follow this list to make the break amicable:

  • Write an email or a formal letter to your volunteer coordinator, informing him or her that you are no longer able to work. A telephone call is also an acceptable way of putting in your resignation.
  • Be polite and respectful in your email, letter or telephone call.
  • When writing an email or letter, make sure it is professional-looking by following the standard rules of writing a business letter. Proofread it carefully too.
  • You do not need to give detailed information about your reasons for leaving. Keep your resignation brief and to the point.
  • If appropriate, you could offer to assist in the transition of your work to another volunteer.
  • If your departure is likely to be temporary, or you want to keep your options open, you can also state that you would be open to returning in the future.
  • Be sure to say thank you for the opportunity. A little appreciation goes a long way.
  • Although you will not be contracted to give a certain amount of notice, it is best practice to give at least two weeks’ notice, if you can. Regardless of how much notice you are giving, be sure to clearly state the last day you will be working as a volunteer.

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