The pros and cons of short-terms vs. long-term volunteering

There are many advantages to volunteering in your community. Whether it’s a one-off event, or a long-term position, giving back through volunteerism shows dedication, and highlights your attitude towards the well-being of others. In this day and age, many employers consider volunteering “real” work experience, as these opportunities are both valuable learning experiences and require a great deal of dedication.

Volunteer Cork Board

One-day Volunteering


  • Many volunteer organizations have one or two big events each year. Though these are huge fundraisers for them, the events usually surpass the amount of manpower and capabilities of staff members. This results in a need for support from community volunteers.
  • These short-term opportunities allow you to diversify your experience with several different positions across many events or fundraisers. You may find yourself helping with registration at one event, then at a prize booth at another.
  • Volunteering at a few one-day events each year will help you achieve your community service hours quickly. You may even decide to continue volunteering long after your hours have been completed.
  • One-day events take less time from your schedule, so these types of positions can be great for busy people. Volunteering for a few hours on a weekend is do-able for most and still allows you to give back to the community.
  • Volunteering at one-day events gives you the opportunity to meet dozens, if not hundreds, of people. It is a great chance to network and make valuable connections in the community – something that may be helpful for you down the road.


  • When a large event has wrapped up, there may be no more work for the volunteer until the following year even though a volunteer may be interested in further contributing their time throughout the year.
  • It can be a little overwhelming if you’re new to the role and not very familiar with the organization you’re volunteering for. Be sure to take advantage of orientation sessions and know who to ask about the organization and your role when you have questions.
  • There is limited ability to apply your expertise and skills in a short-term position or to learn new skills.
  • There is limited time to get to know people in depth. Consider exchanging contact information to meet new acquaintances again after the event has wrapped up.
Long-term volunteering


  • Usually, long-term positions, such as committee or board positions allow you to fulfill a “role” such as Sponsorship Coordinator or Food and Beverage Coordinator. As you gain experience in the community, you may take an interest in a particular organization or role, and ask to join the group of volunteers who plan the events. You will be responsible for the success of this aspect of the event. You may even be interested in being a Volunteer Coordinator, ensuring positions similar to ones you had volunteered for in the past are filled.
  • You can learn a lot by volunteering on a committee or board. Even though you’ll likely have a dedicated role, you will still hear the updates from others, and perhaps even give feedback or useful suggestions to help them out. For example, when the Treasurer gives an update about the budget, it’s a good opportunity to understand the financial side behind the effort you’re volunteering for, or if the Volunteer Coordinator mentions they are struggling to recruit enough volunteers, you may have helpful suggestions for them.
  • Long-term volunteering looks great on a resume. It shows dedication towards your community, a strong work ethic, and an eagerness to expand your knowledge and skill base. Additionally, these opportunities may help to fill gaps in your resume, such as school terms, or if you’re in between jobs.
  • You have an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships and get to know people on a deeper level when you meet often during volunteer shifts, at events, etc. Often, those friendships grow beyond your role and blossom regardless of whether you are volunteering or not.


  • Committee or board work can be a significant time commitment, upwards of a few hundred hours per year, depending on how much work you take on. Make sure you know what your limits are, and communicate them with the Chair of your committee or Volunteer Manager. Because these roles often have a greater level of responsibility, it’s important the work does not prevent you from fulfilling your other responsibilities, such as work, school, family, and friends.
  • Depending on the nature of the work, you may begin to develop a strong emotional connection. Most times it is not a bad thing, but can be if left unnoticed. Be sure that you don’t bring any emotional baggage home with you. If the work becomes overwhelming, talk to someone you can trust about your difficulties and think of ways to help offset the stress – even if it means finding a different volunteer opportunity.
  • You may notice increased expenses if you are required to do a lot of driving, or purchasing items on behalf of the organization. Be sure to ask if these costs can be reimbursed, such as by submitting mileage, or expense claims.

Regardless of whether you’re able to volunteer for a few hours on a weekend, or long-term over the course of years, the greatest part about volunteerism is the satisfaction you feel when you know you’re making a difference. Many people don’t realize the time and effort that goes into volunteering (e.g. putting events and fundraisers together). Only through volunteering with an organization, can you appreciate the effect that volunteers have. Many organizations only have a small number of staff members due to budget restrictions, and support from volunteers like you is essential to their success.


2 thoughts on “The pros and cons of short-terms vs. long-term volunteering”

  1. This was an interesting article. For those new to volunteerism it provided a clear overview of the difference between the two time commitments. There is a another type I would like to mention; the episodic long term volunteer. This is a volunteer who only volunteers for special events but continues to volunteer for the same events year after year.

    Pros: Over time the volunteer will gain a very strong sense of the organization and have an opportunity to form close relationships with both staff and other volunteers as there tends to be a core group that return each year.

    There is an opportunity to build leadership skills. This is especially positive for younger volunteers looking for some solid experience to add to their resume. The volunteer can start in a position that does not require expertise and over time take on more leadership opportunities within the event. These leadership opportunities require less time commitment than being on the event planning committee, but more time than just assisting with a day of position. The position is still accommodating to busy schedules as generally any additional training is set up around the volunteers schedule.

    Cons: For those volunteers in a leadership role, a commitment needs to be made much earlier in advance of the start of the event so the Volunteer Manager can assemble their team and begin recruiting to fill any open spots. Typically leaders sign up for next year’s event during the debrief, but It does not have to be quite that early.

    As a veteran event volunteer, you may be asked periodically to take on more responsibility for the event. If this is not something you want than you need to be firm. For example, if you have helped at the registration desk for the past 5 years, the Volunteer Manager may ask you to take on the set up and organizing of the space as well as supervising the volunteers the day of the event. If you do not want this responsibility, you need to be clear.

    The episodic, long term volunteer is cherished by Volunteer Managers as they bring dedication and knowledge to the role. Having such dedicated volunteers, reduces the amount of time a Volunteer Manager needs to spend on recruiting and training new volunteers each year.

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