THE BLOG
09/24/2013 11:33 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2013

How to Know if You Are a Lousy Volunteer

Volunteering your time as a board member on an HOA or any other type of nonprofit organization might seem like a helpful way to selflessly spend your time, but are your contributions really beneficial? If some of these traits look familiar, your volunteer work might be doing more harm than good.

You're Always Busy
With the onset of technological devices that keep people constantly "plugged in" to their jobs and social engagements, almost everyone seems to have a million things to do at once. Having too full a schedule, however, could be a sign that you should not volunteer to be board member. Holding a position on any type of board requires a time commitment -- someone who is unable to squeeze in regular meetings may not be able to adequately contribute.

You're Lazy
Similar to the previous trait, people who are lazy may not make good board members simply because they are not prepared to meet the time commitment. The implications of regular absenteeism could involve causing the group to not make quorum, which would delay the time it takes for the board to make decisions and implement them. Also, a perpetually absent board member cannot offer many ideas or give feedback on other people's ideas--two of the main responsibilities of any board member.

You Don't Play Well with Others
Being part of a board is no different than being a part of a team -- even though everybody plays a different role, not getting along well with the other players will be a detriment to any position. Not being able to present your ideas in a way that shows you respect other people's viewpoints is a surefire way to anger the other board members. When personality conflicts arise, board meetings are at risk of becoming frustrating and inefficient.

You Can't Stand Dealing with Complaints
Being in a leadership position on an organization's board will likely involve handling complaints. Chances are, you will find at least some of them to be unnecessary and irrational. How you handle yourself when dealing with those situations is a good indicator of whether being a board member of is a good fit. Can you be respectful to the complainer and either try to calm him or her down or make the requested change, even if you are secretly chuckling to yourself? If not, that could be a sign that volunteering as a board member is not right for you.

You're Bossy
Having a strong personality that is capable of motivating others is an excellent trait ...but taken to the extreme, having a strong personality can have the opposite effect on an organization's effectiveness. People are unlikely to allow themselves to get pressured into an activity that they are neither required nor paid to do. If you natural tendency is to scare people into doing what you want them to do, then you may actually accomplish the opposite. People are more likely to volunteer their time when they feel it is their choice to do so and that their efforts are appreciated. An overbearing board member can discourage participation and create a resentful environment, resulting in a roadblock to maintaining the organization's efficiency.

You're Too Passive
While it is not necessary to spearhead every operation, having a willingness to direct others and the ability to contribute one's thoughts in a group setting will make you a much stronger board member. It's never productive to belittle other people or to be domineering, but the other extreme is similarly counterproductive. Someone who does not feel comfortable instructing other people or who feels too timid to express his or her ideas may be limited in the amount they can contribute to the group.

You're Indecisive
A key facet of any board is that they are able to accomplish what they set out to accomplish. Being meticulous is a positive trait, but being too worried about whether a choice is the right one can stall the board's progress. Creating an environment in which it takes seemingly forever to decide on and implement a change is detrimental for any organization; for that reason, people who are unable to trust their instincts enough to make a choice and stick with it should think twice before volunteering their time as a board member. As with any goal, the finish line cannot be reached before the first step is taken.

Participation on an officer board is a great way to help serve your community -- provided you are not unintentionally hindering the group's progress. If you see yourself in any of these traits and wish to volunteer (or currently volunteer) as a board member, try to think of small adjustments you can make to ensure that you are placing a high priority on the effectiveness of the organization: If you get angry when people ignore your ideas, then try considering their ideas. If you get irritated when people complain, realize that you might not know the whole story. While it is unrealistic to expect to always be a perfect board member, placing the group's interests at the center of your decisions will put you on track to being a valuable board member.