Outside my normal full-time job I also work as a volunteer for a charity with no specific hours but professionally set goals, service levels and processes. It is indeed like a flexible part-time job.

I am extremely committed to the cause of the charity, however I realize that as my day job is getting more intensive I just cannot keep up with the charity work.

The best way I can sum up my problem is: I just have no time, I need to get sleep.

I am starting to postpone things a lot, not doing many things, even ignoring e-mails, and starting to get complaints from my superiors at the charity.

I want to step down but still stay involved to a certain level with those who run the organization.

In a case like this—or any other where you bail out for no adversarial reasons—what are the best things one can do to nurture a good relationship with former colleagues and the whole company?


I know EXACTLY where you are. I was heavily involved in a non-profit organization for a while. Even served on the board at the state level.

It is something you can't keep up indefinitely. It waxes and wanes, and experienced directors and board members know this. They should have seen it coming, honestly.

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is be honest and frank to whom you report. Tell them you cannot continue at the level you have been, but wish to continue to support them with "X" numbers of hours per month (make it realistic). Tell them to find someone to hand over your responsibilities to, and help the transition to the best of your ability.

You are not abandoning your convictions by stepping back. A burnt-out worker is a useless worker, whether it is in a professional or volunteer setting. Stepping aside for "fresh legs" is not only good for you, but in the long run is also good for the cause. It's like being a hockey player. No one skates the whole 60 minutes. They skate two minutes, rest four or six (depending on the league) then skate again rested and refreshed. The units may be months or years in charity work, and not minutes, but the concept is the same.

  • This is excellent advice. I would add that the best way to damage the relationship is to disconnect (ignore emails, etc) without providing a reason why. It's important to have a conversation with them quickly before the situation deterioriates further. – Roger May 22 '14 at 12:12
  • Upvote for timeboxing your volunteering. If you can give your supervisor an idea of how many hours of work you can commit vs. how many hours of work you have on your plate, they'll be in a better position to line up more resources to take over some of your work. – Carolyn May 23 '14 at 20:45

I am starting to postpone a lot, not doing many things, even ignoring e-mails, and starting to get complaints from my superiors at the charity.

I feel sympathetic to a point. When when I read, “starting to get complaints from my superiors at the charity.” I start to wince.

While you see what you are doing as charity work, it seems to me this charity is offloading a lot of real work into your role. Even worse, now that you are working full-time they seem tone-deaf to the reality of the situation.

The best suggestion I can give is to simply tell the charity that you don’t have the time, but you would be happy to train others to take on your role. That way you wind down your role, they get someone else to fill in the gaps & all should be happy.

But that said, I would also broach the topic of seeing if there is any way for you to be compensated for the work you are doing for the charity. Meaning, you don’t have enough time in the day to do work for them anymore. But would they be able to use you as a consultant? Or perhaps they could pay you some competitive wage that would make doing work for the charity truly a part-time position?

In general, it seems like you just have to wind down your role at the charity for now. And offering to train others backfilling your role is the best thing you can do.


Here are some best practices when leaving organizations on good terms:

Give plenty of notice: By giving sufficient notice (definition of sufficient could be a wide range, depends on the role, function etc) you take a lot of the stress away from the person who now has to replace you. They are always really grateful.

Clarity on the specific items you will continue to be involved in: If you want to continue to be of help, be very specific on those items so there is no confusion or hard feelings. If you are general when you leave by saying "Oh I will help out here and there" it can become problematic.

Have formal quarterly contact: I have found that setting up quarterly lunches with my ex-manager really helped keep the relationship going. It may not mean lunch but some way you continue to see people will be a big help

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