Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Volunteering for Charity Should Not Require Money

DEAR HARRIETTE: I volunteer for a charity group a few hours a week. I do not get compensated for the work that I do, which is fine by me. However, there are conferences scheduled throughout the year that cost hundreds of dollars to attend. They are usually in a remote location and cost $200 a ticket. I feel like my work isn’t appreciated because I am made to feel left out when I don’t attend a conference. Could it be time for me to leave this charity? -- No Extemporaneous Spending, Boston

DEAR NO EXTEMPORANEOUS SPENDING: You must speak up. Many people who volunteer for charities can afford to offer their time and resources without compensation. You should not assume that your charity knows your financial circumstances. Instead of deciding that you have to leave the charity, be proactive. Speak to your supervisor, and share your desire to attend the various conferences and other activities that they host. Explain that you cannot afford to attend. You appreciate the organization tremendously, which is why you have volunteered for as long as you have, but you cannot afford to do the other activities. Ask if there is budget to send you to these events. The time may be right to ask if there is an actual job for you. Instead of walking away, find out if you can become an employee. If the organization values you and has the resources, you may have just found yourself a new paying job.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother is much older than I am (15 years) and just had a child. I have been asked to be my nephew’s godmother! Honestly, I am not quite sure what this position entails. I am honored, but I don’t know if being a teenage godmother is frowned upon, or if I could even fulfill whatever duties I am supposed to do. -- Godmother Duties, Tampa, Florida

DEAR GODMOTHER DUTIES: You are right to take this role seriously. When a person accepts the role of godparent, it means that you intend to help guide the child in his or her life. You agree to be a moral compass for that person, including being a sounding board as the child grows up. The goal is to be an extra support to a maturing child, someone who can reinforce the parents’ beliefs and help ensure that he or she stays safe and well-focused for a fulfilling, honorable life.

Can you do that? Sure. You should also know that this is probably a way that your brother is hoping you can become close to him and his family, despite the big age gap between you. Rather than considering this an awesome burden, think of it as an opportunity to get closer to your family and be an important contributor to your nephew. It does make a huge difference for family to bond together when a child comes into the family. Go for it. You can still enjoy your own growing up and the many twists and turns inherent in that. Being a godparent may help you to make smarter choices for your own life as well!

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)