How to Avoid Volunteer Burnout

by: Stephanie Adair, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

At some point in life, we all experience burnout. The responsibilities we carry grow more burdensome, to the point even enjoyable tasks seem like a chore. Typically, most think of burnout occurring from our duties at work, school or home, but even non-profit volunteers can feel stuck in a rut from time-to-time. It’s a common problem, but how can we avoid it? Well, like any successful business or organizational structure, it’s all about proper management. Here are five ways to minimize volunteer burnout:

Be Transparent About Job Demands

No one likes to be out of the loop – especially when it comes to expectations in a new role. When meeting with your volunteers to go over job descriptions, make sure they have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, who they will be working with, and who to ask when they need help. Then tension caused from not knowing what to do or who to talk to might be small at first, but can grow into a bigger problem later on. This perfectly leads in to our second tip…

Communication is Key

Clear, efficient information is crucial to the success of any organization. It’s also important for employee/volunteer morale. Ensure that all authoritative members are approachable and have positive working relationships with subordinates. Furthermore, take the time to reach out to your volunteers and ask if they have any questions or concerns. “Shy” volunteers are less likely to approach their supervisor about a problem, in fear of “rocking the boat”. Reaching out first eliminates this scenario and enables their voice to be heard.

A Little Recognition Goes a Long Way

There’s a reason your volunteers chose to join your campaign: They’re passionate about your cause. The men and women who support your organization give their all to serve others. Why not let them know how much they are appreciated? It doesn’t take much – maybe just an email or a pat on the back. Or perhaps a semi-annual dinner. You could even hand out a few awards at the end of the year. There are a million ways to say “your work matters” – make an effort to find which methods work best for your organization.

Keep it Fresh

Some jobs can be a little monotonous after a while – doing the same repetitive tasks over and over again. Look into the possibility of creating a staff rotation for these positions. Volunteer A can cover the task for one week, then volunteer B can pick up the next. Giving variety to your volunteer’s work can keep them focused and engaged – not to mention, avoiding burnout.

This is also a beneficial method for positions that are emotionally taxing. Sharing the responsibility between a small team gives these volunteers time to process their experiences and recharge as needed.

Let Them Know They’re Making a Difference

People are purpose-driven creatures. More specifically, your volunteers strive to champion what is good and just. Yes, as covered above, saying “good job” is appreciated, but nothing is more rewarding than knowing how you made a difference in someone’s life. If your volunteer’s position does not directly interact with the client, make sure you keep them in the loop. Let them know how much was raised at a fundraiser they were a part of. Talk about the real-life impact the organization had on an individual or family. A monthly newsletter is a great way to illustrate how your volunteer’s contributions made a difference in the lives of others.