A Burned-Out Volunteer Talks to “Ask Amy”

An interesting question was posed to Amy Dickinson of Ask Amy in her Sept. 2 column in the Washington Post that every association executive – volunteer managers in particular – should read. The writer, known only as Time for Change asked if there is a proper way to resign from organizations without citing specific reasons. “Time” had reached burn-out after 40 years of “volunteering countless hours.” (Yes, I do admit to scanning Ask Amy after all it’s on the comics page.)

Amy suggested that there were two ways: (1) short, sweet, respectful memo of thanks but done or (2) a candid conversation (or note) citing “specific and valid reasons” for burnout. I love that she encouraged the writer to do this (as she called it) “favor” so they could also learn from the experience. Too often we let volunteers completely fall off the radar without notice or, in as many cases, without a good exit interview.

The Decision To Volunteer study demonstrated in its findings that communications is too often a stumbling block for associations. On one hand, the study indicates that “lack of information” and “never been asked” are among the top 3 reasons for not volunteering. Other addressable issues were poor follow-through with volunteers, forgetting to thank them, poor communication, lack of support or training, and unclear roles.

As we say for every complainer there are nine others who just haven’t told you. So Time is one voice of many … and they are talking to Amy and their colleagues and their neighbors and … Maybe it’s time we started the conversation or at least got into it.