Spark Joy in Your Volunteers!

Did you know 59% of American workers experience some level of burnout? It’s real. So is volunteer burnout. And that burnout can have serious consequences for associations and their chapters.

But it’s not an impossible situation. It can be solved with both CRPs and volunteers working together to alleviate and prevent burnout and create a rewarding volunteer opportunity.

On the March 27 webinar, Peggy Hoffman guided us through deciphering and recognizing volunteer burnout, and how to develop effective strategies to create a fulfilling volunteer experience. Listen to the full webinar here and check out some important tidbits below …

Burnout is the #1 enemy of volunteer time. Burnt out volunteers will say “no” more frequently, won’t respond to emails or show up for meetings and events, drop the ball on important tasks, and become quickly disillusioned. This lack of motivation can lead to recycled leadership that is working on autopilot using outdated practices. The result? The chapter becomes stale.

This, in turn, affects a chapter’s ability to serve its members. Members begin to question their involvement, missing out on career development and networking opportunities that volunteering can provide.

How can we recognize volunteer burnout and what can we do about it? First, accept that volunteer burnout is usually caused by stress related to volunteering conditions. Yes, external factors can contribute, but volunteer burnout results directly from the volunteers’ experience performing the work or interacting with the organization.

For example, enthusiasm wanes when there’s a lack of clarity on the volunteer role (what am I doing and how do I do it?) or a lack of purpose (Why am I doing this? Am I making a difference?). Additionally, unmanageable and time-consuming roles will only increase that stress. Add in a lack of adequate support and communications from volunteer leaders, plus a lack of recognition for all the hard work, and you’ll have one frustrated volunteer.

What can we do? Communication is top of the list. Do a personal check-in. Ask if they are experiencing general life stressors or specific stressors.  Find out what they need from you. Ask how they’re doing, how they like the work, and how are they balancing volunteering with their work and home lives.

Then adjust as needed. Work with them to alleviate any stress so they can still enjoy volunteering. Lighten the load and help them set priorities. Encourage them to take a break (or say no)! Switch their roles so they can try something new/different. And most importantly, help them to refocus. Volunteers are passionate, but they often lose sight of “why” they signed up to begin with. Help them get back to their “why.” p.s. check out this post on how you can shake up your volunteer strategy.

Need more? Here are 6 strategies to prevent chapter volunteer burnout:

  1. Rethink volunteer roles … Offer roles that matter and have impactful goals and metrics. Follow form, not function.
  2. Reduce the chapter volunteer workload by tapping into technology for financial and administrative tasks. Spread the work through micro-volunteering opportunities.
  3. Offer opportunities for building skills via role-specific training through various methods.
  4. Create a supportive environment for volunteers. Treat them like VIPs. Ask for their opinion, offer perks, and cultivate a culture of inclusion and belonging.
  5. Connect chapter leaders with their community of peers. Let them know they aren’t alone.
  6. Spark joy. Celebrate their accomplishments with heavy doses of recognition. Let them see that they are part of a larger community.

And finally … Celebrate National Volunteer Week 4/21-27! Spread the word about how awesome your volunteers are. You can download a social media #NVW toolkit including sample posts and logo from Points of Light to help you make the most out of this year’s celebration.

Here are some additional resources for your reading pleasure:

Featured Image:
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash