Volunteer burnout is real. Whether you’ve been a committed volunteer or work for a charitable organization, you know it’s true.
What we want to make clear is that this is COMMON. It happens and it is okay. While many organizations understand and work with volunteers to prevent and cope with burnout, we know just as many who don’t know how to deal with it. This may then drive their volunteers to operate out of guilt and shame, and ultimately be unproductive.
We want to help you, as an organization trying their best to better their community, make the most out of your volunteers to avoid burnout and keep them for the long haul.
Here are a few simple tips to do just that:
- Welcome with open arms. And hearts. While being kind to your volunteers is a no brainer, this is meant to go deeper. So many nonprofit staff are overworked, which sometimes make them “too busy” to say more than a quick hello and muscle out a smile. This is not even close to being enough. Your volunteers are cherished, FREE help there to make your job easier and fight for your cause. They should be treated like the rockstars they are – every single time. Get to know them – their hearts, their goals, their dreams, and motivations – and build a REAL relationship with them. Deeply connect and keep them coming back for more.
- Communicate. And communicate more! Effectively, of course. You should always be crystal clear on expectations, duties, times, location, etc. – anything and everything they need to know in a short, easy to digest format. No need to email them an eloquent 3 page story! Respect their time – even while reading – and make it as easy as possible to get to you. Once they are there, don’t change expectations on them. Deliver what you promised and only add more or different opportunities if they offer.
- Be organized. A BIG one. It’s a bad look for you when you either 1. forget a volunteer is coming or 2. are not prepared for their help. Again, they are sacrificing their valuable time to serve. The least you can do is know they’re coming and spend a fraction of your time getting things prepared for them. Have someone coming in early? It may be nice to even greet them with coffee and a donut! The small things really add up and will keep them motivated to do their best work.
- Be transparent. This goes a little along with the first two points, and we again mean for it to go deeper. What we DON’T mean is to throw all your stress and worries on your volunteer’s shoulders. They don’t need to bear that and it will not do their productivity any good. What we DO mean is to stay honest about the work they’re doing, who they are serving, and the people they are serving with. If the moment is right, it may be beneficial to share some stories about your personal life to again continue to build a real relationship. When people connect, they thrive.
- Praise. Praise may be a little heavy, but showing them your gratitude is very important. We don’t mean just saying the words “thank you” once when they leave. We mean paying attention to detailed things about them and thanking them in a way they want to be thanked. Maybe they mentioned that they love to receive gifts or a handwritten letter – so send them a small gift or handwritten card. Or maybe they talked about wanting to try a local coffee shop – take them there! Really, just make it personal. Which should be easy when you’re getting to know them, right?
- Share impact. This is an exciting one! But also one that most staff forget to take the time to do. Share with your volunteers the specific impact they have made to your programs, productivity, or to those you serve. Did they come in to address envelopes for a solicitation campaign? Share how much you raised! Did they help buy supplies for you to use in your programs? Let them know how you used it!
- Equip. Give them knowledge, materials, and confidence to go forth and share your mission. Especially when they’re passionate, your volunteers can be your biggest advocate. You should be equipping them with everything they need to do just that, whether that’s marketing materials, sample social media posts, books, or documentaries.
Now, burnout may still happen even if you covered all of these things. Burnout can be caused by a number or external factors as well as how they are being treated in your organization. If this does happen, just communicate with them and let them know it’s okay to be tired and unmotivated. Let them rest, take breaks, and have a place to be honest.
The most important takeaway is don’t take your volunteers for granted. Whether it’s their first day or 100th, treat them like royalty and show them the love they deserve.
Want to learn more about how Donaide can help manage your volunteers? Talk to us!