If you’re like most non profit organizations, you have all kinds of volunteers: enthusiastic and boisterous, or quietly committed. You have volunteers who are good at one thing and those who are good at many things. And you probably have some who don’t know their limits.
Before you lose valuable volunteers to burnout, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of volunteer burnout—and how to prevent it.
- Volunteers are not happy. Check in often to make sure your volunteers are still enjoying their work. Remember, they’re not getting paid, so satisfaction is important to keep volunteers engaged. If they’re not having fun, it may be time for a break.
- Your volunteers are worried about getting their work done or missing deadlines. Pressure is not good for anyone. If your volunteers are stressed out about their workload, you could lose them fast. Find ways to spread out the work.
- Your volunteers are irritable with fellow volunteers, or even worse—with clients. This is a sure sign of burnout, and it can have serious consequences. Any volunteer who is resentful of staff, clients and fellow volunteers to the point of becoming bad-tempered is in need of a talking to. Find out what’s bothering him or her, and offer a new position or leave of absence.
- The laughter and positive atmosphere has disappeared. Listen to your volunteers as they work and interact with each other. Do you hear laughter and light conversation? Or do you hear snapping, heavy sighs or nothing at all?
Usually, the best volunteers, whose dedication and work ethic leads them to overdo it, are more susceptible to burnout. Keep the lines of communication open and check in often with all of your volunteers. Insist on a break for those who have been working too much or are starting to show signs of wear. And remember to show your appreciation often. Sometimes, a “thank you” is all a volunteer needs to hear to replenishment their motivation.