Non Profit Development

Staff and Volunteer Burn-Out: 3 Ways to Avoid It!

by Mellissa Rempfer on December 14, 2014 1 comment

Many of you who work with non profits at some point you were involved as a volunteer. Perhaps you had a wonderful experience. Perhaps you were left dissastified. Perhaps you felt like it was time to move on or life was changing directions. What ever the reason that lead to a change in what you did as a volunteer, the worse is to have burn out. Just as you might have experienced burn-out, we want to help you so that you can avoid it with your volunteers.

You may recognise this feeling in yourself and/or those who you work with. Starting to dread the commitment you made to attend a function or stuff envelopes. Maybe you have an excuse already in mind when the ask comes if you could help with…(fill in the blank). Whatever the reasoning that is given, in this sector volunteers are your life line. Without volunteers to support the cause; it costs more money in staff and it is not like money grows in trees for charities.

Here are three ways to avoid Volunteer Burn-Out:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the Volunteer or staff.

    Sounds simple enough, but too often volunteers are seen as someone to complete a task. These are people who are giving up their resources in skills, time and probably money. Make sure that the thank you is genuine and sincere. If it is just a smile saying Thank You, a card, or hey bring them some coffee every once in a while when you make your coffee run. The volunteer will value that you noticed them and this could motivate them to continue to support your cause.

  • Meet their Needs.

    Say you have 5 people who have agreed to volunteer. You just completed an intake and now you assign them to areas A, B and C. Great, you get them started. Question for you, during the intake did you find out what they are interested in? I am not saying what their CV or resume said, but what did they say they are interested in? I share this because this has happened to me many many times. Most of the time there was no intake process and my submission to wanting to volunteer resulted in stuffing envelopes. After a period of time the volunteer who completes the task they have been assigned will experience burn-out simply from lack of using their skills and boredom. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the simplicity of stuffing envelopes, but I, like other volunteers enjoy challenges. One organisation took the time to ask what do I want out of volunteering and I will share it was the most fulfilling and enjoyable years of my life as a volunteer. So before you even start the path of burn-out, ask the volunteer what do they want and help them meet their needs and desires.

  • Develop and Transition.

    Burn-out often comes as a result of lack of growth and/or overuse. If you have a volunteer that you see potential in and who is committed to the success of your organisation, take the time to create a development plan for them. This helps the volunteer know that you want to keep them around and invest in them as they are investing in the charity. This should be something that offers them growth as well as give them a time frame for how long they will be working in this capactity and role. Transition is crucial and I recommend that each area should have a volunteer no more than 2 years. (3 years for Board Members, but majority of volunteers, no more than 2). The volunteer can stay involved, but if you have someone stay in the same role, it limits other volunteers who may want to step up. It also will decrease the burn out from the volunteers while spreading the wisdom and commitment to those involved.

Please share your comments about solutions and experiences with volunteer burn-out. Feel free to pass this along to others who may be interested.

So take care of those Volunteers, so Volunteer Burnout does not strike your organization!

Till next time,

-Mellissa Rempfer

Giving Excellence, host of the Brilliance and Business community

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Mellissa RempferStaff and Volunteer Burn-Out: 3 Ways to Avoid It!

Warning! Check Engine Light: Volunteer Burn-Out Symptoms

by Mellissa Rempfer on December 14, 2014 No comments

You are sitting in your vehicle, cruising along to somewhere when da da dummm… the dreaded Check Engine Light or Service Engine Soon Light pops on. What goes through your head… “Oh no, I can’t afford this right now!”, “Again, really, I just had this checked!”, “Hmmm, this is strange, nothing appears to be wrong”. Whatever you can think or imagine I highly doubt if your initial response was, “Yay! I love when this light comes on. Thank you!” As humans, even the most positive people probually do not greet the light with a warm welcome. Yet, the light has a purpose and if we respond accordingly then we can be saving ourselves from time, resources and a huge headache. The same can be true for volunteers who are showing signs of Burn Out.

This week, we will be focusing on burn out symptoms that would lead to a check engine or service engine soon light to go off showing signs of distress with your volunteers and volunteer management.

Just like with the light going on in the vehicle, this is a warning. The issue/cause/situation could be minor, a one-time thing or it could be something of significance. No matter how minor to major it may be; the issue needs to be looked into just as the same response of inquiring is needed for your volunteers.

Symptoms in volunteers that trigger a warning light:

  • Change in communication frequency.

    You may notice that the volunteer used to be really good at communicating with you and others and lately it seems that they are taking longer to respond or not at all. You may also have an increase in communication, but not showing signs of production and work; this increase in communication either in person or through phone calls, emails and other correspondence will have a tint of complaints, grumbling or unhappiness.

  • Decrease or not signing up to participate.

    This is a huge symptom that a warning light is on. When Volunteers stop signing up or agreeing to participate. Better get this checked out.

  • “I have nothing to do”.

    If you have a volunteer who tells you they have nothing to do, and you have nothing for them to do; again a warning sign. It is ok to have nothing for a volunteer to do for a short period of time because they completed their assignment, it is another issue completely when you hear this statement more than once. Now would be a good time to look at how you are managing the volunteers and how much or more likely how little are you delegating or offering volunteers to grow and develop.

  • Burn-out

    Burn-out is really a lack of desire to do any more. Maybe you have the same volunteers do the same thing all the time and the person wants something new. Maybe, the person is bored and not being challenged. Perhaps they just feel unappreciated. Whatever it may be as the cause, burn out is a general term that we can all relate to and it shows up as a warning light very clearly.

  • No new ideas, “We have always done it this way”

    One of the gifts that volunteering can do for organizations is bring in people from different backgrounds and expertize to help your organization. If you or experience the symptom of no new ideas or hear the statement, “we have always done it this way”; again warning sign something needs to be looked into. With lack of fresh ideas or even looking at things with different perspectives, it can be challenging for organizations to continue to grow and develop. This is really crucial when it deals with raising money or trying new things to expand and educate/promote who and what you are doing and offering. If it is always the same, your organization will become static.

So this week look at your volunteers and how they are managed. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no signs at all and 10 being a warning light. Check the status of these symptoms. And if you do have them, what are you going to do about it? Please share and leave comments, love to hear from you.

Till next time,

-Mellissa Rempfer

Giving Excellence, host of the Brilliance and Business Community

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Mellissa RempferWarning! Check Engine Light: Volunteer Burn-Out Symptoms