According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national rate of volunteerism fell to a low point of 24.9% in 2015. Then, remarkably, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported that volunteerism reached an all-time high in 2018 at 30.3%. It’s amazing what can change in just a few years. Depending on your organization type, your volunteer rate may go up and down as well.
The Risk of Volunteer Burnout
Aside from economic factors, volunteer burnout plays a major role in your rate of volunteerism. When it comes to not only attracting but retaining volunteers, if you aren’t hitting the mark, you could risk a high rate of volunteer burnout. Even though these folks aren’t paid, it still costs your organization in time and money to re-train new volunteers. So preventing fatigue with volunteers really is the best strategy.
Early Signs of Volunteer Burnout
Catching a volunteer before they are “too far gone” can help you turn things around. Watch out for early warning signs, such as individuals who seem to feel overwhelmed. These individuals may start to have increasing absences with creative new excuses. Others may start to communicate that they don’t feel their work is making a difference. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand. While these indicators aren’t a surefire sign of burnout, it’s good to give extra attention to volunteers who fit this bill.
8 Ways to Prevent Volunteer Burnout Across Organizations
What are some ways to prevent volunteer burnout? Let’s take a look.
- Set expectations early. Just like any relationship, good communication is the key to avoiding misunderstandings about a volunteer’s role, time expectations and job functions.
- Show them the impact of their work. Help volunteers connect to the greater mission you are trying to achieve by inviting them in and showing them how their help is put to use.
- Be flexible when schedules change. While it may sometimes mean more work for you, schedules are bound to change. Be forgiving and flexible so you don’t alienate volunteers.
- Connect them to the right position. If a person has great hands-on experience and ability, don’t put them behind a computer screen. Line up your people with the most suitable positions.
- Get to know your volunteers. This is the best way to keep lines of communication open for any and all signs of volunteer burnout and fatigue.
- Show them gratitude. Whether it is a verbal or printed volunteer thank you card, find a way to say “I see what you do for us and I appreciate it.”
- Schedule regular check-ins. Especially important for your new volunteers and your most valuable volunteers, a closed-door session can go a long way when it comes to managing volunteers.
- Brag about them. Thank a volunteer with an award night, during National Volunteer Week, on your social media accounts or any way you can show them a little love and bolster their energy.