I have been a volunteer and a committee member for as long as I can remember. So much so when I leave the house, my husband calls out and reminds me to not volunteer for anything today.
Recently I have suffered from volunteer burnout. Volunteer burnout affected more than my passion for my own sports club. The effects rippled through my performance at work, relationships at home and friendships. Something I used to be passionate about become a chore.
For the club, I was a reliable volunteer who filled a large gap and shadowed the reality of a lack of volunteers. When I chose to step away from my volunteer duties, it affected the current success of the club.
For most clubs finding volunteers is hard. It is easy to ask those who put their hand up time and time again to do one more job. We ask them because we know they reliable. They do the job we need them to, and they always say yes!
We often see the signs that they are burning out, but hey, they said yes, so what’s the harm, right? Well, the harm is losing great people at our club!
Let’s look at the signs of volunteer burnout in more detail.
Less enthusiasm about goals, projects, and tasks
Passionate members of our club volunteer to contribute to something great. It's when the passion starts to fade we need to pay attention. This is a good sign that they are burning out!
Lacking in performance and work ethic
When a volunteer starts showing up to meetings late, or doing the least, it doesn't mean they are not reliable. Past performance shows they are. This behaviour points towards burnout!
They’re critical and cynical
People volunteer because they want to give back and they want to make a difference. When you start hearing a volunteer point out the negative in everything, that is a sign they are feeling burned out.
But why has the volunteer burn out occurred?
The Club has not communicated the VISION, MISSION AND STRATEGY
People want to serve a cause bigger than themselves. But often our mission, vision and strategy are fuzzy. Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how. Even if they’re written on a piece of paper most people can’t tell you what they are. The motivation for volunteers is the vision. It’s the why behind the what.
The lack of organisation
I used to joke that i worked my full time job in my free hours left after volunteering. I was happy to give up my time as a volunteer when I knew what I was working towards. What contributed to my burn out was giving up a large amount of my time only to have the direction change.
When there is a lack or organisation, we often see often vocal members become quiet. They sit back and don't contribute and thought to be lazy or a waste of space!
As a volunteer we are happy to give up our time for the club. When you devote time with no direction and resources to complete the task you can become burnt out!
Lack of Authority given to the role
So many committees and leaders worry about giving their volunteers too much responsibility. The reality is that these volunteers put their hands up to achieve club goals. Most volunteers have ideas and opinions they want to develop. Volunteers who feel that they need to ask permission for every action will often walk away. Committees who do not understand their own direction often restrict feedback. In fear of losing control, they restrict new ideas and suggestions.
Volunteers should need to be accountable.
I know. They’re volunteers. And you can’t hold a volunteer accountable can you? Wrong. You can and should.
If a volunteer is late, or does not do the task assigned to them, then you need to address it. Sure you want to do it kindly, but you need to address it.
As a volunteer who gave my all, I would often turn up early to complete my task. I found it frustrating when other volunteers would turn up late or not at all. The committee would ignore the behaviour and not address it.
You’re not giving them enough personal attention
Most clubs suffer from a lack of volunteers, and are doing most of the work themselves. But to keep good volunteers it is important that you give them enough personal attention.
Learning how to communicate with volunteers is an important concept. Some volunteers want to receive a personal phone call, some are happy with a text or email.
What ever the preference, it is important we take the time to communicate with our volunteers. Learn about their interests, skills and passions. Ensure that we are helping to achieve their goals as well as the clubs.
You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers around them
It’s never fun to lead alone. As soon as you find a high capacity volunteer, your next step should be to recruit more and move others alongside them.