It is no secret that the lifeblood of any successful nonprofit organization is its core of volunteers. Because of the necessity of these volunteers, it’s important to avoid the dreaded “burnout” that so many experience.
What Is Volunteer Burnout?
The main difference between your full-time job and your charitable responsibilities is the pay. Just as you become “burned out” from the 9-5 rate race, you can also suffer from volunteer burnout. This is a serious problem for both the volunteer and the organization and one not to be taken lightly.
All nonprofits are the same: there is always a core group of wonderful people who seem to do the lion’s share of the work. While this is great for the nonprofit, it’s not so great for the morale of the ones doing the work.
What defines volunteer burnout? The same thing that defines work burnout: volunteers become tired, disengaged, frustrated and at wits end. They’ve lost enthusiasm for the cause, they don’t find the work as fulfilling as it once was and will look for any excuse not to participate.
As the volunteer coordinator of your organization, it’s your job to identify this problem immediately and head it off at the pass. But how, you ask? There are several warning signs that your volunteers are becoming dissatisfied: constant crankiness, overreaction to the smallest issues, not completing assignments or just not showing up at all. Identifying the problem early and, more importantly, addressing it, can mean the difference between maintaining the productivity of your volunteers or losing them all together.
What Causes Volunteer Burnout and How Do I Prevent It?
As an organization that depends on volunteers, it’s important for you to understand what causes volunteer burnout before you can work to prevent it. Good volunteers are difficult to come by and you don’t want to lose those you have to something that could have been avoided in the first place. There are several reasons volunteers burnout:
- The organization’s goals are unclear and there seems to be no defined direction.
- There is too much work to be done and not enough to do it. People are afraid to say no out of fear that the work won’t otherwise get done.
- Few rewards or recognition for a job well-done.
- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Not enough downtime is a direct route to burnout.
Provide job descriptions with time commitments for each of your volunteers. This will allow them to choose the jobs that will fit in with their other time commitments.
Thank your volunteers regularly by pointing out their contributions. It’s also good practice to set up milestones and send out thank you cards, flowers or having a lunch for your volunteers who reach a certain number of hours served, for example.
Encourage your volunteers to take time off. It may mean taking on a bit more of the work load yourself for a little while, but it beats losing your volunteers permanently.
Be respectful of your volunteers’ commitments to their family, jobs and other priorities.
Have an open-door policy so that your volunteers feel comfortable in talking with you about concerns they have. Open and regular communication is key.
Volunteers are the key to your long-term success. Taking care of their needs and recognizing their contributions will keep them happy and more likely to stick around. Without them, the impact your organization COULD make will be much smaller.
Online fundraising is shaping the way nonprofits raise money. Even the large nonprofits are using online fundraising.
If your organization is new to online fundraising, here are just a few basic tips for helping you get started:
- Get legal: Just as with your offline fundraising efforts, your online fundraising has to be done legally and ethically.
- Work it into your marketing plan. Simply putting a “donate now” button on your site and waiting for your donations to come in isn’t enough. Be sure to include your online fundraising in all of your typical marketing efforts: newsletters, website, mobile marketing, etc.
- Does your site invite? You don’t need a flashy website to pull in donors. You need only to make sure you are getting your message across and with that message you are inviting your donors to come in.
- Observe proper “webiquette” Don’t spam and don’t let your website look “spammy.” Nothing turns a donor or potential donor off quicker than this.
- Be diverse. Even though you’re fundraising online, be sure to offer donors and potential donors a variety of ways to donate.
Implement just these few things and watch your online fundraising take off!