Putting out the Burnout Fire

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… As we approach the holiday season, many nonprofits launch into their capital campaign and annual fundraising efforts. It’s a big time for both staff and volunteers – and everyone is crucial to making these efforts a success. Of course, with so much to do, it’s easy to get burnt out.

KnowledgeConnector has published two previous blogs about volunteer burnout (links at the bottom of this blog), so I wanted to revisit the topic and see what we can learn going forward. Both of these blogs recognize that a passionate and committed nonprofit/voluntary sector is critical to Alberta’s communities, but how do we ensure it stays vibrant? I wanted to share some tips of my own about avoiding burnout that I have developed while managing volunteers, but please feel free to share your own in the comments section!

  1. Eyes on the prize – Make sure your volunteers know what they’re working towards. Everyone works better when they know what their work is accomplishing, and measuring progress can be a big motivator. There’s nothing worse than sinking your effort into a “black hole” and not knowing what it accomplished.
  2. Recognition – We all know that volunteer recognition is key, but it may be time to re-think how you’re doing it. While we might not have time to plan volunteer appreciation parties during this season, a simple “thank-you” or a specific note about how well you think they’re doing is always appreciated.
  3. YOU can do it! – There’s nothing worse than waiting around for someone to review what you’ve done so you can move on to the next stage in your project. You’re busy – we know! So, why not give your volunteers more power over their projects? Do you really need to review their work or give the “okay” before they move on to the next phase of a project? Try revising your “check-in” points with your volunteers and streamline the process wherever possible. While giving your volunteers decision-making power can be scary (and not appropriate in all cases), it may pay dividends in terms of time, as well as volunteer satisfaction.
  4. Have fun – You know what they say, “all work and no play…” Take a moment away from the stress and to-do lists to have fun. Whether that’s a five minute yoga breathing and relaxation exercise for staff and volunteers to do together, or a group hug, taking a few minutes away from all the action will refresh your brain and your spirits.
  5. Work smarter, not harder – I know, now might not be the best time to try out a new way of doing things. But as you work, take note of which tasks are taking up most of your time, energy, and thoughts. Is there a way that you can do these things better? Consider joining (or setting up) a peer circle to discuss these issues, taking courses in the new year to learn more about these areas, or just talking to your co-workers or friends for a fresh perspective.

And, if all else fails, read this.

More KnowledgeConnector blogs about burn out:

Volunteer Burnout: Wetaskiwin Leaders Working Smarter to Bust Burnout – by Victoria Poschadel

Grow a Community Garden – Yvonne Rempel


Jenna Marynowski, Communications and Marketing Manager