Author: Adrianne DuMond
Executive Coaches of Orange County
One of the fastest ways to lose good volunteers is to cause them to suffer from burn out. They join the Board of Directors – or even help the staff – and then lose enthusiasm because they become overwhelmed with the responsibilities with no planned back up to continue the tasks once their time is over. Often, Board volunteers come from a very busy day or schedule and expect the meeting(s) to be fast paced like their work world. Let’s take the Chairman of the last fundraiser, for example. The person volunteered, is known as a good organizer, may have done one for a prior organization, and is full of enthusiasm. But when the event is finished, the person is exhausted and discouraged, even though the event raised lots of money.
There are ways to avoid this dilemma. Documenting the steps and tasks is critical to the smooth execution of successful events that don’t burn out the people involved. This also means including paid staff in the planning and documentation. Sometimes volunteers look to the paid staff to furnish the background of prior events, the evaluation of what went well and where problems occurred, and then to put together a skeletal plan for the upcoming event (prior plans, working committees, resources, vendors, their contacts) . If staff cannot provide this important information, the job is much more difficult.
Here are some guidelines for eliminating burn out:
- Designate a successor to key positions ( like President-elect, Fundraiser Chairman-elect, Budget Chairman-elect, etc.) so that future transitions are easier.
- Document, document, document – key areas of responsibility, the steps to the task, resources and contacts.
- Make sure that the staff person assigned to this project is diligent about being able to define the tasks and responsibilities for the volunteers.
Let’s keep those volunteers coming back.