How to Keep Our Volunteers Fired Up in their Passion to Serve

How to Keep Our Volunteers Fired Up in their Passion to Serve

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You know the excitement when “the stars align” and things and circumstances just unexpectedly but miraculously come together in a positive and favourable way?

Well, today is one such day for us here in Emmaus, when we see our two passions—volunteer partnerships and burnout prevention—come together, as we find this marvellous article about preventing and managing volunteer burnout.

The article by Kayla Matthews is indeed well-written and provides good handles in understanding, preventing and managing burnout for our volunteers (or for that matter, anyone).

In Emmaus’ spirit of “fueling good”, we provide an executive summary of the article here for you:

  • We need to nip volunteer burnout in its bud because, if not,
    • (i) it will affect productivity,
    • (ii) the burnout will spiral downwards for our volunteers,
    • (iii) our worn-out and unenthused volunteers will affect their ability to be positive representatives of our organizations to service users, current and potential donors and volunteers and,
    • (iv) if I may add, affect the morale of fellow volunteers and staff.
  • Warning signs include:
    • (i) distinct changes in a volunteer’s personality,
    • (ii) display of cynicism, anger, irritability, loss of enjoyment,
    • (iii) verbalization of being overwhelmed by their roles and/or its emotional requirements,
    • (iv) feeling that they are not making an impact,
    • (v) changes in reliability and productivity e.g. faithful volunteers beginning to have “no-shows” or show up late or are careless.
  • Volunteer burnout can originate from our organization e.g. poor management, having too much on their plate, a mismatch between their expectations and their actual roles, lack of training, lack of check-ins with them, lack of feedback about the impact they are making etc.
  • Reaction to general life stresses e.g. stress at work, strain in family life, health problems could also masquerade as Volunteer Burnout

Matthews goes on to suggest some strategies to prevent and manage Volunteer Burnout:

  • Strategies to prevent Volunteer Burnout:
    • (i) Maintain a stable working relationship between volunteers and their Volunteer Partnerships Professionals with an open line of communication,
    • (ii) be honest about what the volunteer role entails e.g. for emotionally challenging work and if role might potentially not match volunteers’ expectations,
    • (iii) provide training including training on self-care,
    • (iv) schedule regular check-ins with volunteers,
    • (v) provide allowance for workload to be lightened, for breaks and also flexibility in scheduling,
    • (vi) communicate impact because most volunteers offer their services wanting to make a difference. But some things, especially those which are large and systemic, takes time.
  • Strategies to manage Volunteer Burnout: This is why being a Volunteer Partnerships Profesional requires high emotional intelligence. They can:
    • (i) continue to be sensitive to what the volunteer is going through,
    • (ii) help them understand that burnout is not a weakness and that burnout is no respecter of persons,
    • (iii) process with them what is causing the burnout and work out an intervention plan,
    • (iv) encourage the volunteer to have a self-care plan and practice it e.g. journal writing, taking walks etc and 
    • (v) allow the volunteer to temporarily reduce their workload or go on a leave of absence.

Yes indeed, anyone is susceptible to burnout and you can prevent and beat burnout. Keen to help your staff and volunteers learn about burnout and how to keep it at bay in an insightful and interactive manner? Consider Cafe Wowee. Contact us for more information.

You are also welcome to join us for any of our upcoming events or check out our services to help individuals and non-profits thrive for good.

In partnership with a fellow social enterprise, Our Journey, we are also planning for Singapore’s first Self-Care Walk for Social Service Agencies. Contact us if you are keen to join as a Social Service Agency.


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How to Keep Our Volunteers Fired Up in their Passion to Serve

by James Lim
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