How do you prevent volunteer burnout?

Alice Wilcock is the Director of Innovation and Partnerships at CDF. She draws on her vast experience of creating community led solutions to develop and support every level of the community.

We have all been there haven’t we – we start up a group, or have an idea, or are involved in a project. I’m thinking primarily from a community group perspective here, where we are all volunteers together.

However of course a lot of larger voluntary sector organisations rely on volunteer contributions to a huge degree as well. And gradually what seems to happen (or actually even from the start!) is that a very few people are doing a lot of the everyday work.

I’ve seen this happen a lot of times, in the volunteer work that I do and also in some of the work that I have been doing with the William Morris Big Local Trust area (part of Local Trust). And then what happens is that people get exhausted – and they can’t take any more – so they stop wanting to be so involved. How can we stop this happening?

Of course the obvious answer is to find some more! And by that I don’t mean that you should rely on replacing your tired burnout volunteers with brand new ones – I mean of course, widening the group that you have to begin with, so that few people don’t take on too much.

Increasing volunteers is not an easy task and a lot may depend on the activity that you are involved with. Using events or activities that your group runs as a way of advertising is one way to get the word out, so is asking around friends and local connections. Your area may have a Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), which can help you advertise more formally for volunteers. Of course you may also have a website or a blog where you can also say that you are looking for people to help out.

Splitting work into discrete tasks, so that it can be shared between many people, and talking to the volunteers about how they are feeling are both important things to do – as are expressing thanks and giving the opportunity to celebrate achievements by volunteers.

What do you think the issues are – and how can we go about keeping our good volunteers and attracting more?



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