Your volunteers are ready to go! It's tempting to pass out assignments like candy until you get it all off your plate. Before you add that "Would you also...?", keep this question in mind: if you're not paying these people, what's an appropriate workload? Your event volunteers are there to help, out of the goodness of their hearts, and that's not something anybody wants to ignore. Find a balance and make sure you don't ask too much of the people who are helping you make your event run smoothly with these helpful tips.
SO...ARE YOU ASKING TOO MUCH?
How much time are your volunteers giving you? If you were paying them, how much would it add up to? First and foremost, respect their time. Don't have them show up extra early "just in case" unless it's truly necessary.
You might feel encouraged to give more assignments if you have a volunteer who is especially enthusiastic, and chances are he or she will take you up on it. The trouble is that it could easily lead to burnout. To maintain a healthy relationship with eager volunteers, consider setting caps on the number of hours they can help per day or per week.
WARNING SIGNS THAT YOU'VE ASKED TOO MUCH
If your volunteers exhibit any of these signs, they might be feeling burned out -- and unlikely to volunteer for you again.
- Loss of interest in the event or the task
- Dampened enthusiasm
- Acts grumpy and complains
- Looks and acts exhausted
- Gets easily irritated and angry
- Expresses feelings of being overworked and underappreciated
- Decreased socialization with other volunteers and staff
- Shows up late or leaves early
An occasional late arrival or early departure may have more to do with other commitments or a freak failed-alarm-clock accident. However, regular tardiness (or failing to show up altogether) is a pretty good sign that your volunteer has had enough.
PROACTIVE WAYS TO AVOID VOLUNTEER BURNOUT
Be Clear: Avoiding burnout starts when you select your volunteers. Providing clear job descriptions and time requirements lets people know what they're getting into. Ask them how much time they're able to offer, and respect those limitations once you begin to formulate your volunteer and staff schedules. Often times, it is better to hire an extra volunteer instead of requesting an extra shift from someone.
Train Them Thoroughly: If they're not comfortable with their assignments, they'll never be excited about doing them. Ease their anxiety by giving thorough volunteer training and making team leaders available to answer questions.
Give Them Work They Enjoy: We all have different strengths and interests. Getting to know your volunteers preferences is crucial to avoiding burnout. Make an extra effort to place each volunteer at a station/assignment that they have already expressed interest in. This will also increase the likelihood of them returning to volunteer for you in the future.
Communicate and Engage With Your Volunteers: Getting to know them helps them feel valued and appreciated. Your volunteer management tool can help you stay in close contact with them: offer updates, encouragement, and most of all, appreciation. Schedule breaks and go the extra mile to show them you value their time, for instance, by surprising them with coffee and donuts.
Don't Overwork Them: Instead, hire more volunteers! With help from your trusty volunteer management tool, adding a few more event volunteers to the mix isn't going to overwork you.
Start With Your Staff: The most responsibility falls to the people you're paying. If a sudden task pops up, first ask yourself if a staff member can handle it before you give it to a volunteer.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes: How would you feel if you were a volunteer and the event manager asked you to do what you're currently asking them to do? If it sounds like too much to you, it probably is.
We all love volunteers - afterall, they can be a lifeline for events & more! With these pointers, you'll be able to succeed in treating them as the valuable contributors they are by not asking for too much.
If you find yourself struggling with the management of your volunteers, and are looking for ways to improve your methods, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Managing Volunteers. You'll be a pro in no time!
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