How Volunteer Burnout Works

What is Volunteer Burnout?

Volunteer burnout is just like work-related burnout -- only you're not getting paid to barrel through it. You're tired, stressed, disengaged, resentful and at your wits end. Your volunteer work is no longer fulfilling and you may find yourself making excuses (often health-related) for not attending to your responsibilities.

For volunteers, signs that you are headed for burnout include losing enthusiasm for the mission of the organization and your tasks, worrying about your volunteer job when you're not there and feeling uninspired when you are. You may also notice yourself becoming cranky with other volunteers, clients and staff members because of your fatigue and resentment [source: Volunteer Today].

Bottom line: You dream of quitting. You doubt you're making a difference. You've lost the sense of satisfaction you used to have. Where's the fun in that?

For volunteer coordinators, the burnout signs to watch for among your volunteers are complaints that it's no longer fun to work there, a rise in the amount of worry expressed by a volunteer, chronic crankiness, combativeness with others and overreaction to minor problems [source: Volunteer Today]. You may also notice a volunteer's work performance slipping -- perhaps the volunteer is not completing assignments, is missing deadlines or just isn't showing up.

If you're able to identify the problem in its earliest stages, it's best to address it then. If it gets to the point where the volunteer is routinely not meeting his or her commitments, it will certainly feel like it's too late to fix things. At this point, the volunteer might have become so bitter, that he or she isn't readily willing to salvage the situation.

But all hope isn't lost. Read on to find out how volunteer coordinators and managers can make sure their volunteers are happy and learn what volunteers need to look for in the organizations to which they choose to donate their time.