How to Avoid Staff and Volunteer Burnout

Stretching yourself thin reaches a new level when you’re working for a nonprofit. A limited budget means limited resources, limited staff and more of the workload on the same people. With those conditions, executive directors and other high-profile leaders (not to mention staff and volunteers) can become burnt out quickly in the nonprofit sector.

In an article in Fast Company, Matt Straz, the CEO of Namely, said that most burnout stemmed from a poor work-life balance and can have a multiplied effect.

“Burned-out employees don’t just damage individual productivity, they damage company-wide performance and potential,” Straz wrote. “As employees being to show symptoms of burnout, they transfer their stress (and workload) to others—and the burnout spreads.”

Click to check out Straz’s full list of ideas to prevent burnout, along with our tips specific to nonprofit organizations below.

Schedule Regular Check-Ups

This is a proactive approach to preventing burnout before it ever happens. It’s the most simple yet underutilized tactic to avoid burnout. Ask your staff and volunteer about their experiences and what they’re stressed or worried about. Find out if they feel like they’re being overworked. Ask about the biggest challenges that volunteers and staff face in their job and figure out a way to at least minimize that pressure.

Nix Micromanaging

Top leaders in nonprofit organizations have a certain sense of pride and ownership in the organization, and understandably so. Often they started the nonprofit or have put in years to reach their position within the organization, and thus have more skin in the game.

It’s easier for them to let go and delegate if they have a thorough training program in place from the get-go for volunteer and staff members. Proper training will help your nonprofit leaders feel more comfortable delegating tasks.

Utilize Breaks

Sometimes we don’t think about volunteers needing breaks because they probably aren’t with our organizations full-time. Remember people who volunteer probably have many other things going on in their lives, like full-time jobs, families or other organizations they work with. While you want to be the top organization they work with, it’s important to give them breaks from your organization, too.

That being said, your staff will also need to take a break. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Encourage vacation time for hard-workers. The payoff for your organization will be a refreshed and rejuvenated staff. Sometimes all it takes is a little time away to remember why you started loving something in the first place.

What other tactics has your organization used to avoid volunteer and staff burnout?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

July 6, 2015

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