at our online
bookstore: BETTER SAFE... RISK MANAGEMENT IN VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
& COMMUNITY SERVICE by Linda L. Graff. This risk management manual is
packed with practical, directly applicable tips, tools, checklists, and
worksheets, all accompanied by a step-by-step narrative that leads you through
the risk management process.
Stages To Note and What to Do
the May issue of Volunteer Today, we listed the symptoms
to note for a volunteer who might be approaching burnout. In this
months issue, we describe the stages of burnout. Understanding
the stages means a skilled volunteer leader or professional manager
can intervene before the volunteer is toast. There are
studies which show that volunteers who burn out rarely return to volunteering,
of any kind.
person suffers from physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
They flop down in chairs, go home exhausted. At the work site
they go for the quick fix, take short cuts to get things done,
have a brain-strain when faced with new problems.
the system: Are you asking more of this volunteer than is fair?
Should the job be redesigned to divide tasks and responsibilities?
many hats: One individual committed to the cause
of the organization or the people can wear too many hats. What
do your policies say about volunteers holding more than one
or two positions? Can you relieve the person of one of their
it still fun? When volunteer tasks stop being fun and enjoyable,
burnout cannot be far behind. What did you observe with this
volunteer recently that let you know the tasks and jobs were
fun activities. Rent a movie and show it in a room at the organization
for all volunteers. Be sure your potential burnout candidates
have tasks that require them to be there. The funnier the movie
out whether volunteers are being asked to do more than they
should. Review tasks and duties. Maybe more hands are needed
to accomplish tasks. Maybe a position needs to be reorganized.
second stage brings fear and trepidation. A formerly confident
and self-assured volunteer is tentative and questioning of their
ability to do things. Past accomplishments are ignored and pushed
aside in the fear that you cannot do it today. Shame and doubt
are regular visitors.
takes a break-People prone to burnout are those on whom others
depend. Rarely do folks notice how burned out someone is until
it is too late. The leaders in an organization need regular
and enforced breaks. Rewrite committee guidelines or by-laws
that requires everyone to take a complete break every four to
it what it is. Acknowledge that everyone is leaning on this
volunteer and it is time to give him/her a break. And talk to
the volunteer about this. Sweeping it under the rug or avoiding
the topic can only lead someone to move to Stage 3.
the volunteer a measure of control. Burnout can be short-circuited
if people feel like they have control over the assigned tasks.
Whenever possible provide the volunteer with daily choices,
instead of dictums!
non-task related visiting among volunteers. Be sure to ask about
family members or work duties that are pressing on the individual.
That behavior gives the person permission to chat with others
about the challenges in life.
Cynicism and Skepticism:
prolonged feeling of vulnerabilitity and unsteadiness can lead
a person to take drastic measure. The individual goes for the
big guns. They put on armor of protection. They are
negative and disbelieving and become abrasive and obnoxious. This
stage is a heavy burden.
people who take on too much to prioritize tasks and eliminate
some so a new position or responsibility can be assumed. For
example, a mother of three volunteered in many of her childrens
activities. She was the group leader extraordinaire. One of
the groups wanted her to take on an organization-wide program
development project. She would have likely simply added it to
her other duties. The Board president and the executive said
the new and exciting job was only available if she relinquished
her group leadership duties. They assured her they would find
reliable and suitable replacement, but it was a non-negotiable
item. Some people need to be helped to avoid burnout.
people see the long-term consequences of burnout. That initial
feeling of being overwhelmed hardens into cynicism, and can
harden the arteries, too. The long-term impact of smoldering
anger leads to high blood pressure, ulcers, and worse. Do not
be quiet about this. Help volunteers understand that, while
the service they give is important, so is their health.
Crisis and Failure:
previous coping mechanisms fail during this stage of burnout.
The slightest emotional bump and over reaction looks
like the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. There is a strong temptation
to walk away forever.
the volunteer grieve for tasks not completed or projects failed.
Help them focus guilt and anxiety into a new type of energy.
Do not ignore this step. Many volunteers who suffer from burnout
are those on whom everyone depends, including family and friends.
It is important to acknowledge that there are some things that
did not happen, but the world has gone on and so will they to
fight another day.
support for drained volunteers. Enlist the help of volunteers
who have been there and successfully weathered the storm. This
needs to be a sensitive person who can help them over the hump.
to provide the resources or time for the person to take a time-out
for a pre-arranged period of time, so they can catch up! Recruit
an experienced and trusted volunteer to step into the individuals
shoes to give them time to rebuild energy and enthusiasm.
ways things can be accomplished through new actions. Enlist
technology wizards to help, offer an opportunity for skill training,
and suggest options that produce positive attitudes and actions.
Keeping the Star Volunteers
volunteers are stars. They are more capable and skilled and
sometimes hard to hang onto. Here are some tips to keep those stars.
them involved. Star volunteers are not content to sit quietly while
others plot what they will be doing. They shine best in the limelight.
Create the positions and opportunities for them to shine. Get their
opinions and involve them throughout the organization.
reflection. Stars like results, make no mistake, but often it is
the reflective nature of thinking that can aid you. Encourage them to
slow up for a minute, have a tea or coffee and help you think through
something. Genuine dialogue connects on a personal level and you become
Star volunteers are not the same as everyone else. They need different
types of motivation, often with you fueling the fires of their passion.
Do not let the difference put you off. Learn to fuel it and you will
keep that winner.
CERTIFICATE IN VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through
the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing
or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home.
For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet
Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There
is a hot link to their Web site.
FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER MANAGERS SEEKS MEMBERS
Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association
of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in
local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local
government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange.
NAAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is
seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities.
Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership.
An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local
government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly
newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project.
For more information contact Robin
Popik, who is a Volunteer Resource Supervisor. She can be reached
by phone at 972-941-7114. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer
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