A nonprofit would be just an idea without the volunteers that power the steam in your organization. However, volunteer burnout is a very real thing, and being civic minded doesn’t necessarily make a person an effective volunteer.
A recent study by Pantheon Institute showed that the estimated value of volunteer time was $23.56 per hour—pretty significant for individuals working without pay. According to the Corporation for National Community Service, about 23.5% of the adult population gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service. How do you make the most of this critical time without burning out your most valuable assets, your volunteers?
1. Align Motivations and Values!
Your nonprofit board may understand your mission and goals, but do your volunteers? Don’t let your mission and core values accidentally misinterpreted after a game of “telephone.” Make sure your mission is clearly stated and communicated by everyone involved with your organization. Align your goals with your mission and make sure they are achievable. Your donors will want to see results; walk, don’t run towards the things you want to achieve. Set realistic and attainable goals within your organization. You may want to fund and eliminate homelessness in your community, but perhaps providing a hot meal when shelters are full is more realistic in the short term. Find clarity.
2. Work Toward Individual Strengths
Cross sector collaboration brings together a variety of skill sets that the board of your nonprofit will need to assess and understand. Match your organization's tasks with an individual’s skill set. You probably won’t find success having an introvert asking for donations. Set your volunteers up for success, not failure. Avoid “impact anxiety,” which is defined as a volunteer’s fear of failure, but not making a difference or impact to your organization. Studies show that “impact anxiety” quickly leads to burnout and even a fear of failure. Mission driven leaders can inadvertently cause impact anxiety when the big picture issues are complex and require government change. Remember that individual purpose doesn't equal sustainability.
3. Run Your Nonprofit Like a Business – Educate for Success!
You wouldn't hire employees without an interview followed by on the job training. The nonprofit sector should be no different. Your volunteers will be exposed to your benefactors personal information, possibly medical conditions, as well as Personal Identifiable Information (PII), including the amount of money they have donated. Can you ensure that your data is secure and that everyone in your organizations understands compliance? Are you encrypting your organizations devices? Using a secure firewall? PII is one of the most valuable resources to a hacker; don’t leave the door open for them to enter and attack.
Your community is your tribe!