You know that one person? The one who only ever talks to you when they need something? The one you see coming and then you immediately look for another person to talk to or an exit strategy? You start running through your mental schedule looking for the excuses to give when they inevitably ask you for your time or other resources…again. Eventually you just learn to be a completely avoidant person when they’re around just to be sure you don’t get sucked into another one of their projects. You know that guy? Is it just me? Don’t be that guy.
Volunteer fatigue and burnout are very real things. It can’t always be avoided, but there are ways to foster relationships with each of your volunteers to help them understand they are far more than just a warm body filling a role during events. Take a look at a few ideas below to see what strategies work best for your team.
Celebrate the Wins
It’s easy to joke about the people who ask for things all the time. But think through your volunteer emails. Are they always asking for more volunteers? It’s an easy trap to fall into. How can you diversify your email communication? Use your emails to share your latest accomplishments or interesting statistics. Send videos communicating organizational impact to your volunteers before you post them publicly. Of course there’s such a thing as sending too many emails, but strategic sharing with your volunteers demonstrates that you see them as part of the team and helps them gain a greater understanding of the work you are all doing together.
Acknowledge Each Volunteer
Find reasons to celebrate and connect with each of your volunteers in some way outside of your normal volunteer communication. This can be as simple as writing a birthday email or card for your volunteers. (VolunteerLocal’s birthday reminders make this easy!) Or set up a rotating schedule of writing thank you notes to your volunteers. Perhaps you are able to reserve one day a month to take different volunteers out to lunch or coffee. These face-to-face, casual interactions not only help your volunteers feel valued and affirmed, but they also help you know more about your volunteers and the lives they lead outside of your interactions.
Some of my favorite coordinator moments involve volunteer appreciation events. It does take some extra effort, but assembling your volunteers together to celebrate is a special way to say thank you and acknowledge the outstanding work of people who often go unrecognized. This is also a great opportunity to publicly promote high performing volunteers to volunteer captains or to hand out special awards, whether serious or otherwise. Volunteer certificates are a nice added touch and are available at VolunteerLocal! Regardless of how many volunteers are under your care, hosting an appreciation event is a fun way to show your gratitude and grow camaraderie among your team.
These are only a few of the ways you can nurture relationships with your volunteers, but each organization can tailor these methods to fit your volunteer culture. Take a few steps to elevate your communication beyond the ask and ensure you’re never that guy.