Volunteer Coordinator Burnout (And How To Avoid It)

When you’re new to your role as a volunteer coordinator, you are excited to dive into the work, impress your colleagues and build, build, build an incredible volunteer program.


If you love your job, it’s not as if those ambitions fade, exactly. But as time goes by, you might feel like your patience is thinning, your stress is rising and – is that a smell of smoke in the air? You’re headed for burnout. Pump those breaks!



Get over your 24/7 do-gooder guilt. Your volunteers work for free, so you shouldn’t feel stressed about supervising events every evening and weekend, in addition to weekdays at your desk, right? Wrong. Your organization benefits from dedicated volunteers giving of their time. But as an employee, sustainability is important. Talk with your supervisor about taking flex time, if you have to be at events outside of your typical work hours. Make sure as you’re building your volunteer empire, you’re training others for management roles so you don’t have to be present at every event. Zoom out on your quarterly calendar to identify the high-stress times and block out some recovery time to take care of yourself and your needs.


Regularly seek support. When you’re headed for burnout, it’s difficult to see solutions clearly, and anxiety can take over. Attend that monthly meeting of volunteer managers hosted by your local young nonprofit professionals chapter. Join a Facebook group for people in the social sector. Hit up the hive mind on your organization’s list serve to solicit suggestions from others on how to tackle a tricky issue.


Reconnect with your mission. Combatting cynicism is an important burnout prevention tactic. If you’re feeling cranky and bogged down with everyday tasks, try to set up a meeting with a colleague or client to talk about what is meaningful about the work being done now, or exciting about the future of your organization. Re-read those thank-you notes you’ve stashed in a drawer. Look for ways to remind yourself how your daily tasks contribute to the bigger picture.


Switch up your routine. Seek out a morning to work off-site at a coffee shop. Take a lunchtime stroll. Schedule a tour of another organization that might inspire your work. Check out a business book and try to read a chapter a week.


Celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Reflection is a critical component of learning and growing. Don’t just plow through a to-do list with check-marks. Check in and recap what you did, why it mattered and how it’s connected to the future. If you can’t make time to celebrate your own accomplishments, build celebration into your recognition of others.



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Choosing Your Event Location, Location, Location

The location changes everything when it comes to event planning.


Talk to any realtor (or any normal person quoting a realtor) and you’re bound to hear the phrase, “Location, location, location.” Why? Because it makes a difference. Be it a house, a business, or an event, location plays a huge part in its success. The location sets a tone, affects outreach and visibility, and determines overall accessibility and appeal.


When the sky’s the limit, you ask, “Where should this event take place?” You dream a minute. Suddenly you’re on a nice sandy beach in your mind before this winter cold snaps you back to reality. Okay, so it’s important to dream big and start a creative brainstorm, while still staying grounded in some of the limitations and intentions behind your event.


Top things to consider when planning an event:



There’s no sense getting your heart set on a place if isn’t available how or when you need it. Is the maximum capacity there smaller than your projected attendance? Are there enough rooms that suit your needs? Is it perfect but you’d need to change your date?



More likely than not, you’re working on a budget, maybe even a tight one. What is the cost of all of the possible locations under consideration? Will the cost put too big of a dent in your budget? Is there room in the budget to cut down on costs in another area so more funds can be available for the location? Or, will the location provide food or security or some other segment of your budget that you had allocated elsewhere?



Is this an area with high visibility? Or a location that is highly desired? Does it carry a “wow factor” that may draw more people? If not, how can you address that or add to its appeal? Will this location expand your reach so that more people are aware and interested in your event than before? Does this location further the mission and align with the goals of your organization?



You may have others who have skin in the game here and therefore a few thoughts on where the event should be held. Be open to suggestions, but also be willing to make an ask. Sometimes business can obtain a sponsorship designation by way of providing the location and features for the event. Not only does that help you in finding a venue, but it broadens their reach in the community as well.



Consider the drive time (as well as public transportation and/or walkability) it takes to get to the event for your target audience. Will a faraway destination provide appeal or deter people from coming? What other local businesses and amenities are nearby? This goes for both the people attending the event and the people volunteering at it.



What kind of impact will a certain location provide? Will it help the community and boost the local economy? Will it cause traffic in an already busy area, making locals dread your event and their longer commute time? Will the aesthetics of the location cause a distraction to attendees or be a source of inspiration? Think about the positive and negative impact the event location will have on attendees, volunteers, staff, and the local community.


While we all have certain ideals and dealbreakers, you may have to compromise on some things. Know where you can and should be flexible with your expectations. Prioritize these different elements as best you can to find the location that will be the best fit.   


*No control over the location? Sometimes you have say in where your event takes place and sometimes you don’t. But even if the streets for your run are already approved or the conference rooms are already booked–you do still have a lot of control over the location of where your welcome desk is, where the volunteers check in, and what the flow of your event consists of. Be sure to make a new map to reflect the changes so everyone knows where to go. Maybe you’re stuck in the same location as you’ve always been, but there’s a way to be more efficient or effective with the setup of the route, the food, or the volunteer stations.



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Field Expert: Anne Summers

Anne Summers

West Des Moines, Iowa

“Volunteering is important to me because it’s where I learn most about myself, about other people, and about our world. I love being a part of something bigger than myself, and I enjoy working with others on a shared goal.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I love the big-little town vibe of our city. It’s such a treat to have access to city amenities and events while also enjoying tastes of small town familiarity. More specifically, I love our trees. It may sound nostalgic and cliche, but when we were looking for a home, I was looking for trees. Our neighborhood delivered!

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for seven years, and I’ve met some of the best volunteers! I’ve managed volunteers in a variety of roles including one-time events, annual conferences, and weekly tasks.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Reading and riding bikes with my little family. We just got a Yuba that fits both kids on the back and has an electric assist to give me a boost up the hills!

Who is your favorite musical artist?

The Avett Brothers

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

As the parent of a toddler, most Friday nights are spent relaxing on the couch with my husband.



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Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday

That time of year is upon us – family gatherings, gift exchanges, and over-eating.


For many of us, it also means coat drives, food drives, and donations to our favorite organizations. Six years ago, a campaign was started that kicks off the season of giving, aptly named Giving Tuesday. Occurring on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., it’s a chance to give back to your own community. 


The holidays are a time to reflect on those things we take for granted during the year and remind ourselves of what is truly important. It can be busy for everyone, and trying to juggle the regular holiday mayhem while piling on volunteer work may sound a little daunting. But as we become overwhelmed with holiday shopping and family feasts, prioritizing giving back becomes even more important for your community – and for yourself. 


As the weather gets colder, it’s a reminder that not everyone have access to the necessities we often overlook as comforts, such as a warm coat, a hot meal, or gifts for the holiday. Volunteering your time to work at a soup kitchen, or organize a gift drive for a local youth shelter makes a huge difference for community members in need.


Whatever type of community that you belong to, there are also likely festivals, nonprofit organizations, or charity races happening that raise money for a cause or offer an opportunity to bring everyone together. As members of a community, it is our responsibility to make sure those efforts are supported.


We each have a unique perspective of the world, and sharing your own passions through event organizing or volunteering helps others broaden their understanding of different communities. They might even find they have a passion for it, too.  


Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of organizing a gift drive or food pantry? VolunteerLocal is available for events of all sizes and budgets – including no budget. And however you give back, use this Giving Tuesday as a day to reaffirm your commitment to the power of volunteering. 


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