Supporting volunteer wellbeing

The below article should be taken as a guide, there are many different approaches to mental health. Please ensure you have taken professional advice and ensure you obtain the relevant consent before implementing any changes in your organisation.

Volunteer burnout and fatigue are real, people who volunteer give so much of themselves, and without the correct support, it’s not sustainable. A recent report by NCVO highlighted the impact of volunteer fatigue and burnout and urged organisations to prioritise volunteer health and wellbeing. 

Here are a few things to consider when supporting volunteers to ensure you’re supporting the mental health and wellbeing of your volunteer team. 

  1. Connect with your volunteers 

We mean really connect. Get to know them. What are their motivations for volunteering? What do they do in their spare time? 

Building relationships is invaluable to promoting good mental health. It means that volunteers will feel more comfortable raising any concerns with you, but that you’ll also be able to understand them more and subsequently spot them when they’re not feeling their best. 

If you’re managing high numbers of volunteers then taking the time to connect and check in via email, text or a quick phone call will make all the difference. 

  1. Connect your volunteers to each other 

One of the main motivations behind choosing to volunteer is to meet new people. It, therefore, makes sense to create a space for your volunteers to connect with each other. 

There are many ways you can bring people together which can be tailored depending on your organisation, capacity to co-ordinate and of course, your budget! 

Here are a few ways you connect your volunteers that are free or don’t cost the earth.

  • Setting up dedicated social media groups
  • Creating closed group chats 
  • Hold in-person or online volunteer meetings 
  • Host quizzes and social activities 
  • Organise a group walk or picnic 
  • Host coffee mornings or drop-in sessions 
  • Organise feedback, evaluation and planning sessions that your volunteers can be involved in. 
  1. Check-in (formally and informally)

The way in which you check- in with your volunteers is down to organisational preference. But creating a dedicated space for volunteer check-ins whether formal or informal offers a safe space for volunteers to have open conversations with you. 

  1. Listen

Actively listen to your volunteers, and seek out their thoughts, opinions and feedback via the suggestions listed above! 

  1. Ask and then Ask again. 

When asked the question ‘how are you?’ most people will respond with ‘good, thanks, you?’ I’m not sure why this is the case, is it just inherent politeness? But even on their worst days, most people will say ‘good, thanks, you?’. So, ask again. 

Always ask people how they are twice. If you have a good relationship with someone, on the second time, if people aren’t feeling their best they will usually take this opportunity to tell you. By asking twice you open up the conversation to talk things through and offer solutions for supporting someone who isn’t feeling their best self. 

You can find some useful advice around asking twice here.

  1. Feedback 

Volunteer feedback is invaluable to delivering exceptional service. They’ll have on-the-ground information that staff won’t be able to gather. Communicate with your volunteers when they offer feedback. You won’t always be able to action the suggestions they make. But if you can explain the ‘whys’ and the ‘why nots’ it goes a long way in ensuring people feel valued. And if people feel valued then they are more likely to feel loyal to your cause and your organisation. 

  1. The door is always open 

Making volunteering flexible can open up a whole new demographic of volunteers; if your organisation can adopt a ‘dip in, dip out’ approach to volunteering with ease, then please do adopt this. Life can get busy and mental health can fluctuate, meaning that volunteers may need to re-evaluate how they are spending their time. Many people feel real guilt when having to step away from volunteering for personal reasons, but by removing that stigma you are reducing the barriers to getting back involved when the time is right. 

By instilling flexibility in your volunteer offering you will allow people to come back to your organisation even if they’ve had to step away.

  1. Say thank you 

Those two little words can make all the difference. Humans need to feel appreciated and it really doesn’t take much. Are you saying thank you enough? We also want to note that a blanket email or a Facebook post doesn’t cut it. Make it personal… Here at Volunteero, we find that something handwritten hits the spot.

That wraps it up for this blog. If you are reading these and wondering how on earth you will make this happen or even find the time to implement any of this, do not fear, we have you covered. Volunteero is a digital volunteer management platform offering features that can help you with many of the points raised in the above article. If you would like to learn more, book a demo today.

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