Giving Compass' Take:

• Kayla Matthews discusses the common signs of volunteer burnout and how to retain volunteers in the long-term.

• How can leadership ensure that volunteers continue to enjoy their work? What supports do nonprofits need to retain their volunteers?

• Read more about retaining volunteers.

Volunteers are often the lifeblood for nonprofits, especially when those organizations are understaffed and overworked. But what happens when those volunteers become disheartened and no longer enjoy the work they do? They might be suffering from burnout, and you need to take action before it’s too late.

Volunteer burnout can have a direct effect on your organization’s impact. If burned-out volunteers continue to show up for their shifts, their overall productivity will likely decrease. And their burnout will only get worse.

Burnout is often defined as a state of chronic stress that may lead to exhaustion, cynicism and detachment ... The risk of burnout increases in volunteers over time, which is why it’s so important to identify and address these symptoms before they become damaging.

First, watch for any distinctive changes in a volunteer’s personality that could signify they’re in distress. For example, if a person regularly spoke about how they loved volunteering and got excited by their work starts complaining and acting grumpy, this could mean they’re feeling worn out by their role. Cynicism, anger, loss of enjoyment and increased irritability are all symptoms associated with burnout.

Preventing volunteer burnout begins when volunteers and their managers have stable working relationships with open lines of communication. This should start when volunteers first sign up to help out. Be honest about what the work entails. This is particularly important for organizations that deal with emotionally challenging work, but it’s also important if an individual’s expectations don’t fit the reality of the role (say, if they want to work with animals but won’t actually have the chance to interact with them).

Read the full article about volunteer burnout by Kayla Matthews at VolunteerMatch.