Suffering from Volunteer Burn-out?

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Get That Good Feeling Buzz Back

It can happen. You raise your hand and step forward, delving into a cause you initially felt good about. But then months later, you hear yourself complaining about having to attend yet another meeting, give up yet another evening or spend time on yet another seemingly insignificant task. What went wrong?

In my career book, NAIL IT!® Six Steps to Transform Your Career, I talk about some of the elements that can lead to career burn-out. And guess what the biggest culprit is? Taking on something that isn’t aligned with your values.

Volunteerism is important. Our communities need us. And I personally believe our lives are richer and fuller when we can connect with others in this way. The key is to get aligned no matter if we’re talking about our career path or our personal life.

So what do you need to feel fueled and energized in the world of volunteering? Here are a few questions to get you started:

1. What are you passionate about?
2. Realistically, how much time do you want to commit each month?
3. What internal value does this commitment align with?
4. What’s your role -how can you add value?
5. What connects you to this volunteer commitment – why are you doing it?
6. What are some outcomes you’d like to experience as a result of this specific commitment?
7. How will you know whether you are getting energy from this commitment or feeling drained?

Just as our organizations achieve more if their employees align their strengths and passions to the company’s goals and vision, so do our charitable organizations. Even if you do take on a volunteer commitment, you can still try and negotiate your part within that role.

For example, I enjoy supporting my alma mater, Mount Saint Vincent University. I was guest speaker at an alumni Spring Dinner and am past chair and current committee member for the Mount’s annual Black Tie Bingo fundraiser. I’m not a detailed person, so taking on something like tracking down silent auction items would leave me feeling a little frazzled. I’m a big picture person, so I knew that to get that kind of good feeling buzz we all deserve from our volunteer efforts, I needed to focus my energy on the big ticket items of sponsorship and table sales. Securing thousands of dollars in sponsorships was fun. I loved that feeling. And the experience left me energized, not drained.


Fellow committee member and Mount grad, Joan MacLeod (L) of the Halifax Port Authority with me at the 2014 MSVU Black Tie Bingo event.

We all deserve to feel good about the work we do ─ whether we’re paid for it, or not. Take the time to tune in and see what’s working and not working in your life, so that you can negotiate that happy alignment. You can use the attached exercise from my NAIL IT® companion guide to get started.

Happy Volunteering!

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