I’ve heard from numerous nonprofit professionals and volunteers in response to my recent posts on “When Passion for the Mission Isn’t Enough.” The following comments are representative of the feedback I received. I wanted to share them with you to stimulate discussion and ideas on how to better engage employees and volunteers.
One volunteer shared her current take on volunteer disengagement:
“Volunteers are readily distracted by the demands of paying jobs, which in this day and age are onerous and leave little time for charity. If they don’t feel appreciated, and feel like they have no power in the volunteer environment, they will bolt.”
Even nonprofits that foster an engaging workplace are concerned about operating in economic and political uncertainty. An executive director described her frustration:
“When I get together with other nonprofit executive directors, we all look at a dismal funding future, and wonder how long we can hang on. Personally, I will continue to work to do the most with what we have, as long as we are funded, but I do sense an exhaustion in my peers. While our board is wonderful about contacting legislators, I can’t help but think that they would be more engaged if we weren’t regularly threatened with a cut-off of funds.”
The challenge of striving to meet growing mission-related needs with scarce resources has long existed in the nonprofit sector. But employees, volunteers and board members have grown weary of being asked to “do more with less” and “work smarter, not harder.” Sadly, the risk of burnout is greater than ever.
How Are You Coping?
We can all dream of finding a magic lamp with a genie who can take care of funding and resource issues (if only!). Seriously though, how are your dealing with the situation?
I welcome your ideas on what works to keep your volunteers and employees engaged these days.