You’ve been asking your volunteers to do a lot and now they’re elbows deep in your year end giving efforts. Are they fried? How can you tell?

Look for these signs:

  • Not showing up or showing up late and leaving early
  • Not returning your calls or emails
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Yawning, sleeping or otherwise being completely disengaged in meetings
  • Acting cranky, distracted or argumentative
  • Not following through on action items

And ask yourself – Does the same small group of people do most of the work?

Don’t worry, it’s not too late to re-energize the team! Try this:

1. Celebrate all they HAVE done for your organization. Everyone likes to have fun and socialize with each other so switch things up a bit. Host an easy reception at a nearby restaurant, invite significant others (after all, they are sacrificing too) and just spend time in gratitude and appreciation. Most of the time at this event can be spent just hanging out with each other; be sure to have the Board President say a few words thanking them for their effort and results.

2. Review your committee structure and overall distribution of work. The new year might be a good time to reassess these items if you haven’t done so lately. Is there an easier way to get the work done? Can some committees become ad hoc? Can they meet less often without risking productivity?  Are there some members who haven’t been asked to take on a new role? Have you streamlined your fundraising efforts or do you expect volunteers to keep at it year-round? If you want to avoid burnout – honor their individual talents and structure your board work accordingly.

3. Reflect on each board member’s performance and ask what have you done for them lately? Have you invested intentionally in what it takes to support the success of a volunteer? If you want your board members to be engaged, YOU must engage them. Think about what they may need, ask them what they need, and then try to be as specific in your support as possible. And sometimes the little things, like making your board meeting agenda super focused and efficient, or allowing one or two of the meetings to be video calls, can elevate participation while reducing the chance of burnout.

4. Have a chat with each person. WAIT! Before you gasp, roll your eyes and ignore this because it would take time you don’t have – hear me out. Since you’ve identified what’s going well and who you want to re-engage, it’s time to ask them how they would like to participate moving forward. What do they like best about their board service? What do they want to do less of? Who might they like to partner up with on a committee or project? What are their goals relevant to your mission? Then – adjust as needed so your volunteers can plug in meaningfully in ways that still advance your mission work.

No one wins when your board is exhausted and burned out. Even if you may need to accept some attrition, your end goal is to serve the community. Embrace this opportunity to honor your volunteers’ service and refresh your board in the new year!