No more burnout blues

Yes notepadAs a working mom of three, I rarely have a free night. Usually, my husband and I taxi our children to and from sports practices and games, scouts and church youth events.

It seems to be the new norm for us GenXers, who juggle jobs, parenthood and extracurriculars. So it’s amazing to think most of these groups are run by volunteers. Case in point: I’m PTA president at my kids’ school.

But even if you’re not a parent, I’m guessing you’re a professional and social juggler, and as such, enjoyed last week’s post. Whether you volunteer personally or professionally, do you feel burned out?

Mission driven volunteering could be the solution.

Last week, I wrote about the whitepaper “The Mission Driven Volunteer” by Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist of Spark Consulting, LLC, and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing.

As a follow up, this week they wrote a blog post recapping some of their main points. Read it below and share your feedback with them on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel.


Wouldn’t it be amazing to have an abundance of engaged, highly motivated volunteers who are brimming with ideas your association actually implements?

Unfortunately, our world tends to look more like this:

  • Difficulty recruiting volunteers
  • Do-nothing committees
  • Poorly attended meetings
  • No new ideas
  • Volunteer burn out
  • Disengaged and disheartened volunteers

    Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

    Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

We believe that’s because the current model of association volunteering, based on standing committees, is broken. All that dysfunction is an artifact of a system that values form, position and title over function, meaning and action.

This model is pathological for several reasons:

  • It  ignores the reality of generational differences.
  • It  handcuffs organizational decision-making.
  • It  limits opportunities for involvement.

There is another way, though: mission driven volunteering.

A number of research studies and innovative volunteer-supported projects provide us with a new working definition for volunteerism: giving one’s time and talent to drive the mission. This new definition draws on two intrinsic motivations to volunteer, with the focus on the outcomes of volunteering and the functions needed to drive those outcomes. This turns the image of volunteering, which traditionally starts with a board and trickles down or begins with the job title and then the description, upside down.

Mission driven volunteering takes advantage of the top five drivers to volunteering, as delineated in the American Society for Association Executives’ 2008 research report, “The Decision to Volunteer:”

  • It’s important to help others
  • Do something for profession/cause important to me
  • Feel compassion for others
  • Gain new perspectives
  • Explore  my own strengths
Peggy Hoffman

Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

Mission driven volunteering also embraces adhocracy as a governance model and micro-volunteering, which allows your members to contribute their time and talents in small, convenient increments.

This isn’t an easy switch to make. However, the era in which members had ample time and resources to serve on traditionally-organized committees that made all decisions slowly, deliberatively and collaboratively is over.

Data show that your members still very much want to contribute their ideas and energy to your association, and, through you, to the profession or industry you serve. But they are asking for new things from your association. They want to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them and make a demonstrable difference, in small bites, and on – and only on – their schedules. They are mission-driven volunteers. Are you ready for them?

Editor’s Note: If any of you are aware of successful volunteer programs within your organizations, please share links and information here!

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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