tips for Leaders of Volunteers Top Tips for Leaders of Volunteers: How to Survive and Thrive During Times of Crisis  

In our VolunteerPro Premium Membership community, our team has been noticing that people are feeling a bit burnt out, stressed, and overwhelmed with everything going on in our communities.   

We answered their concerns by participating in a 40-day mindfulness at work challenge through Insight Timer.   

The results were astounding! This challenge offered our members an opportunity to reduce their stress, enhance work performance, and improve their overall emotional well-being, all in less than 15 minutes a day. 

Participating in this challenge also got me thinking: if our members are experiencing this level of stress, others must be as well, and how can we support them?  

So, we reached out to leaders of volunteers to share their tips for overcoming challenges, becoming more mindful, staying motivated, and having fun, even during times of overwhelm.  

Check out their tips and you too can be on your way to not just survive but thrive in difficult times. 

Overcoming Challenges: You can do Hard Things 

Moments of adversity and challenges don’t have to impede your success!  

Use these moments as a chance to build relationships with others, grow knowledge and skills, and build resilience that will lead to success.  

Read on for some tips on how you can harness the potential of challenges and redirect them as building blocks for growth. 

Challenges Equal Opportunities 

 “What has helped me move forward in these unique times is that yes, challenges will come, but the shift for me takes place when I understand that challenges are but repurposed moments for opportunities. I find that when I name my situation, I strip it of its limiting nature and see what future surrounds it. Challenges don’t limit potential but rather exposes it to a greater platform to find solutions.” 

Jeremy Franklin 
Manager of Volunteer Services 
South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice 

Volunteer Leaders are Difference Makers  

“Accept that others won’t always “get” or understand volunteering and will never share your vision, enthusiasm, caring and passion. Instead of trying to change their views, demonstrate, through actions and results, the benefits of volunteering and how it can make a difference to the world. So be that difference you want to see in the world and never give up but sometimes in the interests of your health, physically and mentally, you have to take a different path leading the way to a better future for all. There will be rocks and thorns but also flowers and rainbows and positive experiences along the way….. keep looking up and moving forward and you will someday reach your goal with your head held high.“ 

Anne Norrie 
Head of Volunteering in a Northern Ireland Charity 
Volunteer for 39 years 

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork  

“Consider involving volunteers in figuring things out. I work with volunteers who support students and teams at events at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs for youth, especially robotics competitions. This is part of an international program with thousands of volunteers. The model for decades has been exciting, loud, and colorful events, filled with students, coaches, and volunteers. We held an off-season event in June. We asked a volunteer with tech expertise for their opinion on how this could work in a remote setting – we were thinking we would need to hire someone to figure this out and they might be able to refer someone. With the cascade of things that needed to get figured out, I forgot this was a community of tech-oriented problem-solvers. I was just thinking about how hard this transition was going to be. They said, ‘this would be fun to figure out and I know who also would want to help!’ It never occurred to me that this could be a fun project for a volunteer. We don’t always need to have all the answers and sometimes you just need to ask.”  

Jenny Beatty 
Volunteer Engagement Consultant 

Mindfulness: Good Vibes Only 

Mindfulness for leaders of volunteers

Mindfulness may seem straightforward; however, leaders of volunteers are tasked with wearing many hats which can lead to a tendency of wandering thoughts and concerns about the past, present, and future.  

When that happens anxiety can set in and you will start feeling overwhelmed with nearly everything going on around you.  

Mindfulness can bring you back to where you are and help you focus on where you want to be. 

Read on for some tips on how other leaders of volunteers practice mindfulness 

Positivity is a Mindset  

“This is my everyday mindset to stay positive during COVID- 19. My phrase: One day at a time. My magic words are: love and patience. Grateful that my family and my friends have health. Having a physical health routine. I created non-negotiable left undone chores and tasks for every day. Appreciate technology. Explore different strategies for time managing (if you need to have two agendas and three online calendars it’s ok).”  

Alexandra Berríos Feliciano 
Volunteer and Community Relations Specialist 
Para la Naturaleza 

The Power of Nature 

“It’s been important to me to focus on maintaining relationships with my colleagues, paid and unpaid, and with the reasons why I and others work for our organization. Since we are focused on caring for the Earth and connecting people with nature, I am caring for myself right now by getting outdoors.”  

Judy Kingsbury
CVA Volunteer Program Coordinator 
UW-Madison Arboretum  

Self-Compassion is Self-Care  

“Be easy with yourself, staff and volunteers. Go with the flow and stay flexible because everything is changing. Take time for self-care to center yourself so you can be a calm and reassuring presence for others.”  

Erica Marks 
Director of Volunteer Services 
Age Well 

Have an Attitude of Gratitude  

“One thing I like to encourage people to focus on is “gratitude”. Focusing on what you have to be grateful for forces you to not only become a more positive person, but to attract more positive situations into your life. One example, is to create a gratitude jar for yourself by writing down what you are grateful for and then occasionally going back in and reading them. Or when sitting at the dinner table with your family have each person say three things that went well for them that day, and provide an explanation of WHY they went well. This leads to higher satisfaction and sense of fulfillment and it allows you to include others. Another exercise is to practice mindfulness! Best video on mindfulness 

Gina Hansen 
Volunteer Resources Manager
Habitat for Humanity Tucson  

Stay Motivated & Do Good Work 

When times get tough, your motivation to do good work is one of the first things to go. This ebb and flow of energy and enthusiasm for your work is normal, but in order to keep doing good work, you need to cope with life’s complications to re-charge your motivation and commitment to your work  

Here are some tips to help you stay motivated through tough times.  

Recognize Your Progress 

”The biggest motivator for me is knowing that there is still work to be done and volunteers willing to do it. Sometimes when I get frustrated or overwhelmed, I’ll go back to an email or survey from a client describing the difference a volunteer made in their life. That can help me push forward in times when I might be feeling a little down.”  

Michele Wiesner 
Georgia Association for Volunteer Administration

Stay Connected  

”Being more intentional in my approach to communication with volunteers who are unable to volunteer or leave their homes due to medical concerns. I’ve worked to create personalized messages, updates on our program, increased Facebook stories, offering distance learning, or simply calling them and asking them if they are okay. Nothing has been more important to me or the volunteers in my program than keeping in touch with one another, letting them know I miss them, and saying that I’m thinking about them.”  

Kris Hamilton 
Volunteer Experience Manager 
Project WildlifeSan Diego Humane Society

Take Time to Care 

 “I guess the best way I could say thriving, not just surviving is ‘communication’. I have done my very best to reach out to the volunteers individually regularly and the kindest words I have received was from a 90-year-old volunteer. She said, ‘thank you for caring enough to check on us, as many are widowed and it feels good to know someone is looking out for us, even if we have family.’ She helped me realize that even though many aren’t able to volunteer during this time, I truly have more time to show them we care. They are all my inspiration, such an amazing bunch of women and men, couldn’t ask for more. Always giving back more than they receive, true servant-hood!”  

Mary Burkhart 
Volunteer Coordinator 
Avita Home Health & Hospice 

Appreciate Everyone  

”Since we are bound by Medicare Licensure regarding our hospice volunteers, and our volunteers have not been able to visit patients since mid-March, I have had to find ways to keep the volunteers onboard. I email or text them individually at least once a week to see how they’re doing, and I have assigned them the job of calling patients or sending cheerful notes to let THEM know they are not forgotten. Keep that lifeline with your volunteers open! Let them know they are truly appreciated even if they can’t be active right now.”  

Joanne Ciampi 
Volunteer Services Coordinator 
Continuum Hospice Care  

Final Tips for Leaders of Volunteers

We have been so inspired by and grateful to every one of the participants who shared their responses with us. You are the true definition of how we are better together!  

Reflecting on the responses had me thinking about how I manage stress and beat overwhelm, and for me, it’s all about connection. Here are some of my tips you might incorporate into your routine: 

  • Going on weekly walk-and-talks with a close friend.  
  • Starting my day with some relaxing music. Hauser is my go-to at the moment. His Alone Together concerts come with some amazing scenery!  
  • Getting outside, every. single. Day. 
  • Connecting to nature. I practice grounding daily, by walking barefoot on grass, sand, or dirt, or by lying on the ground.  

What tips for leaders of volunteers do you have to share? Let us know in the comments!