Danielle Strong 2017 Q&A: Volunteer Management

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

What would you like to do to reduce burnout in volunteers (both staff & non-staff)?

There are a few things I would like to do, although I’m not sure how viable they are. I would love to see more recruitment drives for committees that are worst affected by burnout, if possible, along with dedicated volunteers from the committee who have a particular focus on training new staff. While I don’t feel that training is an issue in particular, having staff willing and able to be a primary point of contact for new volunteers would, I feel, remove some of the strain from committee chairs and would allow new volunteers to bond with other staff members, which I hope would encourage them to stay. Having more staff available to cover the work needed to be done would help reduce burnout, especially if the people who are buddying/training new staff rotate regularly so they don’t also get burned out from training.

I would also like to see our social media/newsletter outlets being more utilised to assist users with common queries and general information. I know that particularly for Abuse (and I imagine for Support as well), we can often receive a flood of reports about an issue – sometimes about an issue that isn’t a breach of the ToS – and that greatly affects our ability to resolve the issue quickly, which again can result in another flood of reports when people don’t get a response in the time frame they would like. Some issues occur regularly enough that it would be useful to work with our communications team to keep users informed in a more general way when they crop up, to reduce some of the workload and thereby help prevent burnout.

How would you approach increasing recruitment rate for those committees that are routinely understaffed?

I think it might be helpful to host the occasional Q&A or chat ‘party’ for routinely understaffed committees, as it is possible that many people who might be interested in volunteering are simply unsure of whether or not they are qualified to do so, and don’t realise that we have roles for just about anyone. Naturally committees such as Abuse that have very strict confidentiality might not be able to do this, but for some it may be beneficial. Giving users the opportunity to ask committee members questions about their role, even if only on a News post on the front page rather than a live chat, could help them see how rewarding volunteering for the OTW is, and reassure them that, for most roles, you don’t have to have any formal qualifications or any previous experience in particular in order to volunteer.

If possible, I also feel the OTW could potentially pull volunteers from other, more overstaffed, committees to use as temporary fill-ins when staffing rate is especially low. Increasing the skill sets of existing volunteers could be hugely beneficial, and they may even decide they enjoy their temporary role so much they want to make it permanent. There would likely have to be some restrictions on who can go where (for example, someone who has been a volunteer for five minutes shouldn’t be able to jump straight over to Abuse) but overall utilising the pool of volunteers we already have would certainly – at least in the short term – help committees who might be struggling as a result of being understaffed in the long term.