Erica Dulin 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)?

One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to take on more than is required and when life circumstances changes, rather than drop or pass off some of the work, they feel guilty and hide away from the work altogether. I’d like to make it as clear as possible to our volunteers that they can always ask for help or advice, and that staff cares and wants to know if you’re struggling. Thankfully, our new chat platform makes it possible for staff to privately reach out to volunteers and ask if they need a hand, or a break, or advice, etc. We have a lot of students who volunteer and their workloads will naturally vary throughout the year, for example, and I’d like them to know that staff totally understands that and no one wants our volunteers to be overwhelmed. Perhaps we need more org reminders and a clear policy in place that is visible on all of our information and communication tools, and even make it known on the applications to volunteer positions within the org.

We have to be realistic about our goals, timelines, and volunteer redundancy (or lack thereof!). No one should have the entire burden of a project on their shoulders alone. There are people who currently work alone but we are trying to recruit help for them, but that could be a long process. In the meantime, we should have a culture of encouragement and offer any help we can; we could work with volunteers to have achievable goals and deadlines by helping set priorities; what can they do alone, and what would they need help with in the long run?

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

We have regular news posts on our most user facing site (Ao3) that call for recruitment and we are looking into ways to get people to spread the word, such as utilizing Twitter and other social media platforms. I would love to continue and expand the Q&A posts we have with various volunteers so that interested people outside the OTW can get a clearer picture of what it’s like on the inside of the OTW. As we get further along in our current Strategic Plan and every committee defines its roles, we can share that information, too. The fuller the picture that people can have of the inner OTW, the better–as the truly curious and interested will know what they could be getting into.