How to Recognize and Avoid Volunteer Burnout

Adam J. Cheshier
5 min readAug 4, 2020

You do not have to be willing to throw in a towel to improve your volunteer experience. These little changes can make a big difference.

Volunteering is often necessary for non-profit organizations, especially when they are understaffed and overworked. But what happens when volunteers become frustrated and the joy of doing their job diminishes? They can burn out and then they have to act before it is too late.

Volunteer burnout can have a direct impact on the success of your organization. If volunteers push on, trying to resume daily activities, their overall performance may decrease. And their burnout will only get worse.

A burnout is often defined as a state of chronic stress that can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and withdrawal. The risk of burnout in volunteers increases over time, so it is important to identify and treat these symptoms before they become harmful.

The Signs of Volunteer Burnout

First, when suffering from volunteer burnout, it is possible that you see some major changes in your feelings and appearance, which may mean behavioral changes. For example, if someone regularly talks about their love of volunteering and enthusiasm for work, but now is complaining and sulking, it may mean that they feel exhausted from the role. Cynicism, anger, loss of pleasure and increased irritability are symptoms associated with burnout.

Improving Volunteer Burnout

If you start to feel you’re burning out, you are better off taking a step back rather than grinding forward. Here is how to improve the situation.

Start with the Body

Your body is destined to regenerate and recover. So when you feel the effects of fatigue — prolonged fatigue, absence from work, and perhaps even weight gain and stress-related illness — it is a sign that your body’s requirements exceed its ability to keep up.

Giving your body what it needs is essential to prevent burnout. It can contribute to reducing the lack of energy caused by…



Adam J. Cheshier

Documenting obscure pockets of the world across long-distance overland expeditions. Recently celebrated 7 years of nomadism.