volunteers are struggling

How can you help when your volunteers are struggling with work?

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There’s no hiding from the fact that we’re set to face some difficult times in the coming months. We don’t want to belabour the point about the cost-of-living crisis or energy costs, but they exist and will affect your charity. And one way this is going to present itself is in your staff and volunteers.


They are about to face all that too, and it may impact their performance at work. They’ll struggle just like anyone else. So when you notice performance slipping, how do you approach such a difficult situation? Let’s take a look at how you can have an honest discussion with your staff and volunteers. And how you can use this to make sure they and your charity end up in a good place.


Organise your thoughts

Before you approach any team member or volunteer, get your thoughts in order first. Yes, their work might be slipping, but they are a human who may be going through some tough times. What you don’t want is for your conversation to come across as an attack.


Communication is key here. So write down your thoughts on what specifically is going wrong. Don’t use generic statements like “your standards are falling”, as that catastrophizes the situation. Instead, look for actionable areas of improvement. Something like “I’ve noticed you aren’t as engaged with customers” or “you sometimes forget to ask about Gift Aid”.


Take your emotions out of it and put theirs in. While you write down where they can improve, look at where they’re already doing great. You’ll want to include that in your feedback to let them know that you’re still happy with aspects of their performance. That might be just the lift they need.


Once you’ve laid out what you want to say, next is actually saying it.


Approach them in the right way

You want to make this conversation as non-aggressive as possible. No one likes their flaws being exposed, so ensure they know this is a non-judgmental talk about their work. Use the compliments you wrote down from the last tip to sandwich any negative points.


Also, remember this isn’t about criticism; it’s about critique. The point of this meeting is to lift them up to be better, not push them down. So with each piece of feedback, look at how this can be improved. Come up with a plan of action together so they feel they have some control over their fate.


And make this a two-way conversation. What are their thoughts on their work, workplace, or situation? What feedback do they have for you? If you make sure they feel heard, the less chance this meeting will feel like an attack.


How can you help?

Take that feedback they give you and ask yourself what you can change. One of their points might be that they feel overwhelmed by the amount of work. So where can you potentially help out? Could you recruit a new volunteer, for example? Can you rebalance workloads?


This might also require some introspection. It’s a good time to look at who you are as a manager. Are you there for them when they need it? Have you ensured your staff and volunteers have that open line of communication? Do you unwittingly make life harder for them by being, for example, slightly disorganised? Working together is about learning to deal with one another, so if you’re asking them to improve, it’s only fair you do the same.


Then you have to look at the working environment. Does your team have the tools and solutions they need to make their day easier? If they’re spending all day fighting against an outdated EPoS system, that’s going to drag down their work. So this is as good a time as any to audit these areas.


Life is only going to get tougher. That’s why your cause exists – to help the people who need it. But never forget that those people can easily be inside your organisation. By taking this approach to feedback, you can encourage your staff and volunteers to do better without feeling attacked.


If you’re looking at ways to make their work easier, consider CHARiotWeb. It was designed specifically to meet the demands of the charity sector. To book a demo or find out more, reach out to us on 01204 706000.