Why Volunteers Quit


“Leaders, in both non-profits and for-profits, lose out when they fail to align assignments with the talents, interests, and needs of their teams.”— Misti Burmeister

Soon after retirement, Bebe found herself bored and incredibly lonely. Seeking to “be with people,” she signed up to volunteer at a retirement home.

On the morning she was scheduled to start, Bebe headed to the retirement home, feeling excited about spending the day connecting with others.

Upon arrival, she met Janice, the woman in charge of volunteers. After finishing some paperwork, Bebe was given her assignment for the day – cleaning the bathrooms … alone.

“As I scrubbed that floor by myself,” Bebe said, “I couldn’t help but think about the woman I was paying to clean my bathroom.”

“Did you keep volunteering?” I asked.

“No, I jumped at the opportunity to organize a crew of workers to renovate five bathrooms for another organization.”

Yes, someone had to clean those floors, but had Janice taken the time to find out why Bebe was motivated to volunteer, she wouldn’t have assigned her a solitary task. Instead, Janice would have found an assignment that enabled Bebe to spend the day with others, and that tapped into her skills and talents.

Volunteers and employees quit for similar reasons. They want to share their talents in environments where they feel valued and appreciated. They want to work with leaders who care enough to find out what truly motivates them and to learn about their goals.

Leaders, in both non-profits and for-profits, lose out when they fail to align assignments with the talents, interests, and needs of their teams. And there’s only one way to find out why people show up to work: Ask them.

Join the Conversation: Do you know what inspires and motivates each of your team members? How have you aligned their skills, as well as their career goals, with the tasks you assign to them?

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

Misti on Google+

4 thoughts on “Why Volunteers Quit

  1. Todd Carter

    Great post Misti! As you mention, true not just for volunteers but for employees too. It is easy to forget as we work through the daily grind but a great reminder. Your article teasers are the best….almost impossible to not click to keep reading. You’ve taken it to a new level. Keep up the great work!

  2. Mark Furst, United Way of Central Maryland

    Misti – Your blog is very much on point. My experience is that the best nonprofit leaders know that volunteers not only DO work, but know how to engage volunteers IN their work, building relationships that are indelible. Maryland Food Bank, Habitat, Our Daily Bread, and American Red Cross are just a few prime examples. When I speak with a nonprofit director whose organization is struggling financially, I usually ask if he/she is presenting the right kind of volunteer activities to donors and prospects.

    Ditto for the importance of engaging employees. At our United Way, we give each employee 12 hours paid time off per quarter to volunteer in the community – not only to be ambassadors for our organization but to let them see the many forms of need very personally.

    • Misti Burmeister

      Thank you for your comment, Mark!

      How do you ensure volunteers are being properly paired for their skill set/desires?


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