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Avoid the Dreaded “Volunteer Burnout”

Spring and summer seasons can seem like a busier time than normal for 4-H volunteers.  Between 4-H/Tropicana, shooting sports matches, volunteer trainings and upcoming summer day camps, 4-H becomes a world of its own with wonderful youth development opportunities to teach needed life skills to our youth.  However, with the busy season approaching, concern of the dreaded VOLUNTEER BURNOUT is real.  It typically rears its ugly head starting in April and really takes a hold by June.  By July, it has claimed more volunteer victims than we like to admit. It is dark, ugly, and heavy.  It preys on the unsuspecting, the tired, the unselfish.

Do you feel the burn?

Do you feel the burn?

What causes volunteer burnout, and how does one recognize it before it attacks? Volunteer burnout can be a result of one or more factors such as over commitment, lack of sufficient breaks and rest, excessive responsibilities, an inability to say “no” and so on.  Volunteer burnout will typically prey on the loyal, unselfish, dedicated volunteer who wants to make a difference but may do so too much, too fast, and/or too often.  The only way to avoid volunteer burnout is to…take time for YOU.

“Wait, what?  Take time for myself?  But what about the youth I am positively impacting through 4-H?” you may ask.  Well, the old saying “you cannot help others if you are not taking care of yourself first” applies here.  In order for this to occur, you have to tend to yourself and have a healthy balance established between your needs, your family, work, etc.

If you are concerned that you are starting to feel the effects of volunteer burnout, talk to your 4-H Agent immediately.  Find out what can be done to help you ease the burden you are feeling.  Sometimes, it is a simple solution of talking through your concerns and frustrations regarding your schedule and setting priorities and new boundaries.  Other times it may mean getting more sleep, exercise, or starting a hobby that relaxes you.  Then again, sometimes it may require that more drastic measures be implemented such as giving up a task, learning to say “no” more often or even taking a few weeks off from your volunteer duties to tend to your own needs by enjoying the beautiful weather and working in your garden.

So, before you let the nasty volunteer burnout monster bite and send you running from the wonderful 4-H program you are involved in, we urge you to maintain a healthy balance between dedicated and delirious.  Take time for yourself.  Eat healthy.  Exercise regularly.  Spend quality time with family and friends.  Enjoy the spring days.  Visit the UF IFAS EDIS website ( for fantastic gardening tips.  Remember that you have the 4-H family in your corner supporting you 100% in your need for a little “you” time!