Be a detective – hunt out the reasons! #wiseupwednesdays

detectiveBefore a volunteer leaves or thinks about leaving, there may be some signs to give you a clue that things aren’t going well. Some volunteers may already display some or all of these as their natural disposition though, so be observant! Just remember that having a good relationship with your volunteers, keeping in regular contact and scheduled support/supervision sessions, should pick up on all of these!!!

  • Not turning up regularly / unwilling to commit – if they don’t turn up when they were previously very committed, something is wrong.
  • Making excuses – if there’s always an excuse for not coming or doing something, be on the alert, it could be a sign things aren’t going well.
  • Moody – upset, angry – when a normally sunny volunteer suddenly becomes grumpy, you’re going to notice. It may be something personal that’s nothing to do with their volunteering, but try to find out why the change.
  • Not joining in/lack of interest – another sign that all’s not well, when previously they were exuding enthusiasm. Try to dig out the reason.
  • Moaning – for some volunteer this can be a natural demeanour, we are talking about excessive moaning or volunteers complaining, who have previously been content.
  • Service users notice/making comments – your service users can be a great indicator of potential issues with volunteers and they may spot things that you don’t.
  • Other volunteers/staff notice – just like service users, volunteers/staff are a great gauge of how other volunteers are doing and may spot the signs before you!
  • Not doing what’s expected – when Mavis suddenly decides no-one is getting a drink today and locks herself in the kitchen, something’s wrong.  Anything that’s not usual behaviour for a volunteer needs to be investigated, but be sensitive and empathic. Confrontation could result in a high speed exit!
  • Asking for a reference – this could be a genuine request as the volunteer has found a job or is looking at a college course, but could also be a sign that things aren’t going well.
  • Body language – if you understand body language and a volunteer is standing with their arms folded and exuding a truculent manner, things aren’t good.
  • Ignoring attempts to make contact – this one is a fairly obvious one in some cases.  If a volunteer’s mobile number is suddenly permanently not available,  it’s not a matter of needing to buy credit, there’s a good chance they’ve changed it.
  • Asking about other roles – a subtle way of saying that the volunteer is either bored or unhappy in their current role.
  • Not communicating with you/vols/clients – when a sociable/chatty volunteer suddenly clams up this could be a sign of personal issues, but equally be a sign of a deeper malaise with the volunteer. Approach delicately and try to fish for reasons for their change in behaviour.
  • Health deteriorates – this may be really obvious, but there are lots of hidden health conditions such as depression, stress or other illnesses that don’t show.  Again this will need to be handled delicately.
  • Turned down for paid role – a common result of this is a volunteer exuding dissatisfaction and their behaviour changing. It’s a difficult situation and it may be that the volunteer was wholly unsuitable, but needs to be handled with the ultimate of tact and diplomacy to avoid any fallout.
  • Being negative – this is another tricky one and may be a result of the above issue. Then again, it may be a matter of a volunteer feeling disillusioned – not always with their volunteering role, but because of things going on outside the volunteering environment. Get those kid gloves out and try to coax the reasons from them.
  • Confrontational – something’s wrong if your normally placid volunteer suddenly argues about everything and seems to want a fight. Something has obviously happened to upset them. Just remember it may not be to do with their volunteering and approach with care. If it’s a large, well-built volunteer, it may be an idea to have back up! 
  • Wants to keep swapping roles/days – this could be for several reasons eg they are unhappy with their current role, or something is going on outside the volunteering environment and they are struggling to fit everything in.
  • Other volunteers leaving -this is very serious and must be tackled immediately. It could be that a long-serving volunteer doesn’t like new people coming, feels threatened by them, or has unpleasant personality traits. Whatever the reason you need to get to the bottom of it and tackle it squarely, or you could lose volunteers!



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