It is important to be transparent with volunteers who are implementing your organizational mission while providing wellness practices for those volunteers. This is a burnout prevention standpoint. That is, much of the nonprofit human services roles in community-based organizations require staff and volunteers to exercise empathy and thoughtfulness with the people who they are serving. This means that staff and volunteers must get close to the stress and trauma of the people who they are serving, often resulting in chronic stress and vicarious trauma for the professionals in your organization.

Supporting volunteers with wellness practices – within the context of on-the-ground trauma-inducing settings – is also a vital step towards eradicating white savior complexes among your white volunteer population. As has been discussed thoroughly, white savior beliefs and behaviors are incredibly damaging to the community who is supposed to be at the heart of the organizational mission. For example, white saviorism blocks local talent and grounded insights from informing solutions. Further, white saviorism normalizes colonial-style relationships among people (i.e. white savior volunteers engage as if they hold the power and solutions to be bestowed upon the ignorant population). The list of harm goes on.

There are several ways that wellness practices (e.g. trainings, education, modalities, etc.) for volunteers can curb white saviorism in that wellness practices done effectively…

…show volunteers that stress and trauma often go along with systemic oppression for which they are likely privileged to avoid due simply to the higher human value placed on their white skin color and/or class standing.

…illustrate how further disproportionate challenges are experienced by populations when stress and trauma go unaided such as chronic health conditions like heart disease, missed work or school, etc.

…model that low or no cost wellness practices exist, but there are systemic barriers which normalize hurdles to wellness for some populations (i.e. decolonize wellness).

Hence, wellness practices for volunteers are important in order to mitigate the negative impact of chronic stress and vicarious trauma as well as curb the American cultural tendencies towards the white savior complex and its racist origins.

This 2 Tips is part of a 3-part series!!!

You get to have 2 Tips focused on the following volunteer management approaches:

  • Part-1: Equity & Inclusion Supports for Volunteers (May 2020)
  • Part-2: Wellness for Volunteers (June 2020)
  • Part-3: Measuring Impact of Volunteer Power (July 2020)

Tip 1

At the point of onboarding volunteers, articulate the wellness practices for volunteers to implement with clarity that the practices are about mitigating burnout and curbing white saviorism.

Tip 2

​At regular supervision check-ins with volunteers, review which wellness practices were used in the previous two weeks and how these helped them to mitigate burnout as well as curb tendencies for white saviorism.