Burnout in the Nonprofit Sector: Tips and Best Practices

Nonprofit Burnout

Did you know that nearly a quarter of U.S. workers experience burnout? Nonprofit burnout numbers are even higher, with 50% of nonprofits experiencing high burnout levels.

The impact of burnout can lead to low employee morale and high turnover rates for nonprofit employees. Without identifying burnout and helping nonprofit employees manage it, your employees may decide to leave, or may have trouble accomplishing everyday tasks. These conditions could lead to limited results for the community your organization intends to serve.

Have you noticed burnout symptoms among your nonprofit employees and volunteers? Do you know the symptoms?

In this blog post, we’ll answer these questions and discuss what you can do to preserve good work- life balance, while prioritizing mental health and well-being to prevent nonprofit burnout.

What Is Nonprofit Burnout?

Burnout is a phenomenon that has become all too common in the workplace. It is typically the result of chronic workplace stress without proper attention and management.

There isn’t necessarily a medical diagnosis for this condition, but it is a mental health concern that can lead to deceased physical and mental health when it goes without recognition and correction.

Your employees likely love what they do for your nonprofit organization, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to the effects of prolonged stress that frequently leads to burnout.

While nonprofit work is meaningful and rewarding, it can also become emotionally draining for nonprofit staff due to the sense of urgency to improve the community. It isn’t unusual for nonprofit team members to work to the point of overworking themselves, and neglect self-care and their own mental well-being.

What Does Employee Nonprofit Burnout Look Like?

You probably know when you are asking more of your nonprofit employees. However, you may not be able to detect precisely when they are taking their duties and efforts beyond reasonable limits. Nonprofit burnout typically happens when employees are overloaded with work for a long period of time or lack adequate resources and time to do the necessary tasks.

If you know how to identify burnout among your nonprofit workers, it’s the first step in helping them.

As a nonprofit leader, note that these characteristics include:

  • Energy depletion and exhaustion.
  • Depersonalization and mental detachment, resulting in negative feelings and frustration or a lost sense of purpose.
  • A reduction in productivity and effectiveness at work.
  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Physical issues such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, difficulty sleeping and a drastic change in eating habits.
  • Lack of creativity.
  • Memory problems.

6 Tips to Prevent Nonprofit Burnout

Fortunately, there are ways to help your valued nonprofit employees avoid or recover from nonprofit burnout.

1. Create a Checklist of Nonprofit Burnout Indicators

Detecting signs of burnout is a crucial first step in preventing or halting this damaging condition. You can start by using the above-noted characteristics of burnout to better ensure you notice the signals as early as possible.

2. Connect with Your Nonprofit Team Members Regularly

Whether your team members work on-site or in a remote or hybrid model, conduct regular meetings in-person or via a video conference platform. Ask your team members how things are going to make sure everyone’s has a balanced workload.

Let everyone know that you want them to speak up if they feel overwhelmed, and that you want to find a way to offer support if they do. It is also important to ask your nonprofit team members to offer support to one another when possible.

3. Promote Work-Life Balance

No matter how important your nonprofit’s mission, your employees’ health is vital. If they can’t work effectively, your nonprofit and the community you serve will suffer. Model healthy workplace behaviors that focus on work-life balance. Encourage employees to practice and prioritize self-care and setting boundaries.

4. Establish and Foster a Healthy Workplace Culture

Much of what we propose serves as establishing a good workplace culture, but there are some intentional steps to accomplish this, including the following:

  • Recognize employee “wins” to keep morale and engagement high.
  • Promote regular exercise, including lunchtime group walks or on-site yoga classes.
  • Sponsor employee activities such as participating in book clubs, trivia contests or board games at lunch.

5. Address Changes in Attitude and Behavior Among Employees

With the list of indicators in mind, if you detect drastic changes in a nonprofit employee’s attitude or behavior, it’s best to address this as soon as possible. Take a gentle approach and start by sending an email asking if everything is OK.

If you don’t find this strategy helpful, ask the employee to join you for a private meeting in your office. Let him or her know that it is OK to discuss problems, concerns and stressors — and that you are there to serve as support.

6. Remind and Encourage Employees to Take Time Off

It’s important for employees to use their PTO to maintain good mental, physical and emotional health — especially when working hard in the nonprofit sector. Many workers find it easy to skip days off to finish a project, but the potential for stress and burnout are too great. Remind employees that their project will be ready for them when they return and that, if necessary, other employees can help.

We hope you can help your dedicated employees avoid nonprofit burnout with these ideas. If you need more help, UST offers many solutions that help identify issues in your nonprofit organization.

Contact us if you need additional help to reduce nonprofit unemployment and HR liability.

 

Sources

https://www.mckinsey.com/mhi/our-insights/addressing-employee-burnout-are-you-solving-the-right-problem

https://www.goodera.com/blog/coping-with-nonprofit-burnout

https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/addressing-burnout-critical-social-sectors-success

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/avoiding-burnout-and-preserving-movement-leadership/

https://www.thehortongroup.com/resources/11-tips-for-nonprofits-to-prevent-employee-burnout/

https://www.funraise.org/blog/mental-health-matters-when-the-goalposts-are-always-moving-nonprofit-burnout-is-a-given

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11/17/23 8:36 AM

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Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

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