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How to Address Burnout

How to Address Burnout
While managers can deploy strategies to help their employees prioritize emotional well-being, this may be a moment to ask high-level strategic questions that lead to deeper institutional solutions.

Fundraisers are increasingly at risk of burnout on the job, according to a recent article by Emily Haynes in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Citing a 2022 study by the Chronicle, Haynes draws our attention to statistics that are troubling for employees and managers alike. Of 685 fundraisers surveyed, “94 percent said they strongly or somewhat agreed that there is tremendous pressure to succeed, and 82 percent said fundraising roles are underappreciated.”

While fundraisers may be especially susceptible to it, burnout is an issue across the nonprofit spectrum.

Strategies for Mitigating Burnout

Haynes offers a few strategies for managers in order to proactively address burnout and mitigate its consequences.

  • Watch for signs of burnout, such as “changes in mood and productivity or increased bouts of illness.”
  • Boost morale by taking time to pause and acknowledge the meaningful work employees are engaged in. “Celebrating achievements staves off burnout by reminding employees of the difference their work makes.”
  • Normalize conversations about emotional well-being, and consider integrating it into your practices as a manager. For example, during performance reviews, encourage staff to set goals related to mental health.

Like other workplace trends, burnout doesn’t occur in a vacuum. In light of high turnover rates in the US workforce, burnout can be seen as both a symptom and a cause of the Great Resignation.

In fact, one could argue that burnout and turnover are closely intertwined, braided together in a feedback loop: as employees leave their jobs due to burnout, the resulting vacancies shift more and more work to employees, which can in turn lead to burnout, and so on and so forth.

Asking Institutional Questions

Manya Whitaker, an executive vice president at Colorado College, has struggled to recruit candidates for open positions as a result of the burnout/turnover spiral. Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Whitaker notes, “Everything I thought I knew about running an administrative search has gone out the window this academic year as we, like the vast majority of institutions, have struggled to fill vacancies within a much-altered higher-education landscape.”

Out of necessity, the challenges facing Whitaker have prompted her to ask a series of strategic questions: “Where are the actual pressure points? How does the current staffing structure align with new strategic priorities? What exactly do we want each of these positions to do?”

The questions Whitaker asks at this critical time point to one possible path forward—a path that will likely lead to deeper, institutional solutions for burnout.

We Want to Hear from You

Is your organization taking measures to address or mitigate staff burnout? What have you tried? What have you learned?

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