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How to Prevent Nonprofit Burnout

Preventing nonprofit burnout is difficult without a global pandemic. But the last few years have pushed many nonprofits towards total burnout! We have faced some of that here at Nashville Rescue Mission and have heard from many of our ministry colleagues on my podcast Real Hope.

One such friend is Kim James who is the Executive Director of Young Leaders Council in Nashville.

Something Kim said that stood out to me was, “Compassion and understanding are important to remember during difficult times.” Knowing that we are all human, and going through our own personal issues helps to remind us to be more graceful and encourage each other. 

Give yourself and your team members some grace as Kim went on to say, “It may not always be ideal or pretty but we are still moving forward in the work and vision of the organization. Being open and honest with the people I work with is key.”

Burnout is described as emotional exhaustion and a decreased sense of accomplishment. The Nonprofit Quarterly says that 30% of nonprofit workers are burnt out right now, and that another 20% are on the edge of burn out. This has a ripple effect to those your organization desires to serve.

Signs of Burnout

According to Eastern Washington University, burnout develops as a result of continued exposure to stress and a perceived inability to meet situational demands. 

Here are some signs you and your team members can look out for to identify burnout before it becomes a real problem for your organization.

Watch for these symptoms:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Emotional depletion
  • Work-related exhaustion
  • Treating others impersonally
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of productivity
  • Poor performance
  • Avoidance of responsibilities
  • Decreased motivation
  • Increasingly negative outlook
  • Coming in late or leaving early
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Boredom, frustration and apathy

When you feel like you’re falling behind or dreading the next day of work, you could be headed toward burnout.

Ways to Prevent Burnout

We must take care of ourselves so that we can serve others. Here are some ideas to relieve stress and make things easier on one another:

Early recognition can lead to prevention, so the first priority is awareness. Take the time to acknowledge that you may be feeling one or more of the symptoms listed above. Then look at ways you can practically turn the emotional tide and get back to the passion that brought you to the great work that you do.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there board members you can lean on for help?
  • Is it time for new board members?
  • Do goals need to be reevaluated?
  • What can be reduced or eliminated in your typical week?
  • What do you work on that you are passionate about and brings you the most joy?
  • Are you getting outside and exercising on a regular basis?
  • What foods can you eat that are healthier and make you more energetic?
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Do you need a little time off?
  • Is there a hobby you would like to begin that may bring you happiness?
  • Can you make meaningful time with friends and family?
  • Who is someone you can talk to and be honest with?

Once you are able to evaluate your own burnout, you can take the steps necessary to help improve it, and perhaps help someone else avoid it. It’s easy for us to get caught up in overworking ourselves especially when it’s for a good cause that we are passionate about. If we want to avoid burnout, it’s important to remember that we must first take care of ourselves. 

If you need resources or more help with burnout, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here.

If you would like to hear my conversation with Kim James that talks more about nonprofit burnout, click here to learn more. 

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