BLOGS

"Charity workers: we need you to.......go on holiday!" by Emma Beeston

Jul 28, 2017

"I know we are into the holiday season because emails have reduced. I hope you are about to get a break to recharge your batteries. This is not just a good thing for your own well-being but it is also a good thing for the charitable sector as a whole.

Burnout for those leading charities in a difficult operating environment and those frontline workers responding to people in crisis, is a real issue. Burnout comes when constant stress renders you feeling helpless, disillusioned and completely exhausted. The way to tackle it is all too familiar: eat well, sleep, relax, exercise, connect with others and take breaks.

Burnout is something that Trustees should pay proper attention to now more than ever,because staff teams are dealing with rising demand and diminishing resources. Trustees have a duty of care to their staff and need to check that they are taking their leave, have supervision and mentoring in place, manageable workloads and are trained in ‘self-care’ techniques.

Burnout is awful when it hits caring individuals. There is also a cost for the charity. Staff with valuable experience are lost and have to be replaced with new people.

But worse than that for the sector is ‘becoming jaded’ because those affected in this way tend to stay in their jobs. Jaded is “feeling or showing a lack of interest and excitement caused by having done or experienced too much of something.” When it happens to leaders it can bring everyone down and create a negative culture. The organisation becomes inward looking, risk averse and misses new opportunities. You see it in people whose response to any suggestion is “we’ve tried that before”.

Clore Social Leadership Programme’s report ‘Is the charity sector fit for purpose?’ found “If leaders’ passion and courage dissipate then all that remains is the energy to chase the funding to keep an organisation afloat. Being jaded cannot be dismissed as merely ‘the cost of doing business’ in the sector. People do not become leaders in the charity world to become jaded, they become leaders to see social justice become reality.

The same is true with funders. In his brilliant essay ‘The spirit of philanthropy and the soul of those who manage it’, Paul Ylvisaker sets out 11 commandments for grant makers. Number 8 is stay excited and hopeful. As he explains: “When you find your battery of hope, excitement, and even idealistic naiveté so drained that you don’t let an applicant finish a presentation without pointing out why it can’t be done, it’s time you departed for another profession.”

So please don’t feel guilty about taking time off. Everyone working in the charity sector needs a break to avoid getting tired, burned out or jaded. Recharge and come back excited and hopeful. Because without passion and optimism it is going to be hard to get through the uncertain times ahead.

Happy holidays!"  

Emma Beeston Consultancyadvises funders and philanthropists on giving strategies and processes; selecting causes and charities; assessments and impact monitoring. Services for charities include external perception reviews; bid reviews; training for fundraisers and non-fundraisers involved in bids. For more details visit Emma's website or emailemma@emmabeeston.co.uk