Avoiding Burnout: How Nonprofit Workers Can Build Resilience And Still Create Change

Working at a nonprofit can be just as fulfilling as it is tiring. Here’s how to make it more of the former and less of the latter.


A 2018 Gallup study found that nearly two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout. For those in the nonprofit sector, this figure comes as no surprise. In between long hours of community outreach, project implementation, and otherwise trying to improve the world, nonprofit workers are amongst those most at-risk for burnout.

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” characterized by feelings of exhaustion, negativity toward one’s job, and decreased professional efficiency. While such symptoms can be mitigated in the short term, not addressing burnout can eventually result in high turnover rates, employee dissatisfaction, and slower progress in carrying out your organization’s mission.

However, burnout does not have to be inevitable! Here are three tips for avoiding burnout at your nonprofit:

1. Set Healthy Boundaries

It can be tempting to open up your inbox after hours, or to want to work on that one project that you weren’t able to finish up during the day. However, setting meaningful boundaries both inside and outside of the workday allows you the time and space to rest and recharge before returning to work.

Ask yourself: Am I compromising my own health (and perhaps also the long-term health of the nonprofit) by working around the clock? Are there notifications or distractions that are keeping me tied to my work outside of normal working hours? How else can I guard my rest time, within reason?

2. Diversify Knowledge Across Your Team

If you are the only person who can perform a certain task vital to your nonprofit’s daily functioning, it’s time to share your know-how with others on your team! Empowering them will take the stress off of you (you can now take time off and not worry about doing work while on vacation) and off of your team (they will know how to respond even if you aren’t around).

Ask yourself: Am I uncomfortable taking time off for fear of something happening at work while I’m away? Who on my team should be trained to address issues that may arise in my absence? Is my work documented and shared in such a way that a coworker could take over if necessary?

3. Encourage Open Communication

Symptoms of burnout are not always obvious. Some coworkers who appear fine may very well be overwhelmed by their work, which could be taking a physical, emotional, and mental toll on them. By encouraging your team (and yourself) to communicate how they are handling work-related stress, potential burnout can be avoided through the identification and reevaluation of personal and organizational priorities.

Ask yourself: Have I recently checked in with a coworker to ask how they’re doing? Are there established communication channels through which my team can voice their work-related stress? Is anyone being left out of this conversation?

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Featured Photo: Free Education For 300 Children In Rural Cambodia by Globalteer
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