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Nonprofit Burnout: The Frazzled Life of a Nonprofit Professional

So many people depend on you. Responsibility is your middle name. Everyone knows YOU can get the job done, no matter what it takes. Unfortunately, it takes every bit of energy and strength you have, but that’s how it goes, right? You are respected, successful, and exhausted.

According to a Harris Poll of fundraising professionals conducted for AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) and the Chronicle of Philanthropy, over 51% of all respondents said that they were planning to leave their current job within two years. Even more notable is that 30% indicated they plan to leave the fundraising professional altogether. What’s going on?

There are many reasons for people leaving the fundraising profession: a toxic work environment, unrealistic fundraising goals, or too many responsibilities. Additionally, some of us have a young family and are responsible for aging parents. This often leads to burnout and withdrawing from the fundraising profession. And when do we take care of yourself? The first step toward self-care is to admit that life is out of balance.

Here are a few suggestions to help with the stresses of being a nonprofit professional before you throw up your hands and walk out the door:

· Delegate or ask for help. There may be someone in your organization who would like to learn more about fundraising and be willing to take on some of your tasks.

· Stop volunteering for new projects. You already have more than you can handle. Let someone else have the opportunity. Yes, everyone, NO is a perfectly acceptable answer.

· Practice saying, “No” or “Not Now” by asking your boss to prioritize your work. If your boss gives you additional work, ask them what they would like you to move to the back burner.

· Get a support system outside your organization. Whether it’s another trusted fundraiser or mentor that can act as a sounding board, have these people in your network.

· Hire a consultant. Bringing in someone, unrelated to the organization, is a good way to evaluate your department or organization, to document the efficiencies and challenges of the staff, and to recalibrate best practices.

Remember, if stress burned calories, we’d all be supermodels(source: unknown).


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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