Monthly Archives: May 2017

Why nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout

For those who attended our Annual General Meeting on May 10, you will recall the lessons Beth Kanter taught us on how to remain calm and collected while working at a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit expert and co-author of The Healthy Happy Nonprofit, discussed how to prevent burnout and maintain optimal job performance.

So, why are those working in the nonprofit industry susceptible to burnout? Kanter says “sacrificing one’s health in service of a cause is a common narrative in the nonprofit sector.” People who work in the nonprofit sector are (most likely) not in it for the money. They are passion-fueled individuals who believe in the cause they are working for. Kanter says this can be a double-edged sword as nonprofit workers can be “so driven, they don’t stop to refuel or smell the proverbial roses or even notice they are experiencing symptoms of burnout.” Those working in the nonprofit sector view self-care as an indulgence when really, it is a necessity.

If you’re a nonprofit worker who hasn’t given self-care a second thought, it’s time you start. When is the last time you took a vacation or a personal day? If you can’t remember, you should assess yourself for common symptoms of burnout:

In the Healthy Happy Nonprofit Kanter outlines common symptoms of burnout in nonprofit workers:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased illness
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Isolation
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of apathy/hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of productivity or poor performance

If this sounds like you, don’t panic. It happens more often than we think. A number of factors cause burnout; some can be personal while others are directly related to working in the nonprofit industry. For instance, the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” which Kanter explains is a consequence of inadequate infrastructure that leave nonprofits barely functioning as organizations. “The vicious cycle begins with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much money running a nonprofit takes and results in nonprofits misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems.” And for many nonprofits, that puts personal health and wellness low on the priority list. Then, there is “Funder-Driven Stress” which is a lack of foundation funding for nonprofit talent infrastructure. If a nonprofit’s foundation is weak, it makes it difficult to provide support and meet the needs of the communities that organization serves.  Other causes of burnout in the nonprofit sector include: lack of leadership development, overwork, overuse of technology and information overload.

Understanding that nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout and stress is important when evaluating your own personal wellness. If you, or your organization as a whole, operates as a never-ending machine, it’s time to take a moment and reflect on your health, because in reality, if you are healthier as an organization and an individual you will be happier and more productive in the workplace.


A Year in Review: The 2017 AGM


It’s difficult to sum up a year’s worth of work in a single brochure. Last year, the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations spearheaded a number of projects and initiatives to strengthen the nonprofit sector in our city. The 2016 annual report showcases our past work such as the Moving to Action initiative, board-to-board networking and capacity building workshops, while focusing on what lays ahead for the nonprofit sector in Edmonton. Within the annual report there are four key themes:

  • Leading: Connecting boards and asking the question, how can the nonprofit sector work together province-wide and nationally on issues of importance?
  • Capacity Building: Tackling evaluation and funding, providing resources and skill building opportunities
  • Giving Voice: Speaking on behalf of Edmonton nonprofit organizations, researching issues that impact the sector, sharing opportunities for individuals and organizations
  • Volunteerism: Volunteer screening, recruitment and collecting and sharing volunteer stories

At the Annual General Meeting, ECVO Russ Dahms explained in short, why our organization focuses on these key points: “It’s really about a strong vibrant community that is strengthened by an effective voluntary sector working with government and business.”

As for what’s ahead, ECVO recognizes that complacency is impractical in a rapidly shifting society; To be sustainable, organizations must adapt to these shifts. “When you think about the your organization and the work that you do, think down the road and ask the question what will sustainability look like?” asks Dahms. “It’s far better to create your path forward than to sit and stay static, old tight to the status quo.”

See the 2016 annual report. 



Boost your nonprofit’s digital presence

“Networked Nonprofits don’t work harder or longer than other organizations, they work differently. They engage in conversations with people beyond their walls — lots of conversations — to build relationships that spread their work through the network.” – Beth Kanter 

On Thursday, May 11, Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations had the pleasure of hosting internationally renowned nonprofit expert, Beth Kanter for the Networked Nonprofit workshop. The goal is to be a networked nonprofit – but what does this really mean and how can organizations get there?

In short, Kanter says a networked nonprofit is:

  • Simple, agile and transparent
  • Engaging with organizations to reach outcomes
  • Leveraging their personal networks in service of mission
  • Using social media and online collaboration tools to make the world a better place

Most of us would like to think we are masters of social media, but haphazardly pushing out content you find compelling isn’t enough. To be a true networked nonprofit, your organization must have a digital strategy: one that is intentional, targeted and meaningful.  If your organization is jumping on the digital train, here are some tips that will help you define your strategy and set goals.

  1. Define your audience

If you have a well-developed following, now is the time to deep dive into some analytics.  It may sound intimidating, but understanding where your audience’s interests lay doesn’t have to be difficult. Twitter and Facebook have analytics built into their platform, so you can check out who is clicking what and when. From there, you can determine who your audience is and produce content that is both relevant and interesting to them, which will in turn, boost your engagement!

And, if you’re just beginning to gain followers, determine how you will attract the followers you want. For instance, if you’d like to attract volunteers to your organization, showcase volunteer experiences. Try posting stories and personal stories to intrigue those who may be interested.

  1. Define Measurable Objectives

Again, aimless tweeting isn’t effective. Ensure your tweets are purposeful and are bringing you closer to reaching a measurable goal. Perhaps you’d like to gain more followers, reach a target audience, or get more people to visit your website, whatever the goal is, write it down and track your progress.

  1. Use Social Optimization

Social media is interactive, a give and take platform. During your morning scroll, take the time to answer comments or questions directed at your organization, like or comment posts that your tagged in and take part in conversation that is relevant to your nonprofit.

While social media can boost your nonprofit’s presence in the digital community, it is not the end all be all. Traditional communication and meeting stakeholders and community members face-to-face still holds merit now, but in conjunction with a strong digital presence you will be well on your way to becoming a networked nonprofit.

If you’d like more information on how to become a networked nonprofit, check out Beth’s Blog – a handy resource for nonprofit organizations.