Time to Reach for the Oxygen Mask

March 02, 2021 11:00 AM | Anonymous

As the pandemic drags on, ABNN’s sector survey shows nonprofits are increasingly worried about staff mental health. In fact, according to ABNN’s third Pulse Check on the Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits and Voluntary Organizations Reportmore than half of nonprofit respondents said staff mental health was their greatest operational challenges.

From health and safety worries, to vanishing funding streams, to ever growing need and complexity, nonprofit staff have been dealing with a lot – all while working remotely and managing their own personal stresses,” says Mike Grogan, CEO and President of IntegralOrg and part of the team leading the ABNN survey. 

“Concerns about staff mental health are pervasive across the sector.”

Compounding Challenges

The survey data showed that almost three-quarters of nonprofit respondents saw revenues decrease this year, with many indicating they are struggling to fund core organizational activities. Organizations also indicated they are working in more complex environments, experiencing increased demand and losing capacity.

When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, respondents indicated that the pandemic is having a significant impact on staff stress and workload. The workforce’s ability to engage has been further impacted by remote work and staff absences. Very few responding organizations were immune to these stresses.

Preserving the Health and Wellbeing of our Staff and Sector

While the survey (which included ~500 respondents) is not intended to be statistically representative of the sector, the findings are suggestive of the mounting challenges faced by organizations.

“The sector is typically very resilient, always finding ways to do more with less, but we need to rethink how we respond to demand and take care of our staff at the same time,” says Gemma Dunn, Executive Director of ECVO and also involved in the survey team. “We might need to reconsider how we work and the demands we put on ourselves. We may need to partner in different ways, change our offering or even say ‘no’ in order to protect the health of our employees.

"Nonprofits need to put the oxygen mask on first. As a sector, we need to make sure we’re healthy and resilient enough to get through this.”

~ Gemma Dunn, Executive Director, ECVO

Mental Health Resources

ABNN Workforce Development Committee is committed to taking a deep look at the survey results, and is reaching out to nonprofits and experts to better understand these mental health concerns and potential supports. Initial research and scans show that existing resources for organizations may not be readily apparent and there may not be enough clearly focused on the nonprofit sector. 

However, greater attention is starting to turn to this issue and we anticipate more resources will be shared and/or developed from within and beyond the sector.

We have started compiling existing mental health resources and have created a new Mental Health Resources Page on our website. We will continue to add to this page as we identify resources, so please send us information about those that are helpful in your workplace. We also encourage organizations to share with us their stories of how they've successfully supported mental health and we will share them on social media.

While there is the bigger picture of addressing this systemic issue, Mike also reminds us there are things we can do in our day-to-day to help ourselves and others, “I’ve had some really hard days this last year, and it truly helps to call a friend or colleague and talk about it. If you’re struggling with a challenge or having a bad day, reach out to someone. And take a moment to ask your colleagues and staff how they are really doing. It can make a big difference.


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