New online resource hub launched to prevent social sector burnout
“We can’t afford to lose any more good people.”
Australia’s not-for-profits, charities and social enterprises now have a dedicated online resource hub to help address and prevent the increasingly prevalent burnout in the sector.
A flagship project of Benefolk Foundation (formerly The Xfactor Collective Foundation), The Community Well is live this week. It has been a year in development and addresses the growing need in social sector organisations for tailored resources to better manage their staff and volunteers’ mental health and wellbeing.
Benefolk Foundation Founder and Executive Director Julia Keady says that something had to be done and the Hub was a practical solution, with stage 1 enabled by funding from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.
“We simply can’t afford to lose any more good people from the sector. Rolling natural disasters on top of the pandemic, and now the escalating costs of living, are placing even greater pressure on the social sector.
“More and more people are leaving because they are burnt out. They put their heart and soul into making life better for others, yet often the system lets them down.
“Our mission is to eradicate changemaker burnout. The first step in doing that is to ensure that directors, executives, managers and volunteers have practical tools to enhance wellbeing in the workplace,” she said.
While there are many resources about mental health and wellbeing, Benefolk found they were generic and didn’t take account of some aspects that make the social sector quite different to the corporate, small business and public sectors. So, Benefolk Foundation curated and aggregated tailored resources and, where they didn’t exist, created them.
The resources in The Community Well are free to access and include tools such as an Organisational Health Check, Workplace Wellbeing Strategy templates, How to Apply a Wellbeing Lens and links through to 80 resources. Where more tailored support is required, the Benefolk Foundation team is able to support through its extensive provider and partner network.
There are already 150 not-for-profits and charities utilising the hub in beta test, including Danni Howes, Pastor for Christian Life Church Kyogle, in flood-impacted Northern Rivers NSW who has found the hub invaluable.
“The resources are incredible. We need the hub for us, for our personal wellness and our staff’s wellness and for our organisation to be robust and last the distance in these challenging times. Knowing they are a link away is fantastic,” Mrs Howes said.
Ms Keady believes that wellbeing governance needs to become a sector priority.
“It needs to be on the agenda of every board and executive team. In the same way that we now apply gender and climate lenses to key decisions, we must apply a ‘wellbeing lens’.
“However, we also know that many social sector organisations do not have the infrastructure or resources to call on in terms of looking after staff and volunteer mental health and wellbeing. Many don’t even know where to start! That’s why we created The Community Well,” Ms Keady said.
The need for the hub was further evidenced by the Foundation’s research - the RESET 2020 National Impact + Need Research Study, conducted in 2020. This was the first time Australia’s social sector workers had been extensively asked about their mental health and wellbeing.
The results were concerning:
- 45% of respondents felt stressed or anxious often or always;
- 41% felt frustrated, cynical or exhausted often or always; and
- More than 30% of respondents said that they did not have expertise in, nor the resources to support their organisation’s mental health and wellbeing.
However, the research also uncovered data pointing to pre-existing systemic challenges. More than 80% of respondents said that growing and wide-scale burnout in the sector was an issue pre-pandemic, and that COVID had exacerbated and put a spotlight on the systemic root causes of poor mental health outcomes for social sector professionals.
More recently, following Benefolk Foundation’s first place-based capacity building activation in flood-impacted Northern Rivers NSW, 72.6% said that their clients and community often take priority over looking after themselves, 34% cited budget constraints, and 14.5% reported their board and management do not prioritise wellbeing governance.
Ms Keady says that these statistics are especially concerning when the sector deals with many complexities and challenges, including its increasing challenges meeting service delivery demands.
“Many organisations regularly have exposure to confronting issues such as homelessness, family violence, climate change and the impact of rolling natural disasters and the pandemic. In addition, there are several systemic factors that affect mental health and individual and organisational wellbeing, including funding uncertainty; inability to build financial reserves; workforce and talent shortages; high rates of employee turnover; and declining volunteering rates, putting more pressure on those that remain. These organisations need free access to practical tools and support, and The Community Well offers that.”
Visit The Community Well at www.benefolk.org/wellbeing
Benefolk (formerly The Xfactor Collective) connects not-for-profits, charities and impact-focused businesses to the very best support and expertise from our network of trusted consultants and professional service providers. As a Certified Social Enterprise and Certified B-Corp, we’re fiercely dedicated to changemakers. Through our sister charity, Benefolk Foundation, we provide resources and undertake advocacy to help all social changemakers achieve their mission without burning out.
The Community Well – is the flagship project of the Benefolk Foundation.