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Early survey insights reveal a social sector facing severe burnout


22 October 2020 at 5:22 pm
Luke Michael
Social sector organisations are being urged to participate in the sector-focused survey


Luke Michael | 22 October 2020 at 5:22 pm


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Early survey insights reveal a social sector facing severe burnout
22 October 2020 at 5:22 pm

Social sector organisations are being urged to participate in the sector-focused survey

Staff and volunteers across the social sector are feeling anxious, stressed and overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with new research showing many people in the sector are struggling to take good care of themselves. 

Preliminary analysis from the RESET 2020 National Impact+Need September Survey reveals that staff wellbeing and mental health are major challenges for many charities and not for profits.

The survey closes next Friday, but to date, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of participants have said the pandemic has had a negative impact on employees since the start of June. 

The data also shows how the pandemic has worsened these negative impacts, with 43 per cent of respondents feeling anxious and stressed at work – compared to just 10 per cent of people who felt this way before COVID hit.

The results also paint the picture of a sector feeling fatigued, with a 31 per cent increase in respondents reporting they feel frustrated, cynical, or exhausted at work since the pandemic began.

And more than a third of people (35 per cent) said they felt overwhelmed and admitted they were not taking as good care of themselves as they did pre-pandemic.       

Julia Keady, CEO of The Xfactor Collective – which is running the RESET 2020 study – said social-purpose organisation employees faced a higher risk of burnout and stress at the best of times, let alone during a major health crisis. 

“It’s incredibly tough to stay motivated when you’re operating on reserves, especially when there is no end in sight,” Keady said. 

The Xfactor Collective is urging staff, volunteers and board members of social sector organisations to participate in the survey before it closes on 30 October.

“These initial findings are very concerning, and we need more organisation leaders to take the survey, so we can see if it’s the case across the whole sector,” she said.

“We know this data will be key to the various advocacy efforts in our sector at the moment, to champion for the right support for our sector.”

This study – which is funded by Equity Trustees Sector Capacity Building Fund – aims to not only understand the ongoing impacts of COVID on the sector, but also inform funders and leaders about where the sector needs to continue operating effectively.

Results will be made freely available to the sector through Seer Platform – an interactive online portal – towards the end of 2020. 

Kristi Mansfield, co-founder and CEO of Seer Data and Analytics, said this was an extraordinary opportunity to get new data that was accessible and useful for the entire sector.

She said the sector needed good quality data in order to build back better after the pandemic.

“Data will empower communities to prepare strategies for delivery of new services, align efforts between providers, target the spending and secure funding and get the biggest bang for their buck,” Mansfield said. 

“So, the more responses we have, the better.”

These results follow the release in August of the first part of the National Impact+Need Research Study, which looked at the early impacts of the pandemic on the sector. 

It found that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of respondents’ organisations had lost revenue since March, with almost half (45 per cent) reporting they had operating reserves of six months or less. 


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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