Charities' concern over risk of staff burn-out

The risk of employee burn-out during the pandemic is one of the biggest risks facing the charity sector, according to a new report from Ecclesiastical Insurance. Research by the insurer for its second Charity Risk Barometer also found loss of funding remains one of the biggest threats to the sector, with the pandemic significantly amplifying financial concerns.

Among the most stark findings of the report was stress-related burnout among staff. With charities trying to do more with less, as well as the challenges of working remotely through lockdown, keeping staff happy and healthy is seen as a key priority for charities as they continue to navigate the pandemic – with 44% seeing burnout as a significant threat to their operations.

The research found that two thirds of charities have experienced an increase in staff stress levels, and most are offering some form of support, including flexible working arrangements (75%), a wellbeing policy (52%) and counselling services (46%). Seven out of ten (71%) charities cited Covid-19 as a reason for their increased concern for their futures, with a 34% drop in fundraising activity as a result of the pandemic.

However, many charities say that they have been able to adapt to the restrictions imposed and shift how they work, either through embracing new ways of working (83% have moved to digital methods) or adapting their offer (52% using social distancing/PPE to continue working with patrons).

Many also said that they had business continuity plans in place which helped overcome the challenges of the past year. Over half (58%) responded saying they had followed an existing plan and 82% of those believed that their plan was effective.

Angus Roy, charity director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “The findings from this research make for sobering reading, but they’re no surprise given the extraordinary year we’ve had. Charities have become used to dealing with challenges, but this year has given us a perfect storm of a loss of funding through fundraising activities, a reduction in giving from corporate partners, as well as the general public, and an increase in need has left many charities at crisis point.

“It isn’t all doom and gloom though and what we have seen is charities rising to the challenge, through a mix of innovation, resourcefulness and determination and that gives us hope for the future.”

The findings of the Charity Risk Barometer were compliled following conversations with key sector partners, including the Charity Finance Group, Small Charities Coalition, and Carers’ Trust, as well as a survey of 250 charities through YouGov.

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