Charity sector blighted by 'unsustainable’ levels of burnout, report warns

Voluntary sector workplaces are marred by unsutainable levels of burnout as charities struggle to attract the staff they need to raise funds, a report has warned.

The findings have emerged in a report by consultancy Lark Owl, which surveyed 45 charities during the summer.

“Overwhelm, overwork and burnout was a key theme,” said the report.

“We have to ask ourselves if this is sustainable, especially amidst a crisis in recruitment where too few charities are able to secure the talented fundraisers they so desperately need.”

One respondent said: “The pace of work has increased and there seems to be no let up! Expectations are high.”

These latest concerns around burnout come as the union Community raises fears that benefit cuts planned for October will significantly ramp up demand and lead to a “mass exodus of charity sector staff”.

In October the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, brought in during the Covid-19 pandemic, is due to come to an end.

“Before the pandemic, charity sector services were already stretched thin after over a decade of austerity,” said Community national secretary Adrian Axtell.

“Charities across the country have seen surges in demand since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Now, the cut to Universal Credit is expected to put further strain on the demands of charity services and the members of staff that provide them. Our members who work in the charity sector love their jobs, but they’re exhausted and there is only so much more they can take. The cut to Universal Credit could be the final blow that will see many flee the sector.”

Earlier this month it emerged that the number of applicants applying for the average charity job had slumped by more than three quarters.

Also this month Charity Times revealed further evidence that charities are facing a post-pandemic recruitment crisis. One charity CEO warned that it had only one applicant for three roles advertised.

Another senior charity director said it had received 70 applications for two part-time, short-term contract roles during the pandemic. However, it is now struggling to recruit for roles.

Lack of diversity in fundraising

Lark Owl’s report asked charities to assess the diversity of their fundraising teams.

Almost two thirds (64%) said that there fundraising teams are “not at all diverse”, compared to just over half (55%) when asked the same question in 2020.

No fundraisers said their fundraising department is “very diverse” this year, compared to 6% in 2020.

“If we’re to take the data at face value, it looks as if we’ve regressed,” says the report.

“However, increased attention on the importance of diversity might mean that people are holding themselves to higher standards as their
aspirations grow?”

“But there's also a very real chance that the desire for more representation in fundraising is simply not translating to actual training, development and recruitment.”

One disability charity said that its two strong fundraising team is “white and female”.

“Overall, our charity is not as diverse as it could be and we are
taking some steps in recruitment to address this, but with a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, a representative of a rural health charity in the Southwest of England, said its fundraising team is “white and middle class”.

We are looking to recruit a more diverse staff base and relocating to a city centre to help diversify our workforce and make us more representative of the people we exist for.”

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