Top 10 emotional support groups for charity leaders

Earlier this year, a survey by voluntary sector insurer Ecclesiastical revealed the shocking strain Covid-19 has had on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of charity staff, volunteers and leaders.

This found that 44% see burnout as a significant threat to their operations and two thirds said staff are experiencing an increase in stress levels.

Remote working has added to the strain, as many charity leaders are having to take difficult decisions around redundancy plans and budgets, often from their home kitchen table, while juggling the demands of parenting.

The last year’s drop in income and loss of staff has come amid mounting demand for support.

Everyone in the charity sector is doing more for less and some are at breaking point.

But action is being taken. Ecclesiastical found three quarters of charities are offering staff flexible working arrangements to help them cope. Around a half have a wellbeing policy and a similar proportion offer counselling.

Support groups and networks can also be a great help for those working in the sector. Here we detail the array of support groups that are available to help. Some are specifically set up to support the mental health needs of those in the charity sector. While others offer professional support in areas such as leadership and fundraising but also double up as a valuable peer group to talk to.

Charity Times Leadership Network

The Charity Times Leadership Network is a membership service aimed at charity leaders to offer them a community to share ideas and experiences to help their professional development and support them in the role.

This involves offering leaders the chance to share their thoughts in diaries, case studies, blogs as well as interviews. Access to regular surveys and reports also help leaders with issues around building their confidence and connecting with their peers.

Covid-19 Charity Preparedness Group

More than 7,000 charity professionals have joined a networking group on Facebook called the Covid-19 Charity Preparedness Group.

This private group was set up during the first lockdown amid the pandemic in March 2020 and has been offering a forum offering wealth of support and guidance to charity professionnals since.

Key focuses are on sharing best practice and mitigating the impact of the health crisis on charities’ operations. Requests for advice about a specific situation charities face as well as sharing tips and best practice are also a focus of this forum.

Small Charities Networking and Advice

Another support group via Facebook is the Small Charities Networking and Advice group. This private group has been set up by small Middlesbrough charity Butterfly Giving to share support in areas such as operating on a tight budget.

At the time of writing 1,800 small charity professionals and volunteers had signed up.

Small International Development Charities Network

For those working for small international development charities this 1,600 strong group may be able to help. This is especially for those not based in London or the UK who find opportunities to network with fellow charity professionals difficult.

It acts as “a forum for networking, sharing ideas, experiences, frustrations and laughs”, according to the group.

Charity Women

More than 1,000 people have already joined the private Facebook group Charity Women that offers a space for women working in the sector to tackle inequality and share concerns.

Chartered Institute of Fundraising

This sector body has set up a nearly 2,000 strong private Facebook group for those working in community fundraising. This offers “a space for learning, sharing your expertise, personal experiences and even failures”.

The aim is to bring together fundraisers to share their experiences and talk and listen. The group was first created four years ago.

Sweet Charity Community

More than 300 charity professionals have joined the Sweet Charity Community private Facebook group that describes itself as “a tribe of fabulously creative and generous charity people”. It offers people the chance to ask questions, share a blog or celebrate any successes.

Involved are a broad mix of charity consultations, charity leaders, managers and volunteers.

Set up your own WhatsApp group

Charity leaders across the sector are having to make tough choices around funding and staffing, amid lockdown and can feel isolated and cut off from the staff they lead amid the pandemic due to social distancing.

Already some chief executives have formed their own WhatsApp group to share concerns, issues they are tackling and act as forum to freely discuss issues such as the mental health challenges of leadership.

At last year’s Charity Times Leadership Conference, CEOs including Trussell Trust’s Emma Revie, discussed how a Whats App group they set up is “a safe place to go” for each other.

“How do I hold it together at work and avoid going home and breaking down in a puddle? For me I go onto the WhatsApp group and break down in a puddle there,” she said.

Charity leaders are urged to ensure they are using social media platforms such as WhatsApp to set up groups to share concerns privately and help each other, especially amid the health crisis.

Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA)

A raft of resources and opportunities to access training and support is available from the social enterprise MHFA for charity workers improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Online training includes Mental Health First Adult, which is a two-day course that helps leaders to better understand the mental health needs of their workforce and improve their support to staff and volunteers.

The MHFA website also features a range of blogs aimed at supporting mental health of professionals. This includes advice from the organisation’s director of people and organisational effectiveness Sarah McIntosh on ways to manage stress. Another involves MHFA chief operating officer Fionuala Bonnar sharing her thoughts on preventing workplace mental health problems.

Our Frontline

Mental health organisations, including Shout, Samaritans and Mind have set up Our Frontline to offer support to frontline charity workers across health, care, emergency services and education amid the pandemic. This warns staff working in these fields that they are putting their mental health under pressure and assures them that help is at hand.

This includes one to one support by phone and text, resources around mental health as well as interaction among its social channels, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

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