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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Burnout fears for charity sector

This news post is about 2 years old

New research has shown workforce stress is becoming a major issue for organisations

The risk of employee burn-out during the pandemic is one of the biggest risks facing the charity sector, new research has shown.

Ecclesiastical has published its second Charity Risk Barometer, an in-depth study exploring the immediate and emerging risks facing the charity sector – with Covid-19 an unavoidable narrative thread.

Loss of funding remained the biggest risk facing charities, with the pandemic amplifying financial concerns, while the risk of not surviving was also a major concern with many charities at crisis point.

One of the major themes of the report was stress-related burnout among staff. With many 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. That includes flexible working arrangements (75%), a wellbeing policy (52%) and counselling services (46%).

Seven out of 10 (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.

Despite the bleak picture, the charity sector has adapted to these challenges. Charities that 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), are seeing the benefit.

While it wasn’t possible to plan for the once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, many charities had business continuity plans in place. Over half (58%) responded saying they had followed an existing plan and 82% of those believed that their plan was effective.

The role of trustees can’t be underestimated in navigating the challenges thrown up by Covid-19, and four out of five of respondents said that their charities’ board had performed well on making decisions such as adapting to change and remote working – but also for their efforts in planning for the future.

Some organisations are already looking at how they will look in a post-Covid world, with 19% considering downsizing and 20% who had already begun collaborating with other charities during Covid considering doing so in the longer term, as a way of cutting costs or spreading risk.

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 full barometer can be found online.



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