It is essential that South African non-profit (NPO) and civil society employees take steps to avoid burnout if they are to continue their vital work. The sector increasingly has to deal with extreme workplace stress due to, amongst other factors, growing socio-economic challenges and uncertainty about funding.
This is according to Inyathelo, the South African Institute for Advancement, which has been providing support to local NPO organisations and the Higher Education sector for 16 years. According to the Department of Social Development, there are over 200,000 registered NPOs in South Africa.
“NPO leaders and employees are tackling increasingly heavy workloads as social and economic conditions become more challenging, in turn increasing the demand for their services,” says Inyathelo operations director Feryal Domingo.
“NPOs already cope with limited or erratic funding. Now many donors have less to give, and in the case of international funding, there is the threat of decreasing or no funding, given changes in US foreign policy. This is putting added pressure on NPO managers and staff.
“Members of the NPO sector are also generally extremely dedicated and find their work highly meaningful. However, there is the challenge that they are so committed to the cause, with complete buy-in to the mission of the organisation, that they often overlook their own mental and physical wellness,” says Domingo.
“They are so busy taking care of other people that they don’t take enough care of themselves. The results can be serious for the individuals and organisations concerned.”
She said that some NPO employees have neither other work options, nor job benefits such as pension or provident funds or medical aid. These staff have no choice but to remain at an organisation, and often are not even aware that they are spiralling towards burnout from stress, because this is the only income they have, the job market is shrinking and finding alternative work is hard.
Feryal has qualifications in public relations, corporate governance and citizenship, and a postgraduate qualification in management studies at the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town. She served on a number of boards of non-governmental organisations in various capacities, including chairperson, treasurer and secretary. These organisations focused on a number of sectors including education, road safety, child care, youth development, sports development and community development. She is an advisor, trainer and speaker on nonprofit operations, organisational governance and resilience, leveraging on her skills and practical experience as a nonprofit leader for over 20 years.