How to Avoid Philanthropic Burnout

Young person sitting at a booth with an open laptop and his head in his hands, used for Christian Tedrow blog on philanthropic exhaustion


No matter what industry you work in, there’s a very real chance you’ll run the risk of burnout at some point in your career. You could be an entrepreneur, a busy parent, an educator, or work for a nonprofit and you’ll still risk burning out at some point. This blog focuses on how to avoid philanthropic burnout while striving toward a specific cause, but most of this advice can be applied no matter what you do.


Philanthropic burnout is a very real threat to those of us working with philanthropies. There are various reasons it’s so common. When devoting a significant amount of time to an important cause, you’re putting a lot of energy into fixing the issue. You also likely encounter unfortunate situations that take a tax on you emotionally. Another issue is that many nonprofits do not receive the funding they truly need, so they’re frequently struggling to make ends meet, find volunteers, fundraise more money, and apply for grants, all while focusing on their cause. Here are tips to help avoid this burnout and truly do the most you can for your organization.


Learn to prioritize


The first step you should take to avoiding burnout is learning to prioritize. When you’re working or volunteering at a nonprofit, especially if you’re in charge of various aspects of it, you’re wearing a lot of hats. You’re switching between taking care of desk work, keeping the website running, motivating workers and volunteers, keeping up with industry news, and making sure there are enough funds to keep everything going smoothly. If you’re the face of the organization, it can become overwhelming. Learning to prioritize what you need to get done can help eliminate some of the stress; while some tasks are important, they aren’t urgent and can wait until tomorrow, next week, or even next month.


Ask for help


Many people find it difficult to ask others for help on important tasks; we believe we’re the only ones who can get the job done properly. However, most people are more than happy to help out, especially in a philanthropic organization that’s working on an important cause. Ask others who work for the nonprofit or volunteer to help with certain tasks. After your prioritize what needs to get done, you’ll be able to identify what tasks can be passed off to someone else.


Connect with others


When you’re working for a philanthropy, you’re going to be around other people who care about the same issues as you. You’re all working to improve something and make the world a better place. No matter how busy it seems you are, take time to connect with other volunteers or employees of the charity. Establishing friendships with others at the philanthropy can help you avoid burnout because you have people you trust and can help with stress relief instead of simply burying yourself in work.


Take time off


A mistake many people make is not taking enough time off, especially when they begin to get stressed out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go ahead and take a few days or even a week off. It may seem like nothing will keep running while you’re gone, but it’s more important to preemptively take a break than be forced to after you burnout. If you don’t want to take an entire day off, simply make a little time every day to do something you enjoy and that relaxes you, such as a walk, exercise, reading a book, or spending time with someone close to you.