Experts Urge Nonprofits to Address Organizational Stresses

From job-related burnout to COVID-19 fatigue, pay inequalities to emotional demands, and pressure from outside factors, employees and volunteers of your nonprofit clients have a multitude of pressing issues on their minds — at work and at home. These issues have stretched staff to their limits and have had a significant impact on organizations, creating a number of risk management challenges.

“[Now is the] time to evaluate how organizations can go beyond employee assistance line referrals (as important as they are) and treat your human resources as humans.” Source: Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NRMC) 2022 Risk Insights report.  

Here, we’ll take a look at specific stressors that nonprofit leaders strongly believe are affecting staff and volunteers of nonprofits, today and into 2023, and how they can better manage these risks for a stronger and more resilient organization.[1] 

  • Review the organization’s scheduling. Do staff and volunteer workplace policies include frequent breaks? Experts urge nonprofit organizations to ensure that employees have frequent rest and recovery periods between shifts. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also recommends scheduling employees for less high-stress work after finishing a particularly physical or mentally challenging shift, assignment or activity.

For staff and volunteers working in administrative or office positions, SAMHSA suggests concluding online or in-person meetings 10-15 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to end, allowing people to decompress before the next meeting or before they begin a new task.

  • Identify and respond to organizational stresses within the nonprofit. In the midst of day-to-day activities and tasks, it can be difficult to identify sources of workers’ stress. It’s also challenging for a nonprofit to take action against leaders within the organization who are creating trauma or a toxic work environment for others.

Organizations need to make it clear to employees and volunteers that they should feel safe in approaching management regarding any emotionally harmful acts of leaders. In addition, organizations must hold leaders accountable for their behaviors.

  • Provide support for employees and volunteers who are grieving. The NRMC states that organizations must train managers and leaders on how to effectively manage grief in the workplace. This can include checking in on employees who have experienced a loss, providing counseling or other helpful resources and offering employees a safe space to discuss their feelings.

The Grief Recovery Institute estimates that workplace grief costs organizations an estimated $75 million every year. It goes on to state that it’s critically important for nonprofits to normalize bereavement leave for its employees and volunteers. 




The time is now to address the realities of organizational trauma and healthier ways of supporting individuals working in the nonprofit sector. When talking to your nonprofit clients, take the time to discuss how they are addressing trauma and stress within their organizations. Share with them the information in this article that can help them identify key issues that could cause them to lose valued staff, volunteers, donors and supporters.

“Trauma — any event or experience that leads to distress, impairment, or emotional, physical, spiritual, or psychological harm — is often seen as something that only happens to individuals. [However], organizations can also experience trauma, and with employee resignation rates at an all-time high, organization leaders are recognizing that [simply having] conversations around burnout and stress aren’t cutting it.” Source: Dscout

About Charity First

The incredible services that nonprofits provide come with unique and complex risks that are part of their everyday work in serving the elderly, children and other vulnerable populations. It is why Charity First is committed to providing our retail partners across the country with best-in-class underwriting, consistent and responsive service, and risk management services that include workers’ compensation coverage and accident insurance for volunteers and participants. To learn more, please contact us at 800-352-2761 or


[1]Nonprofit Risk Management Center 2022 Risk Insights report.