Burnout and fatigue are afflicting up to 45% of the nonprofit sector, but it’s not just the pandemic that is to blame.

“The research clearly says, ‘We can’t go back!’ – that existing constraints in the sector exacerbate the impacts on mental health and wellbeing.”

The nonprofit workforce is finishing the year working longer hours (38%), with less volunteer support (23%) and less income (58%). Some 40% report not taking good care of themselves, 39% feel their workload is unachievable and 39% feel overwhelmed (to put this in context, pre-pandemic figures were 18%, 16% and 10% respectively).

These are just some of the results in the second phase of the RESET 2020 National Impact+Need Research Study. The study is an effort to capture the impacts of COVID-19, initiated and lead by The Xfactor Collective and supported by Equity Trustees.

Conducted over September and October, 34% of organisations say that the greatest impact on their workforce is the effects of the pandemic on health and wellbeing, up from 28% in the first phase of the research conducted in May.

Frustration, exhaustion, anxiety and stress have been heightened, with 41% and 45% respectively reporting that they have often or always felt that way since the pandemic began. These figures are up from 9% and 13% respectively before COVID-19.

The research found that while the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 is driving a decline in wellbeing, 80% of respondents say it has just exacerbated existing ways of working.

Systemic issues such as scarcity of resources, the uncertainty of funding, and always being asked to do more with less, have a role to play in wellbeing indicators.

With these figures escalating, Julia Keady, Founder and CEO of The Xfactor Collective, says this is an opportunity for funders of the sector to use the pandemic as a chance to re-think the way they fund and grant.

“The research clearly says, ‘We can’t go back!’ – that existing constraints in the sector exacerbate the impacts on mental health and wellbeing,” says Keady.

Jodi Kennedy, General Manager, Trusts and Philanthropy, Equity Trustees said the RESET 2020 data provides valuable insights for the sector, to inform future interventions and support.

“This study has highlighted that we are at a real tipping point for the sector, and that we have the opportunity to reconsider how we work, how we better support one another so that we can ensure we are there for those who need the sector’s support.”

To deal with strategic and operational impacts, 20% of respondents said they needed more government support, 22% said they needed help to identify new or diverse revenue streams and 20% said they needed support to attract, retain and engage donors, sponsors and/or partners.

Comments from respondents on philanthropic and government funding noted bad grants management practices, short-term funding ‘strategies’, an erroneous view that staffing is an unnecessary administration cost, failure to understand that charities should be run as a business not a project and calls for funders to fund capacity.

Key Reset 2020 statistics

91% of organisations says service delivery is still being impacted by COVID-19

48% are experiencing some or a significant increase in the need for their programs and services

58% of organisations that have seen a decline in their revenue since June 2020

Income from community events and fundraising is the primary source of revenue decline (57%).

General donations fell by 41%, sponsorships/partnerships by 31% and philanthropic funding by 26%.

10% have seen increased revenue, with 48% from government funding (excluding COVID-19 support)

44% of organisations have drawn on their reserves to continue operating since the pandemic began.

More than 30% respondents rank help to manage the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers as the most valuable form of workforce assistance they could receive (up from just 18% in the May survey).


Both of the RESET 2020 data sets are available for free users in Seer data platform. Organisations can extract tailored insights to use in funding and advocacy efforts in 2021. Written reports and graphics are also available for download from The Xfactor Collective website.


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