Holiday struggles for nonprofit employees

It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For some, absolutely. For others, it can be a downright miserable time. For most of us, I’d say we’re somewhere in the middle – the holidays are filled with lots of joy, good food and drink, friends and family; but also loads of stress, pressure, difficult memories and feelings of loneliness to name just a few. Folks working in nonprofits are often hit with the brunt of all of this holiday angst (possibly depending on what part of the sector they are working in), but may feel even more pressure to slap on the smile and remain merry when they are feeling anything but. Nonprofit employees who are on the front lines doing work that is emotionally taxing are challenged with a multi-layered hit at this time of year. Although this is not the experience of all nonprofit folks and certainly isn’t limited to those doing direct service, my years in the field often resulted in increased stress around the holidays for one or all the following reasons:

  • Double whammy of managing secondary trauma during what is a challenging time clinically for many clients paired with organizations that may not pay enough attention to this dynamic or care for their staff in ways that provide adequate support

  • Pressure to plan festive activities for program participants and hoping to make the holiday season special, meaningful and fun while also remaining acutely aware of how triggering and difficult this time of year can be

  • Year-end reporting! Government funders, in particular, pack on the deadlines at the end of the year, seemingly with no consideration of the impact the holidays and time off schedules can have on trying to pull data and prepare reports

  • Year-end fundraising! Holiday appeals, gift donations and donor cultivation events…

  • Finding the time (and money!!) to care for yourself, friends and family – buying gifts with a limited budget and resources is a skill in and of itself and often takes some creativity

Check on the nonprofit employees in your life and give them some extra love right now! And if you’re leading an organization – think about a few ways in which you can provide for rsome self-care for your staff right now and, most of all, make sure they feel heard and valued (that’s the case all year round). Hang in there!

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