Burnout in the nonprofit sector is a trending topic these days. Best selling books have been written about it, self-care is a popular keynote topic at nonprofit conferences, and many nonprofit professionals feel it. In Ellensburg, WA, the nonprofit organization Youth Services of Kittitas County is demonstrating how their emphasis on the power of mentoring can be a tool to address the challenge of burnout in the nonprofit sector.
Youth Services of Kittitas County has been operating in their region since 1969—50 years of providing services to the community. In 2013 they revamped their outreach and created a formal mentoring program to connect youth with adult leaders in the community, and the organization grew quickly. Thanks to strong partnerships with community groups, particularly local Rotary groups, these youth programs were successful. However, with this new direction and increase in services, the organization needed a strategy for this time of growth.
Crystal Church, Executive Director of Youth Services of Kittitas County, stepped up as a leader during this rapid growth. As the organization expanded its reach, it also increased its operations and budget. Church learned quickly how essential it was to have an effective board and funding to hire staff for internal support. She joined forces with Washington Nonprofits and local community leaders to develop the Kittitas County Nonprofit Network for external support. Through that network, she connected with resources that led to strategic planning for Youth Services of Kittitas County.
While Youth Services was growing, the network got strategic about educating the community on the value of nonprofits. Network members wrote articles spotlighting nonprofits in local media. The Ellensburg Farmer’s Market offers nonprofits free booths to connect with the community. As the staff Youth Services of Kittitas County expanded, Church also became a professional mentor to her team. She created a culture of self-care at their organization, setting an example of respect for nonprofit professionals by respecting work–life balance. Knowing the challenges of nonprofit work and importance of fortifying workers against burnout, she intentionally encouraged an environment of support for all nonprofits.
Here are some of Church’s insights about creating a culture of self-care:
- Don’t micro-manage employees, but instead give them room to grow. This demonstrates an environment of respect.
- Make sure leaders are not setting an example of consistently working overtime. Be clear with expectations around appropriate hours for people to work.
- Recognize that burnout can be dangerous. When one nonprofit leader leaves their role, it can severely impact the services provided by the organization. It’s better to prepare ahead of time by ensuring the organization is set up with the right people and resources for success, and that leaders feel supported consistently.
- Evaluate what resources you need and take advantage of what is available. Church credits Washington Nonprofits as a crucial resource when she took on her leadership role and developed the organization. Nancy Bacon, Associate Director of Washington Nonprofits, served as a mentor to her. She consistently directs others to Washington Nonprofits resources.
Youth Services Mentoring Program envisions a community in which every youth experiences nurturing one-to-one relationships and community support, which in turn, allows each of them to develop into their full potential, capable of making informed, responsible decisions as involved members of our community. They have been a Washington Nonprofit Member since 2017.