Australian charities are calling for more action to prevent burnout and to enhance the well-being of the sector’s employees and volunteers.
The Benefollk Foundation empowers changemakers around the country with everything they need to make their impact and thrive.
Australia’s charity sector includes 800,000 organisations; employs around 1.2 million people, and has millions of volunteers.
The foundation hosted a health and well-being breakfast last week with industry leaders who identified a number of changes that could enhance the overall mental health of those working in the sector.
Recent research from Benefolk confirms that there are increasing and significant barriers when it comes to charities accessing the support they need.
Benefolk founder and CEO, Julia Keady said that over the last 12 months, the organisation has been running regular polls from more than 220 charities.
“It’s clear that the biggest barrier is the ability to prioritise. Nearly 58 per cent of respondents believe employers should prioritise more time on staff or volunteers as clients and the community often take priority,” Ms Keady said.
“Other factors reported are not having enough time in the day (45 per cent), not having the budget for support or training (37 per cent), or not having access to local providers or training (32 per cent).
“Furthermore, 16 per cent of respondents believed that their board or committee simply didn’t prioritise their staff or volunteer’s wellbeing,” Ms Keady said.
Federal Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities, and Treasury, the Hon. Andrew Leigh told delegates that Australia’s charity sector represented eight per cent of the nation’s economy, 10 per cent of the country’s workforce, and mobilises three million volunteers.
“Improving the wellbeing of staff and volunteers is vital to building a stronger charity sector that can continue to support vulnerable Australians and build a more connected and caring country,” Mr Leigh said.
At the breakfast, Mr Leigh also formally launched The Community Well, an online wellbeing resource hub specifically designed for the charity sector.
Associate Professor Wendy Scaife led a session where industry leaders developed a list of changes to help those working and volunteering in the sector.
The actions included moving to the use of productivity metrics over hours worked, letting entrepreneurship shine over process; and undertaking more professional development.
There was also a strong call for stopping the scarcity mindset, not under-paying staff, and accepting that funding needs to cover more operating costs.
Benefolk founder and CEO, Julia Keady, said changes to the sector were needed now.
“We can’t go into 2024 without a commitment to change in how our people’s mental health is safeguarded.
“We will lose more good people, and they are not an infinite resource,” Ms Keady said.
Following the breakfast, one of the changes that Benefolk will enact is to provide more free resources and tailored support for the sector’s employees and volunteers.
Thanks to the generous support from The Ian Potter Foundation, the Benefolk Foundation will use a three-year grant to add new online courses to The Community Well and will be able to provide support over the phone.
The foundation will also host the first sector-wide National Wellbeing Summit in 2024.
“That’s why funding from The Ian Potter Foundation is so important. It will allow us to expand The Community Well to provide more resources as well as cost-effective access to subject matter experts.
“This funding will create a step-change in the well-being of the sector, and we are grateful for the opportunity to add to what we have already built with the support of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Equity Trustees<,” Ms Keady said.
Chairman of The Ian Potter Foundation Mr Charles Goode AC said the foundation is pleased to support the expansion of this innovative resource.
“The Benefolk Foundation has identified poor mental health as an area of high risk for the charity sector and has developed resources that will make a difference, in particular, to help smaller organisations better support their employees and volunteers.
“This is a critical issue for the sector, and we look forward to seeing more organisations making use of The Community Well and the new resources this funding will enable,” Mr Goode said.
Ms Keary added: “If the people of the charity sector turn up every day to work and volunteer are healthy and strong then the impact they create will be greater.”
To find out more, please visit: www.benefolk.org/wellbeing
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.