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Do You Ever Get “Charity Burn-Out?”

30 January 2011 2 Comments

Are you ever affected by “charity burn-out?” If so, what makes you snap out of it eventually? Or are you still in a funk and trying to recover?

Oops. We’re not supposed to talk about this, right? Did I just spill a dirty little secret?

photo by Jim Gerw

It seems like those of us who volunteer, make donations, raise funds, and generally try to do right by others on a regular basis get downright fatigued every now and then. How do I know? Well, it definitely has happened to me on occasion as well as to virtually all my partners who run Aura’s House at one time or another. I also suspect it happens to just about everybody who does this kind of work. Luckily, most people take a break and then come back with even more energy and resolve than ever.

One Aura’s House volunteer recently wrote,

I have to admit, I’m getting really close to philanthropy burnout. I do still want to contribute though; I am hoping this is just a wave I can ride out. But I’ve been feeling it for a while. It’s not just confined to AH, but to every cause I was/am a part of. It just seems to be about money, money, money and even when I give all I can, it’s not enough. I still sponsor two kids through CI, but I’m not as involved as I was, which isn’t fair to them (and I’m trying to do better). But again, it’s just really hard to shake this feeling.

Part of it is for those of us who have full time jobs and do this in our “spare time” it can get to feel overwhelming. It can also feel like the world is against you.

I remember back in 2007, we had a dispute with our Web Hosting Company (who went from a B to an F at the Better Business Bureau and have a mountain of complaints/lawsuits against them). To make a long story short, GISOL (Don’t EVER use them for ANYTHING!) tried to penalize me for an account change made by their own tech support person. They asked for $700 and shut the site down and held our domain names hostage. I’m sorry, but $700 would fund an entire project for some needy family. I was LIVID! I paid the ransom, (I mean “penalty”) and then set about reconstructing the site. I was fed up and burnt out and I resolved to give up Aura’s House for a period. Read the announcement here.

Luckily  we came back in June 2008 and have been here without interruption ever since. That said, there are days when we are sooooo tired. At the moment though our energies are at their highest level in years, at least mine are. It seems like a wave of energy that fluctuates daily.

So how about you? Do you have any “Charity Burn-Out” stories?

Cheers,
Kristen

2 Comments »

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  • Anastasia said:

    I’m glad this topic has been broached because YES, I am practically a poster-child for charity burnout. 🙁

    I’ve always been a believer in helping the less fortunate and have supported certain charities (including Aura’s House) for many years, both financially and as a volunteer. But between 2007 and 2009, I experienced a 70% drop in income and have remained at the new lower level ever since. It has made things SO, SO hard for me, and yet I feel guilty complaining since:

    A) I’m certainly not the only one going through hard times
    B) I have no children/family to support (though I do have 2 dogs and 3 cats)
    C) I know that as difficult as times are now for me, I still live in one of the most prosperous countries on earth, and my “hard times” are still infinitely better than even the “best times” for probably 80% or more of the earth’s population.

    And yet, even knowing all of the above, trying to stretch every single dollar as far as I possibly can really wears on me after a while. I feel guilty that I can’t donate to the various causes I support like I used to (though I wouldn’t dream of stopping sponsorship of my 2 girls). And, since I couldn’t sell my house after the crash, I was unable to go abroad to volunteer like I wanted to, and now the savings I had to do that are almost all gone; I had to spend the money on basic necessities just to keep myself afloat.

    Volunteering at Aura’s House and posting for the site on various volunteering-oriented sites has helped me feel a bit better about the situation; even though *I* can no longer help monetarily, at least I can encourage OTHERS to do so. And I don’t want to imply that one’s personal financial status always contributes to charity fatigue; there have been times before this current period in my life when I became tired/discouraged as well. But it does play a role.

    I suppose that, to some degree, “charity fatigue” is in the natural cycle of things…I think that everyone, no matter how much they love their job/hobbies/family, gets fatigued at one time or another. The question is…how do we snap ourselves out of it?

    My answer to that is to look at individuals whose lives we have helped in some way, however small. Because if we look at the big picture (millions of poverty-stricken families struggling with disease, malnutrition, lack of education, etc), we will become very discouraged. But to look at the direct impact our actions or donations have had on a specific individual, well, remember the story of the starfish, right? http://muttcats.com/starfish.htm

    I was going to give a personal example of this, but the post became waaaay too long. 🙂 To summarize my thoughts, I would humbly suggest to those who are feeling burned out that they should consider the following:

    A) If it is not possible to contribute monetarily, think of other ways you can help
    B) Give yourself a pat on the back for the people you have been able to help in any way, no matter how small
    C) Be thankful for what you DO have, and ways you HAVE helped.

    Speaking of which…I’m signing off now to go post for Aura’s House projects on Craigslist. Hope my thoughts helped encourage others in some small way!

    ~Anastasia

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