Two-thirds of charity leaders concerned about stress and poor mental health in their organisation

Two in three leaders of small charities are concerned about levels of stress and poor mental wellbeing in their workforce, according to new research.

The social enterprise Pilotlight surveyed more than 250 leaders of charities with annual incomes of less than £5m.

Its publication, called 2020 Small Charity Leaders Insight Report: the Scissors Effect, highlights the growing challenges these charities are likely to face next year, and the need for their leaders to consider accessing external support to meet those demands.

It found that mental health was the most pressing personnel consideration.

But fewer chairs than charity leaders were as conscious of this issue, the survey showed, with just 17 per cent having asked about the mental health of their chief executive. 

Other findings revealed that 89 per cent of small charities’ leaders predict that service user numbers will rise or keep pace with this year, while nearly four- fifths (78 per cent) project that their income will either drop or at best remain stable.

The majority (59 per cent) of respondents had to dip into their reserves this year. 

Just over a fifth have started or will start developing a diversity, equality and inclusion plan, prompted by events following the death of George Floyd in the US in May.

In addition, 84 per cent of small charities cite increased competition for funding as a major challenge for 2021.

Ed Mayo, chief executive of Pilotlight, said the toll of drained income, reserves and capacity across the sector is evident as its research found that mental health is the number one concern at work for small charity leaders.

“Even so, the charity sector is resilient, more so than it sometimes gets credit for, and we want to pay tribute to the long hours, resourcefulness, tireless service and enduring hope that we see in so many small-charity leaders.”

The publication of the report comes as Pilotlight and The Garfield Weston Foundation launch the 2021 Weston Charity Awards, which will give 20 small charities a package of strategic leadership support and a £6,500 unrestricted grant. 

Charities have until 8 January to apply.

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