I work with mission-driven organizations in fields like health, housing, immigration and the environment. These issues have been all over the front pages for the past 125 days and counting (and yes, we’re counting). Under assault by at least two branches of the federal government, many nonprofits have risen to the occasion. The resistance has been remarkably effective, especially considering how little time there was to prepare.  

But it’s also been exhausting. Every week brings a new crisis. I’ve written about how nonprofits can mobilize and get involved in advocacy, as well build resilience amid chaos. But how to cope with the burnout factor? It affects staff and board members, people at the front lines, and notably the leaders of organizations. Resistance Fatigue Syndrome should be an officially recognized condition.


I asked a few colleagues to share their advice, off the record. Here are some suggestions.

“Take time to recharge. For a long weekend, even a week, don’t think about politics or any of these current problems. Take care of yourself. Walk in the woods. Come back ready to hit back hard – you’ll be much more effective at full speed.”

“I think balance is the most important thing. Balance ongoing needs with new urgent ones. We can deal with the latest headlines, but we don’t need to create a crisis in-house every time.  Project strength and stability – it’ll rub off on the people around you.”

“My staff and I have recognized that this now part of our job descriptions. It’s not changing anytime soon, and maybe it shouldn’t. We need to be fighting for what’s right, and against what’s wrong, and accepting this reality can be energizing.”

“I ask questions and listen. It’s the best way to help people release their stress, and hearing them out relieves mine as well.”

“We need to grow quickly, but we need to do this in a planned way. We won’t be helping our clients or the organization by acting irrationally. We can only sustain our efforts with a solid plan in place.”

Bottom line:  Keep the faith, and keep up the fight. It’s not easy,  and it’s not brief, but it is working!

AuthorScott Schaffer