A New Way to Solve Burnout: Invest in Digital Strategy
Happy people are going to stick around longer and carry institutional knowledge and culture forward with them. When your digital strategy is easy to implement and gets everyone on the same page, you can solve for some causes of burnout.
As a social impact leader, you know that our sector has been especially hard hit by burnout over the last few years. The challenges facing our world just keep getting bigger. And while it’s an honor to get to tackle issues from climate change to public health, the work takes a toll on the champions on the frontlines — you and your team.
Burnout is a complex issue. Its causes are different for every team, and its solutions need to be bespoke, authentic, and consistent over time to really make a difference. In short: Burnout needs more than an occasional pizza party band-aid approach to address.
In our work, we’ve found that the most helpful solutions to burnout might not seem shiny at first, but make the biggest difference in the day-to-day of your colleagues.
In our experience, one of the main (but rarely discussed) reasons people get burned out is that they feel like they’re working hard, but not making a meaningful difference. That’s a big problem for any social impact organization. Creating change is one of the primary reasons people work for nonprofits and social enterprises. When your team’s work has a measurable impact — and their day-to-day feels more efficient and effective — they’re more likely to be satisfied with their job.
Signs Your Team May Be Burnt Out
It can be difficult to discern between burnout and the typical stress of working in the social impact space.
Some signs to look for include:
Tasks taking longer to complete than they used to
An increase on avoidable errors, like spelling mistakes or sending an email to the wrong audience
General lack of enthusiasm and energy in the work
Lack of innovation and new ideas
A feeling of tedium in the work — simple tasks like creating a new webpage or pulling a report take 5 or 6 steps to complete
You might build an understanding of what your colleagues are experiencing by making space for honest conversations in 1:1s, anonymous surveys, and informal check-ins. If you combine these with the trends you’re already noticing in the work itself, you’ll create a more complete picture of how your staff is feeling.
Digital Strategy Involves Your Entire Team
When we talk about digital strategy, we’re talking about the umbrella that includes all of the online tools and resources at your disposal.
Every element needs to work together to effectively drive and increase sales, donations, actions, and engagement. When all of these activities are in sync, your organization runs more smoothly and is positioned to create impact.
You might be surprised by the depth to which everyone on your team is integrated into your digital strategy. If an employee engages with any part of your online presence, they’re working within your digital strategy.
You can probably think of multiple members of your team who interact with these digital touchpoints:
Your Website (aka Education Center)
Social Media Platforms and Related Assets (e.g. photos, artwork, infographics)
Sales Platforms, such as Shopify, for products or branded merchandise
Digital Educational Content (e.g. blog posts, articles, PDFs, white papers)
Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform (e.g. EveryAction, Salesforce, HubSpot)
Your Tech Stack (the technology your proprietary digital hub is built on) — We recommend JAMstack
Marketing Automation Platforms (e.g. Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Hootsuite)
Podcast Publishing Platforms (e.g. Podetize, Anchor.fm, Squadcast, Buzzsprout) and Listening Platforms (e.g. iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher)
Your Communications Strategy
Your Communications and Writing Guides
Your Visual Brand Guide
Your Editorial Calendar
Digital Storage Space such as Dropbox, Google Drive
Video Hosting and Storage Platforms (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube)
Online Grant Management Systems/Software (e.g. Bloomerang, Instrumentl GrantHub, WizeHive Zengine)
Your Action Center (where your supporters sign petitions, donate to campaigns, write their representatives, etc.)
Anyone from volunteers to interns up to the Executive Director or CEO who communicates with funders, supporters, or those who benefit from your work are involved in digital strategy implementation.
While investing in digital strategy might seem like more work, it actually offers a long-term strategy to help reduce burnout. Social impact leaders should think about digital strategy as an investment in their team culture, efficacy, and a gift to your staff that can create a smooth-running, healthy organization that’s worth their ongoing commitment.
More Action, Less Clicking
You likely read the list above and felt alarm bells ringing as you thought about the parts of your digital strategy that drag the most for you and your team.
Maybe your website is a pain to edit. Social media posts take forever to produce and don’t convey your brand look and feel. Nobody remembers the password to your e-mail platform anymore (we hope that isn’t the case!). Perhaps you don’t even have a Brand Style and Communications Guide to start with, so your organization's voice and message feels inconsistent.
You have the best sense of where the greatest need for improvement is in your team.
Let’s explore a few examples of how investing in digital strategy can help your employees (and you) be more effective while maintaining the satisfaction of doing the work.
Moving to a custom website designed for you and your team. If you’re using an outdated website builder or something out of the box like Squarespace or Wix, you likely experience friction at some point in the website editing process. Maybe the interface isn’t user-friendly, or it takes several steps to do something that should be done in just one click. By building a custom website designed for your team’s workflow, you can reduce time editing your website and reduce the barrier to learning.
Some basic features of a custom website that can help create a more streamlined content editor experience could look like:
Custom, repeatable templates for the pages you build most
Custom help text in the backend editor to guide any user to better understanding what they’re doing
Customizable user permissions, so you can curate your team’s website access without them getting overwhelmed
Drag-and-drop editors for the content types you use most, like a donation form or image carousel
Syncing with your database and saving manual admin work. Do you find yourself manually transferring form sign-ups or donor information from your website or point-of-sale system to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? It might be time to connect your CRM (and if you don’t have one yet, select the best one for your needs) to automatically input every action your supporters take into one source of truth. Stop drowning in spreadsheets and automate this step.
- 3.Automating translation on your website. Having someone on your team doing translation probably isn’t the best use of their time, nor why they joined your organization. Instead of page-by-page manual translation, you can implement automatic translation to serve your audiences in their preferred languages. This technology is getting better all of the time, and you can have someone check the copy and make minor tweaks, rather than spending multiple hours rewriting copy.
- 4.Standardizing your brand so you don’t have to remember hex codes. Your team (should be) constantly referencing your brand styles to help you stand out in the world. Whether you’re crafting an Instagram post, writing a Google Doc, or designing a new page on your website, you’re likely using your fonts and brand colors all of the time. Many digital tools today – from Canva to Google Suite – give you the ability to set your brand colors as repeatable styles. Save your team the mental work of remembering your color codes and font styles and standardize this for them.
- 5.Developing a north star for core messaging & best practices for writing on the web. In our experience creating Communications Style Guides for our social impact clients, we’ve seen the palpable relief it brings teams to finally have a guidemap for what to say and when to say it. Guides like this can save you and your staff a ton of time and frustration by including a boilerplate description of your mission, philosophy, and niche to use when writing for the web, sending press releases, or even crafting speaking points for a video on social media.
Having someone on your team doing translation probably isn’t the best use of their time, nor why they joined your organization.
When your digital strategy is clear, understood, and easy to implement by everyone in the organization, everyone benefits.
Addressing Institutional Burnout
An organization consists of people and the culture in which they work. When your digital strategy is clear, understood, and easy to implement by everyone in the organization, everyone benefits.
When everyone is teetering on the edge of burnout, the culture reflects that through turnover and faltering impact. On the other hand, when organizations have a solid digital strategy, everyone from leadership, to staff, to interns feels more like they’re contributing and can find joy in the hard work needed to create the change they want to produce
Happy people are going to stick around longer and carry institutional knowledge and culture forward with them. When your digital strategy gets everyone on the same page, you’re also able to engage your audience in a positive way, inspire volunteers, encourage people to increase sales, and inspire change by showing up as an organization that feels positive from the inside out.
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