Burnout and Stress Among Association Staff

By Tony Rossell, Senior Vice President

The American Psychological Association published an article last year titled "Burnout and stress are everywhere." The piece maintained, "Burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions."

Through our research over the past 15 years with association staff, we have seen substantial increases in the challenges of managing ever more complex membership programs and the demands of doing more with less. These difficulties grew even more intense with the radical adjustments brought on by COVID.

So, in our 2023 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, we once again questioned respondents about their stress levels. Specifically, we wanted to know, "With regard to your association, what keeps you up at night?”

Here is a selection of some stresses that association staff members shared with us.

  • The small size of the staff and the outsize growth goals that we have. We should choose a few things to focus on and get them done right. We are spread way too thinly.
  • The pace of change and the demands of our members. It’s very daunting trying to figure out what our members need and how they want to consume the information we are providing since things are changing so fast.
  • A horrible website and awful member interface with our AMS.
  • The lack of accountability of leadership by our Board.
  • Everything! How to get it all done, engage members, and meet revenue goals with small staff.
  • The generational divide. Trying to keep our more tenured members happy while trying to change in order to attract the next generation.
  • What is the new normal when it comes to events?
  • HR issues. People working remotely - not sure how good or effective all of them are.
  • We are trying to implement many innovative ideas, and sometimes, I wonder if we are biting off more than we can chew.

In response to the challenges and stress presented in the APA article, they also highlight how organizations can assist their staff with dealing with stress. It starts” with listening to employees about their needs and responding with flexibility.”

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