Burnout, guilt, holding an organization afloat as only FT employee. Board of elected officials that only do what’s in their best interest. I am tired, anxious, and overwhelmed. I need your advice. Get ready for some word vomit…

I work for an environmental nonprofit in a historically low income, low capacity region focused on conservation on the west coast. I cannot get more specific than that for fear of someone knowing who I am.

I am so burnt out, y'all. My mental health has deteriorated over the last several months. I wake up at night with anxiety attacks and busy work brain. I fantasize about quitting. I don't know what to do, because I have so much guilt in the fact that if I leave, 1) the burden will be passed to someone else and/or 2) the entire organization may just collapse. Currently, I am the only FT person. I have 1 PT "admin" person and we just hired a support role working under me. They are currently also PT, transitioning to FT next month.

Rewind: I started my role as a project manager through a – let's call it internship – program in early 2020 (just before pandemic hell took over). I am proud of our organization and for the meaningful work we've accomplished over 2 decades. But it has become clear with time that there is a symptom of poor organizational health that has persisted for FAR too long – poor structure, poor leadership, and a board full of elected officials that aren't really engaged until they give firm direction based largely on what serves their own interests (but within the realm of our interests). Let me state that there are benefits to this – they have access to local government funds that help sustain us – but they just come to us and direct us to basically take it and roll with it. Honestly they don't even know how this organization runs. They just want work to happen, and the staff to make it happen "now". We chase projects through grant funding, we have no fundraising, and there are no decision support tools for what to "chase" and when.

My predecessor/supervisor trained me in many things, and we co-wrote a grant application to bring me on as full-time staff in late 2020. Let me first say this: she's a great person, very intelligent, but not really a person that's meant to be in a leadership role. This became evident even before she left, but very clear once she fully left. I empathize though, because I see now that she carried a lot for crappy pay and poor direction over many years, too. So, she made her position what she wanted it to be (I didn't see that until I took over). Late 2020, I'm brought onboard as a FT employee. About 2 months later, boss announces that she's applied for (and pretty much guaranteed to get) a position with one of our very close partner organizations. She ultimately makes the lateral move (but stays with us "part time" for three months to help with the "transition").

I'm bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to take on this new challenge and rise to the occasion as our new Project Manager. We do not have an ED, and haven't since the last one was forced to resign ~5-6 years ago. Other staff: a PT "admin" person who is otherwise retired from his career, at a much later stage in his life, makes the same pay as me (and as former boss did) and does not do even CLOSE to what I do. Or perform at even 80% most of the time. A lot of what he produces ends up duplicating efforts and entails me correcting his mistakes. I have to remind him to write professional emails for gods sake. He's truly a great person, but I really cannot stand working with (or supervising) him. He does have foundational knowledge of the organization as he's been with the org for about 10-ish years and has seen the ups and downs. But he's got a pretty "kush" situation. He is 1) a man 2) been around for awhile 3) makes decent pay to do not really do a whole lot (the same pay as me who's slain to keep this operation afloat). He's supposed to handle invoicing, "pay the bills", and turn documents over to payroll. He also tracks the finances – mostly accounts payable and grant budget tracking. Not very computer savvy or motivated to become computer savvy. AKA Laissez faire. Did I mention we're paid the same?

We hired a coordinator position around December of last year – full time. She resigned in May, never told us she had another possible other job lined up. My old boss at this point has fully transitioned out. I try to fill the coordinator person's vacancy. We get someone to accept the job, they rescinded acceptance about 3 days later for a more competitively paying job. We have wage stagnation in this organization. There is no compensation benchmarking here. No basis for wages, at all. Really, my predecessor sort of "decided" what people would get paid through the grant applications she developed. Before she left, I actually expressed to her that I wanted a raise (at that time 19/hr). She told me "good luck, I didn't get to 25/hr for like 3 years".

Things quickly surfaced after she moved on (I mentioned w/partner organization – we still "work together" through other projects. Yes, it's an interesting dynamic). I'm already rambling hard so I'll just state this: I have had to clean up a lot of messes, or figure shit out myself because things were never disclosed to me (some of which is due to what I think was a weird power dynamic).

Reason for my post: I am drowning. I don't know what to do. I want to quit. I wrote a resignation letter today just to have it on hand for when I'm ready. We have several million dollars in grant funding that I am singlehandedly managing (and doing a pretty goddamn good job of doing, by the way). I am playing the project manager/outreach/director/secretary/medusahead role. I feel so much guilt – and fear – that when I leave, I am going to burn a whole organization. There is no succession planning. I have tried so, so fucking hard for the past 8 months to get this place cleaned up, get some structure together, create policies, try to hire people. And of course, no one wants to work right now. Especially for shitty pay in a place where there's like, no housing.

Do I have permission to quit? Have I failed myself? Will I fail this organization? Will I fail our mission? Our partners?

I am so fucking unhappy. I don't know what else I can do to carry this weight. I feel stuck.

TLDR; organization has no structure, a politician board that mostly has their own interests in mind, short staffed, no leadership role, I'm overworked, underpaid, and undervalued. I am "the boss" and cannot sustainably continue. My passion is gone and I feel I've lost my identity. I guess I'm looking for guidance/solidarity/encouragement/relatability.

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