I came across this fascinating post in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Nonprofits Need to Give Workers a Sense of Purpose and thought, as many others likely did, what the heck? What’s more full of purpose than showing up to work and having every task, even the most menial, work toward a larger goal of helping others?
I read the piece and realized: this is a different kind of purpose. And I’m totally for it.
The author defines a purpose-oriented worker as the following:
“This group defines work as being about relationships, having a meaningful impact, and personal growth. They see work as a means to serve others and grow themselves. They need to get paid and be acknowledged, but that’s not what gets them out of bed each morning.”
Pay close attention to the inclusion of self-growth in this definition: that’s what is often missing in others, and that is what is a key takeaway here.
The author writes that 45% of all nonprofit workers land in this category, and they are exceptional. We should do all we can to encourage this attitude: one of personal growth and employee fulfillment. This is the way to attract and retain good employees, not just by giving raises across the board (although that helps too!). Investing in our people is the most important thing we can do as nonprofit leaders to ensure the success of the nonprofits of the future.
I encourage you to take a look at the piece – it’s a great read and a good reminder that no matter what sector we work in, taking care of ourselves is the most important thing.
Here I am again, another two months after my last post. And while it really hasn’t been that long, there have been some changes at my new job that are allowing the space for me to really, I mean really, spread my leadership wings.
One thing’s for sure – I’ve spent the last few months steeping myself in nonprofit staffing issues. Whether it’s hiring new staff, appreciating more seasoned ones, or thinking about division of duties and workloads, the human resource discussion in nonprofits is as important as ever. Now more than ever, as I manage a team of development staff, I think about the ways we can make sure our nonprofit employees are satisfied in their careers and lives. What’s my role in making sure this happens? At the moment, it’s with my own team and at my own nonprofit. What is my obligation to make change on a deeper level? I consider these questions as I move through my changing role.
I hope you also think about this as you do your work. How are you modeling behavior that your nonprofit peers can appreciate and emulate? Do you have clear goals and expectations in your role, and are you being fully appreciated for them? For that matter, are you being outwardly appreciative of your colleagues? We should all shower each other with a little more love! No matter where you are on the totem pole, you can make a difference with your actions.
Thanks again for your patience. I assure you, something big will come out of these changes. And I’ll try to be better about bringing you along with me. Because I’m learning so much, and what’s the point of that if I’m not sharing my learnings with you?
I love this post: You Are Not Your Job on 99u.com. For us ambitious and passionate millennials, we’re working our hardest to get that dream job or contribute to that amazing nonprofit. We go to networking events and one of the first questions we hear: what do you do? I fall into this trap as much as the next girl, so often asking that. Inevitably, we get caught in a cycle of pressure.
Answering this question is especially tough when you work for a nonprofit. How many times have you heard “you get paid for that?” or see those sad eyes that say, “aw, you’re never going to move out of your parents’ house.” Since there are a lot of misconceptions about the nonprofit sector, there are a lot of misconceptions when you answer that question.
When you get those sad eyes looking at you, don’t fret! You are not alone. Read this article and remember that what others think of your job does not define you. Even more than that, what you do doesn’t define you. Although we all spend a bunch of time at work, it doesn’t mean it needs to represent who you are. If you get reprimanded at work, it’s not because you’re a bad person. Your job is only one part of you – not all of you.
“The more we can see each other in all of our humanity, the more we can honor each other for what we really are and what life is actually about. We are people first. We are not our jobs.”
I recently came across this post and found it fascinating: Want to Be Happy at Work? Care Less About It by Kelly O’Laughlin on Quiet Revolution. Whether or not you’re an introvert, you will likely relate to this post if you’re a hard-working Millennial working at a nonprofit. So many of us are working our hearts out for our clients and for the benefits of others, and unfortunately the term “nonprofit burnout” is not one that’s foreign to us.
I was hesitant to completely buy in to the post until she compared my 80% effort to others’ 100%… and then I got it. By not giving my all 100% of the time, I am recognizing that I am not perfect and cannot solve all of the world’s problems all by myself. It’s a moment of remembering my last post, Be An Average Nonprofit Unicorn. This quote specifically resonated with me:
“Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.”
Let’s remember to focus on self-love and self-care first and foremost. Because we can only show up to take care of others after we have shown up to take care of ourselves.
I absolutely LOVE this post, Mediocrity Starts with ME (humor) by Vu Le on Blue Avocado, a fantastic online magazine for the nonprofit sector. Although the post is six months old, I think it will (unfortunately) be one of those timeless posts that will always ring true. Through his witty and dry sense of humor, Vu asks us to take a breath, take a look around, and… take a nap. Chill out for a minute!
As nonprofit staffers, we are fully committed to the missions of the organizations we work for. We are working tirelessly to make the world a better place for our clients and our peers. We work long hours and pour our heart and soul into our work. All that is great – until we burn out. Vu poignantly and emphatically encourages us to give ourselves a break. Although we all strive for perfection in our jobs, doing our best is and should be good enough. We can’t all be the Jane of all trades to everyone – and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be. Calm down and know that you, doing your best, is enough! You are a nonprofit unicorn!
To quote Vu:
The Nonprofit Unicorn’s Mantra
“I am a nonprofit unicorn.
I try each day to make the world better.
I am good at some stuff, and I suck at some stuff, and that’s OK.
There’s way more crap than I can possibly do on any given day.
On some days I am more productive than on other days, and that’s OK.
I know sometimes there are things that I certainly could have done better.
I know that I can’t make everyone happy or spend as much time as I could on everyone.
I know there’s a bunch of crap I don’t know.
Sometimes I make mistakes, and that’s OK.
I will try my best to learn and to improve, but I’ll also give myself a break.
I will be as thoughtful and understanding with myself as I am with my clients and with my coworkers.
I am an awesome and sexy nonprofit unicorn.”
Change is inevitable. Especially in well-functioning nonprofit organizations, consistent reevaluation of your work, your staffing structure, and your resources is key. As the world changes around us, the work we do to serve our clients should change as well.
But change can be scary. Especially for people like me, workers who set up their processes and procedures and get into a groove. They know what they need to do figure out the best way to get to where they need to be. Those slow and steady turtles that often win the race – I am definitely one of those. Those folks take change the hardest.
But – it doesn’t have to be that way. Any time you need to implement change in your organization, remember there are turtles like me. Remember that involving us in the conversation (if that’s an option) is key to do from the beginning. If you can’t involve us in the decision making process, walk us through the justifications as to why these choices are the best for the organization. Explain to us why you’re doing what you’re doing and allow us to understand how we are key to the process. Make us feel like a valuable member of the team and show us why the changes will help us do our work, and help the organization in the long run.
Without that, the turtle can get lost. But with adequate explanation, the turtle just might surprise you and win that race.
While it’s easy to put foundations and other funders on a pedestal, these are the institutions that need the most feedback, argues Phil Buchanan in the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s Foundation CEOs Need Candid Feedback to Succeed in Driving Change. This great piece, taking inspiration from Ford Foundation’s president Darren Walker’s recently released letter on his first year in office, discusses the pressure that foundation heads are under to perform and the need for feedback to ensure they are doing their best work.
I couldn’t agree more, and would argue that this idea of the importance of candid feedback can translate to any entity or person in power. Whether it’s your boss, your organization’s CEO, your local government or the president of the United States, people in power need to hear about the ways their decisions affect the people around them.
In fact, the more power one has, the more influence they have, and often (especially in the nonprofit sector), the less people are inclined to give feedback. The nonprofit sector has a mistaken culture of niceness where confrontation is avoided for the sake of being “nice” – when, in fact, lack of feedback is actually unkind. If you really care about the success of someone in power, the nicest thing you can do for them is provide them with candid feedback. No one is perfect, no matter how much power she has. So the only way to improve is by hearing from others.
Today, give your boss a piece of candid feedback. More times than not, instead of reprimanding you, she will appreciate you.
Thrilled to share that my third guest blog post, Story Time: Not Just for Babies, was published last week on Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention! Helping Nonprofits Succeed through Effective Marketing. I had a great time writing about the importance of telling stories in nonprofit marketing. People aren’t moved by numbers or data, they are moved by relating to someone. I don’t discount the importance of data and the integral role it should play in nonprofit marketing. But to get someone to act, they must feel. And to get someone to feel, they must understand.
Of all the self help tips I’ve read, all the leadership lessons that have been passed along to me, all the nuggets of life advice I’ve been given, I can sum everything up in one word:
We’re all different people coming to situations with different perspectives. We all have something to offer a situation and a good leader understands that. A good leader can listen to everyone that comes across their path and distill order out of chaos. But before they can make sense of anything, they must do just that: listen.
Listening isn’t something to be done passively. In fact, meaningful listening takes more effort and energy than speaking. Listening doesn’t just mean hearing – it means understanding where the person is coming from, what matters to them, and how they feel about a situation. It means hearing what they are saying but also perceiving their body language, tone, and passion. It takes unique abilities to listen well, and it just may be the secret to becoming a great leader.
Today, consider the situations you find yourself in. When communicating with others, are you truly actively listening, or coming to the conversation with your own agenda? It’s great to maintain focus when it comes to getting what you want, but be open to understanding other people’s perspectives as well. You never know, what you thought you wanted just might not have been the best thing for you or your organization.
I’m currently participating in a six week series on Metta, or loving-kindness meditation. Lately we’ve been focusing on self-love and last week we reviewed the very important concept of forgiving yourself.
This is such an important thing to remember in the workplace too. As Millennials in the nonprofit sector, we have a trend to be too hard on ourselves. We know the good we want to do in the world and the potential our energy, skills, and insight brings to the table. We want to change the world and we know we can.
So when we slip up, we get very frustrated and mad at ourselves. We worry about how it looks to our colleagues – looking like we don’t know what we’re doing might be the worst thing we can imagine. Our professional reputation is extremely important to us. We feel it dictates our entire future. It defines us.
The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are what make us human and teach us how to deal with issues as they come up. Getting through a slip up can cause you to learn so much and be a better person. It can teach you resilience and professionalism. It can teach you how to be a better employee and a better manager.
So, this is a call that we must forgive ourselves. Forgive ourselves for any mistakes we have made at work. Ten years from now, none of this will matter. Will it matter ten months from now? Ten days from now? Likely not. Forgive yourself and let go of the past. It will liberate you to move forward with your work in a brand new way. Don’t worry: you’re still changing the world.