The life of the leader of a nonprofit organization is generally one of doing more with less—stretching dollars, recruiting volunteers, finding resources under rocks. By and large, people enter the nonprofit sector knowing this, but they are driven by the mission of the organization and the joy of accomplishment that comes from the work.
Lately, however, whenever I speak to nonprofit directors, there seems to be a common theme that I’ve not seen before. People are tired. In fact, one director commented that she was “tired to the bone.” And the joy of accomplishment that once invigorated them has been replaced with a feeling of despair — the number of people who need assistance has grown significantly, while the resources to serve them have shrunk – progress that has been hard won during recent years has suffered from having to retreat and retrench – and the long hours somehow feel longer than before. So, for all of you who have friends who work in the sector, consider this:
- Send them a note or call them just to say “thank you” for the effort they put forth and the work their organization does.
- Ask them to join you for a movie or a walk or a game of tennis or golf. They need to have mini-escapes that take their mind off the work.
- Volunteer to do something to assist – even if all you can handle is something small and short-term. Folding brochures, stuffing envelopes, running errands—these are things that just might take enough pressure off a single day to make a difference.
- Make a contribution in their honor. The size doesn’t matter. The thought matters enormously.
If you are on the board of a nonprofit organization, ask your staff leadership this: “What keeps you awake at night?” Just asking is incredibly meaningful – it lets them know you care, not only when you are at the board table, but all the time—and that you care about them personally. But it also starts a dialog that might just lead to a solution or two. Wouldn’t that be amazing? The everyday matters that are the work of nonprofits can be difficult and stressful. But EVERY DAY MATTERS in supporting those doing the work, and EVERY PERSON can help in some small way. Make it today; make it you.
Denise K. Spencer