Last week I wrote a blog post about some of the practical aspects of getting yourself and your organization ready for year-end fundraising. There is one other very important thing to do during this time – take care of yourself.
Even if you removed fundraising from the picture, the holiday season can often be exhausting. Add it back in and you’ve likely got a recipe for burnout. Fortunately, there is a great resource that addresses this problem head on and offers you some strategies and ideas for taking care of yourself. The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman is a book jam packed with resources and ideas to help non-profit professionals care for themselves.
I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book (which I highly recommend you purchase) and want to share some key takeaways in today’s blog post. I hope these are ideas that you will also consider as you get yourself and your organization ready for year-end fundraising.
Burnout: The Root of the Problem
Kanter and Sherman share that burnout is the problem plaguing the non-profit sector. It’s causing high staff turnover, health problems, and more.
So why haven’t we addressed this before?
We love our jobs, our organizations, the cause and many of us feel a duty and loyalty to do our best at all costs. The fact of the matter is, much of our work is ongoing and we have to sustain ourselves. But we often try to sprint the whole marathon.
Kanter and Sherman suggest that not only to do we have to find ways to care for ourselves now, we also need to implement “WE-care”. WE-care is an organizational culture that supports self-care for staff and the organization as a whole. I personally love this idea because even if you are doing your best to care for yourself, it can easily be torn down by an unsupportive work environment.
One of their key messages about burnout is that it doesn’t happen in a day. What you do daily adds up and can quickly sneak up and take its toll on you. I think this practice of mindfulness, self-awareness, and intention in our daily activity is key.
Develop a Self-Care Plan. . . Like Yesterday!
For all the planning that we do in our lives, we often overlook one of the most fundamental plans – a self-care plan. This is the plan that helps you sustain yourself and thrive in the process.
Everyone’s plan is unique. Kanter and Sherman suggest a few different ways of putting together your plan.
- Daily routines
- Monthly habits or priorities
- Self-care categories such as self, others, environment, work and money, and tech
There is no right or wrong way to put it together. You have to find what works for you and that may take some trial and error.
One of the things that I like most about my self-care plan is that it keeps me accountable and on-track. My daily plan includes:
- Walking and yoga
Other activities that I enjoy on a weekly or monthly basis include:
- Self-led retreats (Jennifer Loudon’s book on this changed my life!)
- Quality time with friends and family
- Unscheduled introvert time (yes, that what I call it on my calendar)
Having been an avid self-care enthusiast for several years now, one of the things that I would add to Kanter and Sherman’s work is that you don’t reap the benefits of self-care by being goal or results oriented. You don’t do self-care by simply checking off an item on your self-care plan. Rather, the benefits come from the process you engage in. Pick activities that you enjoy. Don’t pick activities simply because you think you “should” be doing them.
What Can You Do Now?
First of all, I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Happy, Health Nonprofit for your own reference. What I’ve shared in today’s post is really only the tip of the iceberg of what this amazing book has to offer.
As you look ahead to the end of the year, I would encourage you to think about your non-negotiable self-care activities. Those things you need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to sustain yourself. Find pockets of time to schedule them in and keep the commitment to yourself.
Want some accountability on your self-care? Leave a comment below this post to share what practices you want to try or are currently doing.
Let’s help each other be happy, healthy non-profit professionals!
Beth Kanter says
Vanessa, thank you so much for the thoughtful review of your book! As you so rightly point out, incorporating self care is about habit change and sometimes that is hard. My big shift in self-care happened a few years ago after I was experiencing some health issues – and started walking regularly. It has been an enormous impact on my health but also my work productivity — I feel happier and clear and am better able to write and concentrate on tasks.
As part of the writing the book, Aliza and I experimented with incorporating self-care activities into our lives. One thing I started to do is meditative drawing. It is called Zentangles. I create one drawing a day – and even have a travel pack of markers and paper to do it on planes. It has helped me with focus and taking a break from working online.
Here’s a gallery of recent drawings: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/albums/72157664536138703