Last year, I wrote about a presentation at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference by Beth Kanter, where she talked about a book she was working on with Aliza Sherman, another nonprofit guru. That book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, is now out and highly recommended. The premise of the book is that while nonprofits are mission-driven, they will only be at their most productive if their employees are happy and healthy. So often, self-care is the first thing to be crossed off the list when there are deadlines, details, and stress to deal with. On both an individual and an organizational level, many nonprofits have a long way to go in creating nurturing environments for themselves.
Sometimes, this "overdrive ethic" is valued and rewarded. Who stayed all night to finish the grant application? Who worked all weekend? Who hasn't seen the inside of a gym all year (or ever)? In addition, many nonprofit employees are doing emotionally draining work and need to nourish themselves even more, but don't allow themselves the time because their organizational culture does not allow for it. As one of the employees interviewed for the book said, "We are going to kill ourselves trying to change the world."
There are success stories in the book that help create a road map for other groups looking to do better. The authors outline a few steps that every organization can follow to improve their culture and support their employees in a healthier lifestyle, beginning with raising awareness of the issue and educating employees about self-care. From that point, everyone can develop their own personalized self-care plan that can have measurable and trackable results, and share some of their activities with the group, fostering positive relationships within the organization that can help transform the culture.
I encourage you to read the book and let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy and healthy reading!