Nonprofit Burnout

As nonprofit professionals, we often wear many hats and work long hours. No matter what your role is within your organization, you’ve likely seen the ugly face of nonprofit burnout from time to time. Daily tasks, to-do lists, e-mails, and phone calls can be passion’s worst enemy at times. If you are in need of a quick morale boost, this blog post is for you.

Fight nonprofit burnout by focusing on your story.

If you’ve had the chance to read some of my other blogs or attend some of my webinars, you know I usually have a common solution to many nonprofit problems: a good story. 

This time, I want to focus on your story. Please set aside some time to work through this blog with me. Yes, I’m asking you to combat work fatigue with more work, but I promise it will be worthwhile. 

What was your “why”?

Why did you get into this line of work in the first place? Did you happen into the nonprofit sector? Did you choose it deliberately? 

Something called you to this industry, and I invite you to write down one paragraph about how that decision came to be. Recalling how you began can help you reconnect with that feeling you had when you first started, which is likely when you were extremely passionate, motivated, and energized.

Why are you working at your current organization?

Now consider why you chose your particular organization. 

Does your organization offer solutions to others? Does your organization provide safety for the public? Will your organization advance society economically? Why is your organization important? 

Re-discover for yourself what intrigued you about the particular organization you have chosen to devote your time and energy towards. Chances are good that you started your organization or joined the team because you wanted to do something that really made a difference in the lives of others. 

Really ask yourself: “How did I get here?” And, more importantly, ask: “Why?” 

Don’t just say it’s for the money.

Now for the elephant in the room: money. If you’re thinking, “Well, I come to work every day to make a living,” then try to dig deeper. Beyond just “making a living,” try to identify what makes you tick. 

Why do you want the cash? We aren’t here on this earth to pay bills and die, so try to make a list of what money could help you achieve beyond paying your cable and internet bill. 

Maybe you took the job with more hours but a higher pay because you knew you could put your kids through college. Maybe your dream house is just a few years worth of savings away, and you’re committed to earning what it takes to live by that lake? 

What other causes matter to you? How could your income help create change in those areas? 

Motive matters when it comes to money, and money matters because it creates opportunity. Why do you do what you do? 

Write down your answers. 

Grab some paper and a pen and write down the answers to the questions above. 

Yes, I’m serious.

Uncovering or reminding yourself of your “why” is the first step toward reigniting that drive to get up every day and put in the hard work. Holding tight to your “why” will help you when someone challenges your views, beliefs, or story in general. Success has setbacks and knowing your “why” will help you push through those.

Remind yourself of why you got started in the first place when you start to feel repetitive and that dreaded busy-but-bored state of existence with your career. Return to your “why” when you feel like an appeal or a meeting has fallen flat. 

Trust that it will also help you become more effective in your role if you can explain to others exactly why something matters to you. By explaining why something matters to you, you are additionally explaining why it should matter to them. 

Your passion will show through in your story. Your passions will also fuel your fire when you are feeling that nonprofit burnout

Nonprofit Sustainability

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez

Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at madison@toldcoaching.com.