Do you have “balance” in your non-profit life?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “Catch More Life“. In that post, he talks about work-life balance, values and dreams. I think this is an especially appropriate post for this Friday because we’ve been talking about time management all week-long, which begs the question of work-life balance.

I loved John’s post this week because it came at just the right time in my life. A few weeks ago, I celebrated a huge anniversary — the day I decided to let go and “free fall” in life. It was the end of May 2011, when I left my job at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I couldn’t stay on the path that I was on.

After taking the summer to decompress and think things through, I realized that life is too short and decided to cease the moment. I started blogging. I invested time in doing things that made me happy. I opened my own small non-profit consulting practice in October 2011 and resumed what I love doing, which is helping non-profit organizations build capacity.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any assessment or evaluation work on my decisions until October 2012, but the anniversary of my departure from Boys & Girls Clubs of America threw me a curveball and I started asking:

  • Was this the right decision?
  • Am I making enough money to sustain the consulting practice?
  • Do I need to go back to work for “The Man”.   😉   (Sorry, Fred)
  • Do I need to change certain things about my consulting practice?

I started feeling the anxiety that comes with assessment and evaluation . . . until I read John’s post.

While I’m still not sure that I’ve made the right decision or if I am on the right path with my new business, I feel better about putting my anxiety away until October. I also feel a little better about the decision I made a year ago because at the core of that decision was exactly what the fisherman in John’s post is trying to do.

I also find myself concerned this morning about the state of the non-profit sector. Philanthropy News Digest reported a few years ago about a study conducted by the Meyer Foundation:

“. . . young nonprofit staff are concerned that challenges such as work-life balance, insufficient lifelong earning potential, a lack of mentorship, and overwhelming fundraising responsibilities may prevent them from becoming nonprofit executives.”

As I look at this report finding and then look at the fisherman in John’s post “Catch More Life,” I find myself nodding my head and thinking that the word “challenges” is an under-statement.

If you are an executive director, you shouldn’t dismiss this phenomenon because it fundamentally threatens the long-term viability of your agency. Perhaps, the best thing you can do is:

  • Sit down with your employees,
  • Figure out what they value in life and offer to help them achieve it while they work at your agency,
  • Help them develop a career and life path, and
  • In the final analysis, appreciate their choices as you figure out how to simultaneously meet your agency’s needs.

If you are a board volunteer, you should take a hard look at this report and do a number of things like address it in your organization’s strategic plan and compensation & benefits plan. You should also demand that your executive director model work-life balance and promote it.

If you are a donor, please consider funding capacity building initiatives that help non-profits grow their fundraising muscles, which in turn will bring more resources to throw at this challenge.

The non-profit sector is at-risk and we are our own worst enemies. Is it possible for the fishermen and businessmen from John’s post to co-exist in the non-profit sector?

Do you personally have a work-life balance challenge? How are you addressing it? Does your agency have a balance issue with regards to the organization’s culture? Are you addressing it? If so, how? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
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