Nonprofit Leaders: How to Get Excited Everyday About Your Work

Dec 17, 2018Leadership

Nonprofit-leaders-How-to-get-excited-about-your-work Leadership

A few years ago I found myself super busy. I mean crazy busy. Over a six-month period, I had my head down and was focused on several large clients and preparing for a number of speaking engagements.

I was not in a happy place. I was not enjoying my work and had lost that passion to help others. It was time to reevaluate how I was spending my time and serving my mission.

It wanted to find that sweet spot again where time stood still.

Finding your sweet spot means combining your passions with your talents. Let’s talk about your passions.

What are you deeply passionate about? As a nonprofit leader, what do you really, really, really want and love doing in your work?

I recently completed an exercise in which I wrote down the activities I liked and disliked that I completed in 90 minute cycles. I did this for several mornings. I discovered that I easily deep dive into researching and writing. I love learning about others through meaningful conversations. I love coaching nonprofit leaders one-on-one. I do not like getting stuck with tedious technology challenges! It is a very revealing exercise, and I recommend it.

Additionally, here are five exercises to better align your nonprofit role and responsibilities with what energizes you and ignites your passions:

1.    Recall your childhood interests and fond activities. What current nonprofit activities most resemble that enjoyment you felt years ago?

For me, I have fond memories of playing in my room by myself and also playing sports in the backyard with neighborhood friends. Today, I am self-motivated to work on independent projects and very invigorated when working collaboratively with and learning from others.

2.    Look at your audible list or the books you read.

My books are nonfiction and mostly about leadership and marketing or branding.

3.    Look at your credit card or bank statement to identify recurring themes. 

Boy, this was revealing to me! After my living expense charges, I seem to spend money on fun travels, conferences & webinars, and books.

4.    Think about topics you like to talk about, read about or learn about.

My two most favorite topics are leadership and marketing. I like to discuss how to apply the knowledge gained and learn what other people are doing to advance their organization. 

5.    Now list three things you are passionate about in your nonprofit work.

When I was CEO of a nonprofit, I was most passionate about . . .

  • Talking with potential donors and discovering how they were interested in helping college students be successful.

  • Identifying how best to communicate funding needs with donors – through conversations, letters, newsletters, storytelling, website messaging, etc

  • Meeting one-on-one with staff to celebrate successes, identify professional development opportunities, and adjust responsibilities.

These five questions can help you get excited everyday about your work.

For now, put aside a grumpy or difficult employee, dysfunctional work environment or a difficult boss. What do you enjoy doing in your current position? Maybe you enjoy making calls to donors, planning an event, writing an article for the monthly newsletter, or preparing financial statements. Whatever it is, find that place that brings you joy and satisfaction. Do more of what you like to do.

If necessary, talk with your boss about realignment of job assignments  . . . or start looking for another position that will bring more job fulfillment and allow you to make meaningful contributions.

If you are the CEO, focus on what you love to do and are deeply passionate about. Delete what is not working for you or the organization. Delegate those areas that are not your strength. Consider board members or other volunteers to help in specific areas.

Find that sweet spot at work where time stands still. You will be a better leader, perform at your best, and find great enjoyment in your work. You will be successful and those around you will be energized by your enthusiasm and drive.

Question: What adjustment can you make to find your sweet spot at work? See “leave a comment” below.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising guide. She provides overwhelmed nonprofit leaders with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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