If Only I Do a Little Bit More
Updated: Feb 26
This may sound familiar: You have a long time output of your team that has consumed countless staff hours and community investment for years. While it had its season of glory, it is entering into a season of being high work and low value return.
One of the biggest unique investments from the nonprofit team is the investment of their hearts.
When employees or volunteers have sacrificed (or have perceived sacrifice) for long periods of time to make things happen with minimal resources, it can create a dynamic of personal identity and connection to a model, program or deliverable.
Perhaps it’s that auction event that just won’t go away because your auction volunteers are so dedicated, though it brings you hardly any revenue and more grey hairs on your head every time you think of it.
Maybe it’s the outreach program that is finding the same people showing up again and again because the methods of outreach aren’t really reaching new people at all, but you are all busting out long days and nights for the work again and again.
Or it could be the time consuming and staff draining communication piece that your readership isn’t really reading anyway, yet it is revered as one of the things “we always do”.
Many nonprofit teams can easily fall into a perpetual cycle of doing, because after all we are action-oriented people who are passionate for our missions! We get things done with little to no resources; watch us go!
Doing more to please the donor-base
Doing more to meet the ever-changing needs of the constituents
Doing more to keep up with every type of communication method out there
Doing more to make our deliverables appealing and hip
All this doing can come at a cost to our well-being.
In a class I co-facilitate, we often talk about how easily we forget “we are human beings, not human doings”. How ironic that so many servant leaders can neglect the core tenants of their own healthy selves to tirelessly serve others.
We’ve all heard the sayings, “you can’t pour from and empty cup” or “put the oxygen mask on first before putting one on the person next to you”. Even Jesus teaches us in Luke 5:14-16 that when the crowds wanted Him to do more, He went away to rest and pray, indicating the need for self care to be able to care for others and maintain focus.
I am interested how we are coming to understand the importance of well-being in our modern lives. There are many emerging teachings aligned to the domains of well-being that parallel wise teachings from various beliefs and cultures. When we become doers who deplete ourselves to "make a difference", we can impact a whole lot more than our calendar availability.
Consider some outcomes of well-being vs. outcomes of constant doing
When I spend dedicated time towards cultivating well-being, there are domains that help anchor me with social, emotional, environmental, intellectual, spiritual, physical and financial focus. All when given disciplined attention, produce perpetual abundance and the ability to deposit or pour out into others. I become focused, clear on how to prioritize, and a multiplier of strong outcomes.
When I find myself in a cycle focused on doing, with a lens on achievement as the guiding driver, life becomes scarcity-based with an ever-increasing pace. Essentially, I step onto a treadmill that keeps me running all day and at night because I can’t pause enough to sleep well. I’m depleting my leadership energy and I tend to withdraw energy from those around me.
The well-being equation
So, here is the short of it, a focus on wellbeing will positively impact your ability to activate your vision. A focus on achievement, minus caring for yourself might offer quick wins, but will negatively impact your well-being over time. The delicate part is that both have multiplier effects to those around you, both require disciplined dedication and both can be tricky to find the fine line of too much or not enough.
Next time you are in a meeting, or crafting a new strategy, consider the consequences of constant doing for you, your team and your mission. Listen for indicators and seize the opportunity to demonstrate how to be well and lead well.
Investing in your well-being as a leader is one of the single most impactful things you can do for your organization. It isn’t selfish, it is necessary if you want to sustain what is good, grow in exciting ways, and nurture a thriving team.