From Blue Avocado by by Richard Wegman on November 20, 2022
Article In Brief:
- The Problem: Nonprofit leaders’ desire to improve the future, and feeling of present inadequacy, can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression. We have to realize we can’t do it alone.
- Why it Happens: Nonprofits, and funders alike, work separately in silos, tackling challenges, and vying for the same access to resources, independently. New thinking is needed to create stronger, more durable models to bring about systemic change.
- The Solution: The author offers regenerative thinking as the ideal approach to reorient our perspective from what’s in it for me to asking how can we all benefit? Seven examples of regeneration in action are presented.
The Common Problems
In the dozens of nonprofits I have led as COO and CFO in the past 35 years, financial stability, growth, and cash flow have been common problems.
However, similar types of solutions have usually resolved these problems: proper budgeting, capture of overhead in grants, cash flow monitoring, proper fundraising systems and procedures, credit lines, and even human resources management.
Apart from a constant need for capital, nonprofits also share a common desire to do something positive for the benefit of humankind and/or the planet. Although I’ve found this to be a prime motivator of many executive directors, this beneficent desire to improve the future also implies a lack inherent in the present. And this feeling of present inadequacy can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression among our nonprofit leaders. After all, nonprofit work is spiritual, no matter what your mission statement is. It is about connecting to people, animals, and nature—and connecting is a spiritual practice.
From Dearth to Abundance
And so part of what we need to do as nonprofit leaders is to reorient our perspective, moving away from what is missing towards what abundance there could be for all.
As environmental nonprofit leader Paul Hawken says, “Evolution arises from the bottom up—so too does hope. The older the forest the more resilient its capacity to regenerate. Humanity is older than the oldest forest. Its capacity to adapt and restore is vastly underestimated. Evolution is optimism in action.”
Let us take that optimism and the passion we have to join together in action.
After all, there are over 10,000,000 nonprofits worldwide. As a collective, nonprofits are the largest movement the world has ever known. That is amazing!
And yet, we are divided. The system of how nonprofits raise money inherently keeps us separate and creates the same financial instability and cash flow problems that we all spend so much time trying to solve over and over again. This separation means that we all have our own wells of resources that we protect and keep close to the vest. After all, the way foundations dole out resources—small amounts to many organizations—only enables us to limp along. This is part of the problem.