Pansy growing out of the cracks

Fostering Resilience in Your Nonprofit Organization

By definition, resilience is the ability to recover, adjust, and bounce back quickly from difficulties. It’s an invaluable quality to possess in a position of nonprofit leadership, and one that will help both you and your staff to successfully progress and avoid burnout. 

Each and every organization is composed of individuals with unique personalities and needs. It’s almost inevitable that at some point in time, any small nonprofit organization with a highly committed workforce is going to face a challenge or burnout. Under the stress of a heavy workload, stretched budgets, long hours, and under-staffed teams — burnouts are incredibly common. This can be devastating for both individuals and the future of the organization itself. We never want to reach this stage. 

We believe that working to build organizational resilience is essential in helping not only nonprofit leaders but their entire team to prepare for difficult moments. It enables them to commit to their work with peace of mind and passion. Read on to discover how to further develop resilience yourself as a leader and how you can foster this throughout your staff. 

Personal Resilience

Nonprofit leadership requires a strong individual at its head — and for that to happen, burnouts must be avoided, and personal resilience must first be in place. 

While much harder said than done, we believe that there’s nothing more important than creating a balance between your working and personal life. Adequate rest and self-care are often considered selfish for those in leadership positions, but there’s nothing more important than taking care of ourselves to successfully lead an organization. 

As a first step, we’d suggest committing yourself to an activity that rejuvenates and inspires you at least once a month. This would be increasingly beneficial if it loosely relates to the mission you’re working on. This can reinforce the inspiration you feel for what it is that you do, and help you to reframe your work.  

Self-care is often viewed as a luxury or a guilty pleasure. In reality, it’s a personal and organizational necessity. When nonprofit leaders take care of themselves, they’re also taking care of the entire organization. 

While working towards fostering personal resilience, we’d recommend reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron along your journey. 

Collective Resilience

Organizational resilience is often thought to travel down from the top of an organization. Company culture, however, is affected by the attitude of each and every team member. It’s especially important for nonprofit leaders to take the time to build their teams and foster a sense of support, trust, and eventually resilience. 

You should never simply assume that a collection of individuals are working together just fine — this is what leads to burnout. It’s essential that you take the time to regularly focus on the process of teamwork, examine how they’re working side-by-side, and how they deal with any conflicts, issues, or frustrations. Failing to do this and focusing solely on the output of work will lead to a dysfunctional team that cracks in the face of a crisis. 

Above all else, it’s important to encourage individuals within nonprofit organizations to remember why they’re actually doing the work that they’re doing. They’re working because they’re passionate about the organizational mission, because they’re inspired, and want to make a difference. Framing their daily work as part of a wider vision instills a sense of perseverance and motivation into team members, and helps them to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed. 

As mentioned earlier, never-ending to-do lists, understaffed teams, and long hours can cause burnout. Workers need to feel empowered to tackle the tasks that they’re facing. They need to be reminded of their progress and achievements. Collective resilience is so important, so we’d suggest regularly reminding the organization of everything they’ve achieved and the reasons behind the mission. 

The Bottom Line

Resilience is an essential skill, and it’s so important to foster this throughout a nonprofit organization. With a commitment to both personal resilience as a nonprofit leader, and collective resilience for the team, the chances of burnout are lessened, and success is enhanced. 

Taking the time to proactively build a sense of resilience into the organization’s culture through collective learning, communication, and encouragement will result in improved emotional well-being, productivity, and motivation. Great nonprofit organizations are made up of resilient teams. For further resources on how to foster resilience as a leader, we’d recommend taking part in a nonprofit management training or a nonprofit leadership program.