Self care for the Not for profit Leader

Aug 1, 2016

SELF CARE – Who has time for that, right?!?!

Its time to talk about “self-care” as not-for-profit leaders. And I’m not talking diet, exercise and meditation!!! We are already being told, relentlessly, how important it is for our self-care to eat right, exercise regularly and meditate.  This is not one of ‘those’ lectures.

If you are anything like me, when life gets hectic, and challenges start to feel more like insurmountable problems; and just the sheer pace of change takes its toll – the first thing to go off the to-do list is diet, exercise and meditation – who has time or energy for that!!!??!!

We know that they shouldn’t be, we know that it is during those times that we need these things the MOST. Yet, for me, they are the easiest to let go of in order to make space for sleep and getting things done.

I don’t think I’m the only one….

So, if I’m not talking about that kind of self-care…then what?

I’m talking about the kind of self-care that as a NFP leader nurtures you and your organisation. I’m talking about self-care practises that are embedded in your organisational culture so as you have the resilience to handle the hectic pace and the stressful times; so that your organisation continues to thrive; and so that even in the thick of difficulties it is still a place that y’all want to be.

There are three practises that I consciously include in my NFP to keep me grounded when I start to feel overwhelmed; energises me to continue to make progress when I feel weary; and gently guides me back on course when my head is going in a hundred different directions.

These practises not only serve me. They motivate my team. When my team is nurtured they are better able to serve their community and the organisations values and purpose continues to be delivered.

  1. S-L-O-W DOWN:

I know, I know! The pace of change and the sheer volume of ‘things’ that need to get done makes this feel not only impossible, but unnecessary. So why slow down, and how?

This is not about turning our workplaces into a scene from Zootopia with a workforce of Sloths, but in creating meaningful and purposeful pauses in your work schedule, and the schedule of your various teams, for the dedicated practise of ‘reflection’.  Use reflective brainstorming and strategy meetings as a tool to:

  • ease the frantic pace;
  • take stock of work progress
  • become strategic about what needs to be done;
  • Choose impactful progress over ‘busy-ness’ type tasks.

It’s a great way to:

  • help everyone overcome overwhelm,
  • get people working in their zone of genius through the appropriate allocation of activities, and in
  • creating a unified and supportive environment
  • Where the common goal and purpose is placed front and centre.


  1. JOY

We need more joy in our everyday life. We spend so much of our time at work, in our work, and with our colleagues. There is great benefit in enjoyment:

  • We are more productive
  • It increases our engagement
  • We develop greater levels of commitment to the job and the organisation

It makes sense to have JOY in the workplace. Quite often the work of our Not for profit is serious work; crossing a broad range of very serious issues.  However, this does not mean it is void of joy. In fact in such an environment, it becomes critical that we find and create joy – through humour, laughter, connections, care, concern and celebrations.  It can be found in the little things.

Be mindful of bringing joy to your organisation.



To give support and to receive support. As a leader in your not-for-profit you know the value of giving support to those in your team and those your organisation serves.  The difference it can make to someone when they know you have their back, that you care about how they are doing and that in times of need – you are a safe place to fall or be caught. As leaders in our NFP we already know that there is a great gift we receive when we give support to others.

Having a supportive culture in your NFP lends itself to more joy and greater clarity and a unified purpose.

As leaders we can only create such a culture if we extend to ourselves that same level of care and support – in order to be truly authentic and live by the values that we uphold for others.

Throughout my career one of the biggest contributions to my achievements is that I have an amazing support system around me.  This is two-fold:


  • Family and Friends – I am gifted with an extremely supportive informal network of family and friends.


As a Mum of three active children, the juggle of motherhood and organisational leadership is REAL.  My ability to be present for my organisation and my team was possible because of a very supportive Mum, husband and family.

Making time to connect with friends, outside of my work in the not for profit sector, provides me with the space I need to stay connected to myself, my interests, and those things that light me up outside my work in the community sector.

Your relationships outside of your work cannot be underestimated in terms of the value and benefit they have on your ability to be an effective leader.

Nurture your positive relationships and informal supports.


  • Mentors – I have always had, and still have, mentors. I haven’t always known that those particular people in my life whom I shared my dreams, concerns and challenges with were my “mentors”, as they came in both formal and informal forms.


Whether formal or informal, they have always been people whom I have a shared values base; who I feel comfortable, and safe to share my insecurities and fears with; whom I trusted would be truthful and honest in their feedback or guidance; and who was open with sharing with me their lived experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that I might learn through them.

As a leader in a not-for-profit you can be expected to be skilled in a multiple of disciplines and areas from management, human resources to finance and legal aspects. It’s easy to feel alone and isolated.

For me, having mentors has been critical in my leadership self-care.

These practises are ongoing, and they exist both in the smooth easy-flowing times and the tough times.  They are forged throughout the organisation, and they will make a difference to your well-being as a not-for-profit leader.

However, don’t forget, that these things still count and DO make a massive difference to your health and well-being…

  • nourish your body with good food,
  • love your body with regular movement, and
  • Find peace through stillness from within as often as you can.

How good would it feel to have someone you could talk to who really understands what its like to be a leader in a NFP organisation, someone who has been there.   But not just anybody. You want someone who knows how important it is to work with heart, who comes from a values driven philosophy, and yet able to balance this with business savvy sense.

I exist to support not-for-profit leaders and managers step into their full leadership potential and create positive change in their communities. So, if mentorship is lacking in your self-care, why not  book a complimentary clarity session with me today.