Insights
2 min Read
September 27, 2016

Simple steps you can take to create a happier, healthier nonprofit.

Not making time to exercise? Checking email in bed at night and first thing in the morning? Eating fast food at your desk during a conference call? Too many people I know fit that profile. There’s a culture shift that has to occur so people OK when they unplug, take a break, and do what they need to do in order to be able to produce good work.

In The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout (Wiley, 2016), Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman open up this long-overdue conversation, defining burn out and showing how to practice self-care as a strategy to avoid it.

Too many people work tirelessly in their businesses but not on their businesses. This book mandates that we work on ourselves in our businesses—and, while it’s tailored for nonprofits, each chapter is full of practical tips for any business type. The first section starts with a focus on you, the nonprofit staff person or leader, and what you need to work happily and healthily.

If this were coming from Rodney Yee or Gwyneth Paltrow we’d all be snickering–but it’s coming from Beth Kanter, the sector’s social media and tech wizard, and Aliza Sherman, also a digital diva. When these women tell us to unplug, we take it seriously.

But this isn’t a book that simply suggests that you unplug. It touches on how you work inside and outside your organization in various ways.  I particularly appreciated the “5 Spheres of Happy, Healthy Living,”  which provides a framework to think about your work in the context of your life.

“5 Spheres of Happy Healthy Living” © 2016 Kanter/Sherman

We even get a burnout scale and a self-assessment tool to see how bad things really are.

Worried your organization will go into a tailspin if you start taking time away for self-care? You don’t have to go from working 24/7 to silent meditation retreats: the book is full of practical ideas and suggestions to help you ease into it.

Later sections of this book focus on your nonprofit. The authors dive into culture: how to define it and what it really means to have a happy and healthy one. Last, they map out strategies to create a healthy organization with practical tips that might inspire policies, for instance. The connection is obvious: we need to take care of ourselves, but also to exist in organizations that support healthy ways of working.

Got a boss or board member who drives you to work in unsustainable ways that are making you nuts? Send them a copy of this book. Better yet, read it first, with a highlighter in hand. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, my friend.

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