Self-care as a Nonprofit Professional

‘Tis the month for new resolutions, emphasis on being the best you in the upcoming year. Many of us contemplate about the past year(s), creating healthy habits, and/or changes we want to make in our professional or personal lives. Personally, part of it should include self-care.

yogaWe all know working in the nonprofit sector is not always easy. Many of us have to wear multiple hats, have long to-do lists, work with limited resources, committed to evening and weekend programs, and are always in the public eye. We have big hearts too – our passion and empathy can be energy zapping. It’s true we make a difference in the lives of others and are definitely a giving bunch of people.

So, raise your hand if you need a little extra self-care or TLC! Okay, you can put your hand down and continue reading on for these tips.

Take a vacation. Yes, that’s right – book a vacation on a beach, go to the mountains, or whatever you like to do to relax. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey published in Time magazine indicated that a little under 42% of Americans did not take a single vacation day in 2014. Yikes!

Eat, Exercise, and Sleep. We have all seen those studies. Eating nutritious foods, exercising 2-3 times a week, and sleeping well are all necessary to be healthy, reduce stress, and be energetic.

Put your car on strike. Make a conscious decision to stay home, whether for a day or a few hours. Find peace in your own space with something you enjoy – read something for fun, cook, binge on Netflix, play a long game of Monopoly with your kids, work on that project that you started months ago, or meditate. 

Laugh. Smile. Find your happiness. I was taught and always heard that laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes all I need to do is call my sisters and laugh, the kind where tears come out of your eyes. It releases all those great endorphins that combat stress.

Say “no.” It really is okay to say no. We already take on a lot of tasks and on occasion we need to let something go. I would much rather be honest with myself and with others in what I can/cannot handle at that time. It gives unrealistic expectations if you commit and are not able to complete the task. Also, successful people are usually the ones that are always asked to take on another project. If you are competent, people notice your work and will often ask you for additional involvement. It is challenging to be effective when you are over committed and burnt out.

Be organized. How much time do you spend looking for your keys? Or where did you put that piece of paper? Finding a designated spot for things, like your keys or your papers, has been a successful tool for me in time management. Hunting for things takes time – it can cause one to be late, miss an important piece of information, and could cause undue stress.

Other nonprofit blogs this month have posted about self-care. Check out Beth Kanter’s post here. Read Vu Le’s post on Nonprofit with Balls here.

self care

Fun Philanthropy: Examples from The Harry Potter Alliance

Katrina Pieri for wordpressWhile perusing the internet a while back, I stumbled upon The Harry Potter Alliance. This nonprofit originally piqued my interest because I’m an undying fan of J. K. Rowling’s series. Anything that includes “Harry Potter” in the title is bound to attract my attention. I realized, however, that it’s really worth discussing why this nonprofit has been so successful since it was founded in 2005.

  •  Quick Facts:
    • The HPA’s vision is “A creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.”
    • The HPA’s values include such statements as “We believe in magic,” and “We celebrate the power of community–both online and off.”
    • The HPA has completed many successful campaigns, such as “A partnership with Walk Free that engaged over 400,000 fans and resulted in Warner Bros. changing the sourcing of their Harry Potter chocolate to be 100% UTZ or Fairtrade.”
    • The HPA features chapters across the world, the members of which participate in the HPA’s campaigns. Currently, there’s only one chapter in Indiana. It’s located in Greenwood. Wouldn’t it be great if someone started a chapter here in Fort Wayne?

Factors of Success

In my humble opinion, there are at least four main factors contributing to the HPA’s success. The first one is the HPA draws power from fan activism. Fan activism refers to civic or other engagement that stems from a fan culture. A fan culture often centers on popular literature, movies or tv shows, video games, or other forms of media. By way of an example, think of the fans who attend (in large hordes) such events as Comic-Con, often dressed up as their favorite characters.

The HPA is able to mobilize large groups of people from within the Harry Potter fan culture. These fans already identify greatly with the book (and often movie) series; by connecting a well-organized nonprofit with the Harry Potter universe, it’s almost guaranteed that some members of the HP fan culture will seek involvement.

The HPA is very much intrinsically tied to the Harry Potter Universe. The HPA doesn’t just make a few references to the magical, fictional world created by J. K. Rowling. On the contrary, it ties everything in with the HP universe, starting with its name. For example, in 2014 the HPA established a grant for local chapters and named it the “Granger Grant for Excellence in Community Organizing.” This references one of the main characters in the book series, Hermione Granger, and is immediately recognizable to anyone who has read the books/watched the movies. The organization’s stated values provide even more obvious references: “We believe that the weapon we have is love,” for example, is an overarching theme in the series, and also the downfall of the villain Lord Voldemort.Canva HP Blog Post

The HPA’s recognizable connections to the HP universe make the organization even more appealing to members of the fan culture. Perhaps its greatest asset is that it actually ties some of its causes and campaigns to the HP universe. In the book series, social injustices run rampant in the magical world of witches and wizards, and Harry Potter and company do their best to fight said injustices. The HPA therefore allows fans to feel like they’re following in Harry’s footsteps; they’re also trying to improve the world, just as he did.

The HPA taps into the power of youth. As you might guess, the HPA attracts large numbers of youth. The local HPA chapter in Indiana, for your reference, is based out of a high school. Youth are particularly enthusiastic and full of energy. So, the HPA is a classic example of tapping into youth philanthropy.

Lastly, the HPA makes philanthropy FUN! This factor should not be overlooked. The HPA turns charitable work, such as campaigning for fair trade chocolate or net neutrality, or collecting books to donate, into a fun activity. More than anything else, it encourages people to tap into their creativity and explore a reality that merges a fictional universe with progress in the real world. As the organization states in its values, “We know fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.” For those fans who were saddened by the end of the HP series, the HPA provides an avenue for the HP universe to live on, and for its fans to also accomplish great deeds in the name of Harry Potter.

Greening Your Nonprofit

Canva Greening Blog Post-Image 3It’s a good idea for a nonprofit to consider its impact on the environment! This topic is especially pertinent given the COP21 Paris talks on climate change that just ended. “Greening” your nonprofit is a worthwhile cause no matter your mission. Below are some tips for “greening” your nonprofit with cheap and pricier options.

Green your kitchen area (if you have one). The Problem: Styrofoam cups or other disposable paper products. The Cheap Alternative: Buy used (real) plates, bowls & mugs from a local thrift store. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels. The Pricier Alternative: Buy environmentally-friendly disposable products, such as plates and napkins that are biodegradable. Ask staff members to use their own reusable (ex. stainless steel) water bottles or thermoses for when they drink water or other beverages at work. Bonus: If you have a coffeemaker, invest in reusable coffee filters!

Green your office supplies.  The problem: Plastic office supplies and other materials that aren’t environmentally-friendly (not to mention the plastic packaging they usually come in!). The Cheap Alternative: Pick up some used office supplies from your local thrift store. Tape dispensers, desk caddies, staplers, 3-hole punches, binders, and even folders can all be found at thrift stores. When it comes to going green, it’s usually better to upcycle than to buy new. The Pricier Alternative: Purchase environmentally-friendly products. Chain stores like OfficeMax and Staples usually offer such products, as do sites such as Amazon. For a website specializing in green office supplies, you can visit The Green Office .

Reduce Paper Consumption. The Problem: Over-consumption of paper or neglecting to recycle it. The Cheap Alternative: Go digital when possible. If you need to use paper around the office (and that paper probably won’t leave the office), consider  scrap paper. The Pricier Alternative: Purchase “recycled” paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content. You can also purchase environmentally-friendly ink for your printer. And, again, go digital when possible.

Larger Investments (Technology, Furniture, & Energy Sources). The Problem: Larger office investments, such as lighting and technology, are often the biggest culprits in terms of negative impact on the environment. The Cheap Alternative: Make whatever small changes are within your means. You can buy rechargeable batteries, for example, or replace old light bulbs with the newer compact fluorescent bulbs. If you need furniture, consider upcycling by buying used or refurbished furniture. Also, you can buy refurbished technology instead of the newest models. And make sure that appliances are not plugged in and wasting energy when they’re not in use. If you can, save up for larger investments. The Pricier Alternative: Consider investing in energy star-rated Canva Greening Blog Post-Image 1appliances when old ones die. If you have the resources and money, then by all means, you can even invest in solar panels! When you buy new office furniture, make sure its made from durable, environmentally-friendly materials. If you have the resources to update your space (or if you’re moving to a new space), consider investing in low-flow toilets and faucets and motion sensor lighting.

General Tips:

  • Reuse
    • Develop a plan to reuse materials when possible. Common examples include: using common office supplies, such as tape dispensers, for as long as possible, and creating a bin of scrap paper.
  • Reduce
    • Reduce overall consumption of products that are not environmentally friendly, especially products made from plastic.
  • Recycle
    • Set up recycling bins for common recyclable materials such as cardboard; paper; plastic bottles; soda cans; newspapers; batteries; etc.
  • Carpool with co-workers when possible.
  • Use Common Sense-Turn off the lights when you leave a space; make sure technology/appliances aren’t plugged in and using energy when they aren’t in use; bring your reusable water bottle to work instead of buying plastic bottles of water all the time.
  • When in doubt, add some cheap houseplants to your space to purify the air!

For more tips and tricks for greening your nonprofit, visit The Green Office

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…

…jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to be in the nonprofit sector. (Yes, I may have lost it there.) My attempt at holiday humor tied to nonprofits is not that great. Often times, I am the only one hysterically laughing at my quips. Now I won’t be starting stand-up comedy anytime soon. However, there is a very funny person who does writes about the nonprofit sector – Vu Le. He is the Executive Director of Rainer Valley Corps, a Seattle nonprofit whose mission is to “cultivate leaders of color to strengthen the capacity of community-of-color-led nonprofits and foster collaboration between diverse communities to effect systemic change.”

Vu is author extraordinaire of the blog – “Nonprofit With Balls.” How did it get that name? I was wondering the same thing. The short story is that we in the nonprofit sector are always juggling balls. Of course Vu tells the story much better here.

jugglerEvery Monday Vu posts a unique piece based on his experiences and research. His posts are a worthwhile read not only for the content but for the humor. Just read his tag line for subscribing – “Follow NWB by email. Make Mondays suck less.” This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Staying organized in our sector can be a challenge. We are “do good” people with lots on our plates. Vu posted one week on how to manage emails. I was looking forward to his suggestions. For example he said, “Put up a signature line to warn people that it might take you a while to respond, or that your response may be short. In my emails, for example, I have a signature that says, “Due to the high volume of emails, Vu’s responses may be terse. Please ignore the tone and assume that he thinks you are an awesome unicorn. Because you are!” Seriously, that’s what I have. Feel free to use it.”

My favorite Nonprofit with Balls post is titled 10 rules for dating in the nonprofit sector. Should I say more?! How about rule #7 Ensure your date has been trained on racial equity, gender identity, disability, heterosexism, cultural competency, privilege, power, and intersectionality before introducing them to your teammates.

Ultimately, Vu’s posts are meaningful and beneficial for everyday life in the nonprofit world. They cover topics from capacity building, community engagement, fundraising, grant writing, office culture, board, funder, and donor relations, unicorns (yes that’s right – there is a category dedicated just to Vu’s use of the word unicorn), special events, staff dynamics, and more. There is also a section about cultural competency in which you can read all about it and as Vu says gain “CC points” to earn “cool titles.”




Americans as Philanthropic

What makes us Americans? Is it our patriotism? Citizenship? David Allison, Smithsonian’s Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs said that philanthropy is part of what it means to be an American.

The National Museum of American History is launching a new initiative to explore giving in America. With money from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, the philanthropic initiative will consist of an annual symposium, endowment of a curatorial position, and a longer term exhibition titled “Giving in America.”

america as a flagGiving in America has always been present. We can look back through history and see examples from religious organizations to universities. Harvard in 1643 is credited with the first fund drive in America. Cotton Mather in 1702 writes one of the earliest book on American philanthropy. St. George Society was created in 1770 to help impoverished New York City colonists. The list goes on.

As we have begun our year end campaigns, remember that giving has always been and will continue to be the American way.







Meet Our New Intern, Katrina

Hello World,

My name is Katrina and I’m the new PCNRC intern. I graduated in May of 2015 from Ball State University with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. Katrina Pieri for wordpressI’m looking forward to this amazing opportunity to learn more about how nonprofits function. I plan on working in the nonprofit field throughout my life. This may involve working directly for a nonprofit, volunteering, or perhaps even starting my own nonprofit.

I’m also particularly excited to be working at the library because my second career goal is to become a published novelist.* As the daughter of a librarian, I spent many years growing up listening to my father read Harry Potter (and other books, though mainly Harry Potter) and attempting to write my own magical stories.

Besides reading (as you might guess) and writing, I also have a great passion for traveling. So far, I’ve been to Italy, Germany, China, and Vietnam, in that order. I’ve also been to Canada, but it seems no one ever counts poor Canada when listing off countries in this fashion. I have a rather lofty goal of visiting every country in the world. It’s been done before and it can certainly be done again.

For anyone reading this, I hope to meet you in person sometime, whether you visit the PCNRC to utilize our resources or attend one of our upcoming programs!

*Cue jokes about how we all know someone who is ‘writing a novel.’

Meet Our New Intern, Katherine

Hello! My name is Katherine and I am the new intern here at the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center. I am graduating in Katherine Profile PictureMay from IPFW with a degree in English-Writing, so working at the library surrounded by books makes me feel right at home.

Besides literature, my main love in life is travel.

I spent last semester in Ireland, which didn’t disappoint my prior notion of it having spectacular landscapes and friendly people. During my time abroad I also had the opportunity to see some other parts of Europe.

Although my travels included scarlet fever in Paris and a trip to the hospital in Milan, I still loved the overall experience of seeing cities I’d always dreamed of visiting and was left with some interesting stories to tell, to say the least.

Other than travel, I enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible, which mostly includes riding my bike and swimming.

I’m so excited to be interning here at the center and learning all about nonprofits and the resources available to them. I hope to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, so I view this internship as a great opportunity!