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When Nonprofit Love Hurts

Nonprofit professionals: what happens when your passion for the mission and the work is overwhelming you? How do you decide when loving your nonprofit hurts too much?

I recently spoke to a friend who is a nonprofit leader. They run a one-person shop and were struggling with their workload. There were also issues with their board. Yet, they were committed to the mission and loved the programs. Their lament was “I just can’t let go!”

How many of us have faced something similar? A survey commissioned by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals showed that half of all fundraisers who responded to the survey expect to leave their jobs in the next two years.

Three in ten said they had recently left or plan to leave the development field altogether in the next two years. Fundraising talent turnover is nothing new. I’ve written about fundraiser turnover HERE.

How do you know when it might be time to leave?

Are you experiencing one or more of the following situations?

Step 1

Your first step is recognizing this pattern isn’t normal or acceptable. While we all have busy periods at work, this type of nonstop work behavior should not be considered normal.

Step 2

Your second step is to truly examine whether or not this is your self-imposed work style, or the job is the issue. Is the extreme workload your own creation or a result of a dysfunction work environment?

Step 3

The next step is to talk with someone. If you have a good relationship with your boss, meet with them and describe your workload. If you don’t have a positive relationship with your boss, seek out a trusted colleague or mentor for advice. This is your chance to get a better perspective on why you are working so hard.

Step 4

Take time for yourself. What does a balanced life look like to you? Can you delegate some of your work? Can you push back on new projects or put some items on the back burner?

After careful consideration, now is the time to decide can you stay or should you go. We don’t have infinite time to spend in miserable work conditions. Our mental health is too important.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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