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Inspirational Advice for Nonprofits

Lori Halley 15 April 2013 4 comments

Katya Andresen is hosting April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and she’s asked:

What was the one, best piece of professional advice you ever got and why?  How has it transformed your work?  

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with so many bright and talented people. From the Rhodes Scholar who supervised my first non-profit job, to a beloved Director of Communications at a provincial charity, and more recently with my wonderful colleagues here at Wild Apricot, there have been so many who have inspired and motivated me with their words of wisdom.

But rather than simply offering my own favorite advice, I thought I’d ask my colleagues to share their “best advice”. Here are a few of the nuggets I’ve gathered – which I think you’ll find apply to folks working in nonprofits, associations or corporations.

Life lessons from Mom - it’s all about integrity

One of my colleagues offered some advice his mom told him several times:

"Never trade your integrity for a paycheck. You can get more money later, but you'll never be able to buy your integrity back."

How did that translate into real life for him? Apparently, on several different occasions throughout his career, he's been under pressure to agree to something that he knew was wrong, either morally or professionally, and not going along with it led to missing out on a raise or a promotion. But in each case, my colleague developed a reputation for integrity that led to even better opportunities and compensation. 

Always ask “why” and work towards a shared vision and mission

Another colleague told me that one of the many great pieces of advice he gleaned from a favorite university professor was: “always ask why. If you’re not sure why you’re doing something, it may not be worth doing.” 

The same professor also introduced  the idea of making sure there's a shared vision and mission within an organization. The example he gave was this -- if there's a janitor at a college, and he sees his job as being to keep the school clean but he has no larger understanding of the mission of the school, his logical response could be to lock the doors and keep all those students out because they're the ones who mess up the place! While he suggested it may be a silly example, my colleague took that point to heart and has remembered it for over a decade. 

My nonprofit "best advice" - understanding your audience is key to effective communications

Back in my early days as a non-profit staffer, my supervisor (and mentor) gave me a great piece of advice: remember - you are not your audience! She taught me that understanding and empathizing with your audience is key to effective communications. I think this rings true for both non-profits and corporations.

Getting perspective: "circle of Influence, circle of control"

A few years back when the company I was working with was going through a very stressful merger, one of my colleagues said – “remember, circle of influence, circle of control.”

At the time, I didn’t realize it was a reference to a concept outlined in Steven R. Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  But I always recall that phrase during challenging times and I think it applies to individuals as well as groups. As Covey said in “30 Methods of Influence”, “as we focus on doing something positive about the things we can control, we expand our circle of influence.”

Inspirational quote

One of my colleagues shared an inspirational quote from Shakespeare that had such a profound impact, that she had it tattooed on her side as a permanent reminder:

our doubts are traitors
and make us lose the good we oft might win
by fearing to attempt
  (Shakespeare - Measure for Measure I.iv)

What’s your best advice?

What words of wisdom ring true for you? Do you have some great advice for people who work in nonprofits?

There’s still time to submit to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. If you’d like to add your “best advice” to the carnival round-up, you can submit your posts by emailing the URL to nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com no later than Friday, April 26

Image source:  Advice support and tips signpost courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 15 April 2013 at 8:30 AM


  • Jonathon said:

    Monday, 15 April 2013 at 2:45 PM
    Great article. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned while working in the field and in life is to understand your limitations and know your boundaries.

    It is so important to be clear about the source of your stress and determining whether the issue is under your control or not. When you are so concerned and worried about things that are impossible for you to control or influence is only going to lead to early burnout.

    Are the sources of your stress related to a fear, anxiety, anger, depression, low self-esteem, passivity, conflicts with friends or control issues at work? Or is it from worldly events, ethical concerns, family frustrations, or current or recent crises?

    It is fine to be a helping hand and provide a listening ear with your friends, colleagues, or employees within your experience, training, and comfort level. However, regardless if you are a supervisor, employee, friend, or colleague, it is so important to understand your limits as a counselor and as an individual.

    Setting boundaries is so important for people who work in this industry. If you are in poor mental and physical health, you can't be of any help to anyone else.

    Jonathon Carrington
  • Lori said:

    Monday, 15 April 2013 at 2:51 PM
    Jonathon: Thanks for sharing your advice.
  • Alice said:

    Tuesday, 30 April 2013 at 1:27 AM
    Great post..its the focus, the dedication and the drive that keeps us going and also the satisfaction of enriching the quality of life of our community residents.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 30 April 2013 at 8:59 AM
    Thanks Alice - I'm sure your advice rings true for many non-profit volunteers and staff.
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