The 3 Deep Desires of Nonprofit Leaders

nonprofit leader

Before I begin, I want to invite you to be part of my upcoming online workshop, High Impact, No Burnout: The Nonprofit Leader’s Guide to Loving Your Work AND Living Your Life.

The workshop is made up of 6 short videos that you can binge watch in a little over an hour (or watch one video at a time when you can). There will also be several live sessions with me where you can directly ask me your questions.

What does it cover? Well… it’s basically going to show you how to get these three things every nonprofit leader most wants. The three things I’ll uncover in this post. So that’s pretty big, right? Trust me, you’ll want to be a part of this.

Register here so I can send you the link when it goes live. I’d love for you to do that now and then come back to read the rest of this post. I’ll wait. 🙂


My family will tell you, I’m a workaholic. That’s the old fashioned word for what I am. What I really am is addicted. Addicted to the work I do. I tell people that I help the helpers. And I tell people (people, like my family) that I love it. It’s true. I totally love what I do.

I’m pretty sure that helping others fix their problems is like a drug. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

And here’s the confession part. It’s way easier to fix other peoples’ problems than to fix my own. If my grown children would take my advice, I’d find parenting so rewarding. Instead, you stand on the sidelines feeling kinda helpless while they move down their path. You see the landmines but they didn’t return your text so you couldn’t warn them. And they might not have listened to you anyway.

And so I turn to my drug of choice. My work.

Maybe this sounds familiar? Like everything is on your shoulders and you’re not sure how to dig out or what to do next?

Now I’m not in the trenches anymore – running an organization with all the pressures that come with that, but it got me thinking a whole lot about what nonprofit leaders really want. Like, more than anything else.

I think it comes down to three things. Want to guess what they are?


How do I know what you want most as a nonprofit leader? Your true deepest desires?

As part of the signup process for the workshop, I ask a simple question. What do you hope to get out of the mini-series?

I’ve read every single answer and there are definitely common themes. While a few wrote about the possibilities and growth opportunities, way more expressed frustrations about their jobs and their lives:

  • Balance
  • I have 3 kids and I’m a new E.D. I need help staying healthy and sane
  • Get out of the weeds
  • Take a breath and get some peace
  • Avoid burnout (dozens of folks used this phrase)
  • How not to feel guilty practicing self care (dozens of folks mentioned this one too)
  • Set boundaries
  • Take time off without checking email
  • How to re-ignite my passion for my work
  • The ability to let go
  • Learn how to say no
  • Permission to take my foot off the gas pedal

It goes on and on. And it comes down to workaholism. An addiction to your nonprofit. And it’s dangerous for you, for the future of your organization, and for the nonprofit sector as whole.

But why? Why do so many nonprofit leaders struggle with this stuff? I’m well aware you need more help… more people… more money. That what you do is vitally important to those you serve. That you’re a pleaser and you so desperately want to help those you serve.

And yet, you cannot build a thriving and sustainable nonprofit without taking care of yourself.

You know this.

So how can we break this cycle of workaholism without it becoming a burden for our organizations? Better yet, how can we create long term, sustainable, growing and impactful nonprofits AND find the balance we so desperately need?


There are 3 things I believe make the top of the list for most of us. Here they are.

1. Have a huge impact.

This is why you joined a nonprofit in the first place. Pretty unlikely it was to get rich.

You want to change the world in ways big and small. Help people in need, educate, improve the environment, shelter the homeless, bring people together, and on and on.

You’re on a mission. A really important one. And it’s this passion – this connection to something more than just making money ­– that makes you a superhero. But it can also turn you into a workaholic.

2. Love your work.

I tell my clients that when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or burned out, a great way to bounce back is to go “touch the work.” But that’s not the same as loving your work.

To feel truly fulfilled it’s not enough to have a huge impact. You should love what you do on a day-to-day basis. Ok, maybe not every single day. We all have bad days.

But overall, when friends or family ask you about your work, does the question make you feel anxious or sad or angry? Do you leave it with a simple, “It’s good,” or are you so excited to tell them all about it? The answer to that is a pretty good tipoff to how you really feel about your job.

3. Live your life.

Notice the common theme in the list above? Balance. Take a breath. Avoid burnout. Set boundaries.

We all know intellectually that we need to have a life outside of work. That burning out serves nobody. That having time away from work to recharge… to pursue personal passions… to spend time with family… allows all of us to perform at a much higher level when we do work.

I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it again. You cannot build a thriving and sustainable nonprofit without taking care of yourself.

But it’s so much easier said than done, right?


This is exactly what the upcoming workshop is all about. How to get these three things.

In it, I will show you how can we break this cycle of workaholism without it becoming a burden for our organizations. Better yet, how can we create long term, sustainable, growing and impactful nonprofits AND find the balance we so desperately need.

I’ll bring this all to life with the story of an Executive Director I worked with who was struggling big time. I think you’ll see a lot of yourself in her story. Her organization was doing OK, but she hit a wall. She loved yoga, but it had been quite some time since she could find even an hour to take a class. She wanted so badly to spend more quality time with her husband and young children. But she also wanted her organization to knock it out of the park.

We began to work together and I got her to focus on a few specific things. What I like to call “big rocks”.

And then everything started to fall into place. Her organization has grown enormously – it has improved dramatically in its sustainability and impact. She’s spending way more quality time with her family, and she’s back to yoga classes 3 times a week.

I got chills when she told me that.

I’ll show you how her three big rocks totally apply to you. How a focus on these three priorities is the key to growing your organization without burning out. To getting the help you need. To loving your work. To building a growing, sustainable, and enormously impactful organization. To being the best nonprofit leader you can be.

These three big rocks are the key to breaking your addiction to your nonprofit in the healthiest way possible for you and the people you serve.

The mini-series begins on September 19th and I hope you’ll join me.