The Neuroscience of Purpose: Recharging in the Nonprofit World

posted by
Peter Bonanno, M.Ed.
Information Volunteer
for State Expansion
MindUp Program
The Hawn Foundation

Paula couldn’t figure out why things had stopped running smoothly. As the CEO of medium-sized business, she was admired for her decision-making ability, moral conscience, and close coordination of staff activities (“Paula Front-and-Center,” they called her). But recently she was overhearing aggravated remarks from staff: she wasn’t paying attention to them, she was missing appointments, and forgetting to discuss important points at meetings.

Conscientious Paula was shocked to uncover these frustrations, and only stumbled on the solution by accident. Paula’s secretary Amy directed all of the traffic in and out of Paula’s office, but Amy had recently gotten so burned out from work that she couldn’t handle the traffic anymore. She failed to pass along calls, snapped at visitors, and passed along incomplete messages that made it look like Paula was being sloppy. Paula knew that helping Amy de-stress was step one of getting things back on track.

Let’s pull back the curtain.

Switching gears: How I found my place in volunteering

posted by
Sarah Hipolito
Program Coordinator, Senior
ASU Lodestar Center

A passion of mine for the last 13 years has been working with high school teens through my church youth group. During my last year as a student at ASU, I completed a youth ministry internship at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center on the Tempe campus. After that, I was released into the "real world" and went on to pursue a career as a youth minister. I spent the next six years coordinating youth ministry programs for two different churches within that time.

I loved my job and felt so fed by the work I did and the teens I encountered — which made my next step feel more like a step backward rather than a step forward. Almost exactly one year ago, I resigned as Coordinator of Youth Ministry for St. Vincent de Paul Church in Phoenix. Why? Well, mainly because I wanted more for the teens of St. Vincent de Paul. It wasn't that I felt inept to perform the duties of the job; I felt like I was being held back. And what was holding me back? Myself. I was afraid of burn out.

See, early on in my career I was made well aware of the high turnover rate for youth ministers. It's not uncommon for many to only last two years before they burn themselves out. This phenomenon was explained more fully in an article from the Catholic Sun in April 2007. At that time, I found myself nearing the end of my third year in the profession and being a mother to a 7-month-old baby girl. Having already passed the dreaded two-year mark, I felt good about what I was doing and where I was headed.

Walking the tight rope: finding work-life balance in the nonprofit sector

posted by
Laci Lester
Public Allies Arizona
former Program Manager,
ASU Lodestar Center

There are people who think of work-life balance in a Utopian way — where work and life responsibilities are lines in the Zen garden of life. When those same people realize how fictionalized that image is, they often give up on the daydream and get back into the thick of their work. But it doesn't have to be this way!

In Spring 2010, I administered an informal survey as part of a Public Allies independent study project. I asked nonprofit professionals about their views on work-life balance and how it effects their day-to-day lives. I have to say, the results were pretty fascinating.

People responded in every way possible. Some outright claimed that their organizations hinged on staff being overworked and underpaid. Some acknowledged their efforts to make balance more a part of their supervision style. Others responded that balance is dependent on very personal practices.

So, how can nonprofit professionals realistically tackle work-life balance? Ultimately, it's a tight rope act. And, by thinking this way, we can begin to gain some much-needed perspective:

A strong foundation and set-up is crucial.