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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Fear not, nonprofit professionals!

I am at one of the most intense, rewarding, and sometimes frightening times in my nonprofit career. And I don't think I'm alone.

As Senior Program Manager of Paths of HOPE at Catholic Charities, I am preparing to lead my team and a group of cross-functional, internal stakeholders, along with our CEO and Senior Management, through a two-day program planning session. With our CEO's support, this is my team's best opportunity to gain commitment from stakeholders on resourcing and supporting our program's priorities.

I'm a new leader, managing a young program with high expectations. It's fantastic work – very intense and rewarding. But it can be scary at times – looking at a mountain of work, thinking there has to be a better way to manage – because if we don't, we can't improve lives. No pressure there, ha!

As Board President of YNPN Phoenix, I often hear from other emerging nonprofit leaders – including our board – a shared desire to perform with high standards in the face of huge workloads, while at the same time wanting life/work balance. We love our commitments, but it can sometimes be a challenge to hold it all together!

But fear not, nonprofit professionals! There are ways to work through even the toughest times that don't always need to include escaping to an undisclosed tropical location and leaving your smart phone at home with your cat.

Facing a challenging situation at work? Access resources! The ASU Lodestar Center, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, YNPN Phoenix, my fellow MNpS graduates, my coworkers, boss, friends, and professional mentors are all resources I access to get me unstuck on my quest to improve the common good.

Second, use tools and practices. I carry with me a deck of "check-in" cards which I use as a practice to open meetings with staff, board members, and volunteers. The cards focus on strengths-based reflections and are an easy tool to get meetings started on a positive note, even if you are discussing challenging issues.

Practices also useful when sorting through challenging and complex issues include asking open-ended questions, taking notes, and repeating/confirming what you heard others say. We can couple those practices with shared tracking documents that clearly outline deliverables, timelines, and responsibilities. Even setting up a basic Excel document will help you out when things start to get crazy. After all, you need to know who's responsible for what!

Finally, ask for help! As a nonprofit professional, you are duty-bound to speak the truth about the obstacles and challenges, whether personal or organizational, that hold you back from fully delivering your organization's mission. You may not always get the answer you want, but consistently raising issues, in a positive manner, can sometimes be the only way to gain access to the resources you need to have an impact and have a life!

Good luck as you face the challenges of serving as a nonprofit professional! Remember, you are not alone and there are resources, tools and practices that you can access to help in your good work. If you have your own tips for nonprofit success, please share in the comments section below. Thank you!

Bio: Aaron Stiner serves as Sr. Program Manager for the Catholic Charities' Paths of HOPE program and as Board President of YNPN Phoenix.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog