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10 Tactics to Achieve Work-Life Balance in the Nonprofit World

Nonprofit administrators like you are known to be some of the busiest workers out there.  You have to be truly passionate about the cause you’re involved in to help counteract the stress of fundraising, but passion won’t prevent you from feeling overwhelmed…  

In fact, it’s been estimated that 50% of nonprofit fundraisers would like to quit.  A big component to overcoming this struggle with any stressful job, but especially for those in the nonprofit space, is to work toward achieving a healthy balance between work and life or your lifestyle

1.  Start by doing a retrospective 

If you did an assessment of your efforts from the previous year, like we suggested in our article on developing a fundraising plan, then you should have a list of things that worked and things that didn’t. If you found certain initiatives in particular to be a hinderance to your nonprofit reaching its goals or simply time wasters, then it’s time to toss them! Your agenda might still be filled to the brim with priorities, but knowing that each of your endeavors is actually leading to progress will help you stay motivated!

2.  Evaluate work relationships 

Part of your retrospective should include recognizing if there are other people around you who hurt your productivity. These folks are constantly interrupting, taking large amounts of time to inform you about their personal problems or asking for your input and guidance on their own work every 20 minutes. Does anyone come to mind? Set boundaries accordingly and make it clear that you really need others to respect the value of your time.

3.  Prioritize time for recharging

Work-life balance is attainable through small, manageable changes. Prioritize these changes before burn-out gets the best of you! For example, to gain back a bit of precious time at home you can set a time that you’re going to leave work every day and stick to it. Once you start putting this into practice, you’ll find that others will begin to respect that you won’t be hanging around after hours.

Another simple (and essential) thing is to always schedule down time, including vacations. That’s right – physically pencil it into your schedule! Most people feel like there’s never a good time to take a break, whether it be for 15 minutes or for 2 weeks. Don’t let that stop you! If you don’t plan for breaks, they just won’t happen.

4. Learn to say “no” and delegate when possible

This goes not only for tasks you take on at the office, but at home as well!  Again, it’s about establishing boundaries and making it clear to family and colleagues that you simply can’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) do everything.  Just because you own a smart device or computer, for instance, doesn’t mean you have to answer work-related emails at home.

Learning when to say “no” doesn’t diminish your character and it won’t cause your organization to collapse. If you find that you truly have too much on your plate, delegate when possible or consider asking if another person can be hired on as an assistant (or even a volunteer assistant!) to help lighten your workload.

5. Try rising early

Some of the most productive people wake up at 5AM or earlier and find that it’s the best quiet time for getting things done. You might be surprised at how this one trick can kickstart a more constructive day. That being said – still be sure you’re getting enough sleep!

6. Schedule recurring social or “you-time” activities

Unless you’re an introvert who values your time alone when not at work, schedule regular social activities for the spare time you do have.  You could join a martial arts class, volunteer at another organization or attend a monthly networking event. You can find tons of great clubs and social meet-ups in your community that incorporate your interests at  Whether or not you love being around other people, make it a point to schedule a recurring event for yourself.  Maybe schedule a massage for the first Monday of every month, or reserve Friday nights for a hobby like painting or reading a new novel.

7. Work smarter, not harder

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. If work starts eating into your weekends, you might need to assess if your time is being well-spent during your “regular” work hours. Have you ever considered that a part of the problem could be that you’re still fumbling with outdated, overly-complicated tools?  They might have a bit of a learning curve, but you are totally capable! Once you find the best ones that fit your workflow, it could shave off hours upon hours of wasted time.

8. Optimize your work environment

Your work environment is where you spend a huge chunk of your time. It’s where you’re expected to be on the ball and get things done! If you can take small steps to optimize your workspace, you may just find your work day getting smoother.  This could be as simple as investing in a better chair, decluttering your desk or bringing in headphones to block out distractions. Ask yourself: what small changes can I make to create a work environment that’s healthier and more productive for me?  

9. Don’t hold yourself to perfection

You’re a superhero for society, but you’re still only human! Fundraising professionals need to give themselves a guilt-free break and remember that we all have a limited number of strengths, time and resources. Might refusing to accept your own limitations be the reason why you’re working 50+ hours/week or failing to attain a healthy lifestyle?

10. Talk about work-life balance with others in your organization

Open up about the health benefits of avoiding burnout and encourage others in your organization to do the same. Once everyone has heard you out and encouraged to reflect on their own stress levels, you might be surprised to see your work culture begin to change. Remind your colleagues that as nonprofit administrators, you need to take care of yourselves before you can take care of others!