The FAMCare Blog


Posted by George Ritacco on May 19, 2017 9:00:00 AM


Self-Care Strategies for Nonprofit Professionals

"Pause what you're doing for a moment. Take a deep breath, in and out. Now, take an honest and loving look at yourself. How are you? How are you feeling - literally, how is your body feeling? Are you well rested and energized, or tired, drained, stressed out? Take another breath...Are you living the life you intend, the life that will truly change the world? Or are you slowly destroying yourself in the name of doing good?" - (Gita Gulate-Partee, founder and president of Open Source Leadership Strategies)

Nonprofit Quarterly recently published a series of articles by Sheryl Petty, Kristen Zimmerman, and Mark Leach on coping with burnout in the nonprofit sector. The question above by Gita Gulate-Partee at the beginning of the final article spoke so loudly to us here at GVT that we felt compelled to summarize the article here for any of you who may have missed it.


After first asking how we feel, the article asks this further inconvenient question of those of us in “the business of change”:

“To what degree are our work and the way we live our lives transforming the world, or to what degree are we unconsciously working against ourselves and our deepest vision?”


The article was written to help the nonprofit field open and deepen its dialogue, understanding, and sharing of approaches to inner work – the individual practices that lead to clarity of purpose, deepened alignment, healthier relationships, more powerful shared strategy, and sustainability for long haul social change. The more we are able to connect to our deepest purpose (the core of who we are, what we are doing and why) and our “source” (knowing we are part of something larger than ourselves) and align with others in that spirit, the greater chance we have of:

  • Refueling and replenishing our reserves
  • Allowing the transformative energy of emotions (love, joy) to inspire us
  • Increasing our synergy, alignment, and collective strategy to heal rifts inside ourselves and our organizations


Although quite grand in its intent, inner-work practice, the article reveals, can be quite simple in execution. Scott Nine, the head of Collaborative Governance in Education at the National Policy Consensus Center describes his first attempt at changing his life through inner work practice:

“I used to wake up and immediately look at my cell phone for emails and news. Now I don’t look at my cell phone for the first 30 minutes of the day. For 15 minutes, I stay quiet and notice what’s in my head and focus on my breathing. I let myself come to alertness that way. Going to bed used to be all about social media and email. Now, I’ve turned that off. I focus on gratitude as I go to bed.”

Inner work practice is the conscious ongoing use of tools, techniques, and traditions that connect us back to our source, to our motivation, to each other, to the world, and to the deepest purpose for our work.

The article recommends the more pointed pursuit of familiar practices such as hiking, gardening, jogging, artistic endeavors, dancing, singing, meditation, swimming, prayer, ceremony, yoga, or martial arts to renew, ground, and find connection.

Finally, Gita Gulati-Partee notes that, “Practice, at its best, helps to move us from burnout to balance, from isolation to connection, and from despair to possibility.”

Nonprofit professionals working 14 hours a day – NOTA BENE! 

Topics: Insider, Nonprofit General

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