There was a really interesting article in Inside Philanthropy last week arguing that nonprofit leaders desperately need sabbaticals, therefore more funders should fund them. I completely agree with the first part, but strongly disagree with the second.
Nonprofit leaders, like any human being, need large chunks of time away to rest, recharge, find inspiration again, and reconnect to what makes them human, not machine. Amen to sabbaticals for everyone!
But where I get tripped up is the idea that the only way nonprofit leaders can have more sabbaticals is if funders grant them the money to do so. How disempowering. And what a grand reinforcement of the dysfunctional power dynamic between funders and nonprofit leaders.
It’s time to flip that script.
If a nonprofit leader believes sabbaticals are right for her staff, then she can claim her power as organization leader (and annual budget creator) and simply factor the costs of those sabbaticals (whatever they might be for her particular staff and her particular business model) into her annual budgeting process. You don’t need to wait around for a funder to give you a pile of money that is restricted to sabbaticals before you begin offering your staff sabbaticals.
In other words, you don’t need permission from a funder before you do what you know is right for your team and your work.
“But, Nell, I don’t have extra money for a sabbatical, so I simply can’t do that!” I can hear you saying. I imagine there are lots of things you regularly think about not having enough money for. That’s scarcity thinking, and believe me, I get it.
But I’m asking you to break free from the tendency in the nonprofit sector to piecemeal individual items (like sabbaticals, or technology, or Development Directors, or whatever else you need to truly succeed) and instead create an overall financial strategy for raising the total amount of money you require to meet your strategic goals. That financial strategy will include sabbaticals and whatever other organization, staff and program building support you need. I’m asking you to move from the immobilizing need for permission, to the active creation of what you already know it will take to achieve your goals. I’m asking you to start reclaiming your power.
Because when you wait around for someone (your funder, your board members, or policymakers) to allow you to do what you already know needs to get done, you are keeping yourself and your critical social change work small. You are playing the part of a child.
But you are far from a child. You are a social change powerhouse. And the world needs you confident, bold and powerful. So stop waiting around for funders to give you permission and start creating your own abundance.
And this doesn’t just apply to sabbaticals, or hiring a top tier fundraiser, or investing in the right technology and systems. It is true with everything you need to achieve the social change you seek. It is the difference between waiting around for someone to tell you that you are allowed to achieve true social change, and simply going out and doing it.
Because the truth is we no longer have the luxury of waiting for permission to fix our broken world. If you as a nonprofit leader know what it’s going to take, if you know what you and your staff truly need, then start claiming it. Start making it a reality, instead of something you’d love someone to give you. If you want to learn more about how to reclaim your power as a social change leader and attract more of the money, people and influence you need, sign up for our next free training, Stop Resisting Money. And if you need help creating a strategy and financial model that can set you free from asking funders for permission, let’s talk.
Photo Credit: Henrikke Due