There is something that I find nonprofit leaders often forget. And this is that you are immensely powerful. You are, in fact, powerful beyond measure.
But there are so many ways that our society attempts to strip you of your power. To name a few:
- Legal and norm limits on your ability to influence policy and politics
- Restrictions on how, where and when you spend money
- A perceived ceiling on the amount of money you can access
- General sidelining of your value, importance and contributions
But the truth is that you can decide at any moment to move beyond these limits. You can decide (today, if you like) that you will begin embracing your inherent power.
Now, hold on a minute. I’m not suggesting that you break the law by suddenly engaging in political maneuvering that is illegal for a 501(c)3 organization. Nor am I suggesting that you start spending the restricted grant you just received from a foundation however you like.
Rather, what I’m suggesting is a few beginning steps toward reclaiming your power. Like this:
The most important first step in finding your power again is to stop depleting yourself by overgiving. Nonprofit leaders are expert at many things, and chief among them is your ability to overgive. But despite what you may believe as a self-less changemaker, overgiving is actually a bad thing. When you give more than you should, you neglect your own needs and diminish your own power. Instead, figure out what your 100% contribution is to any task or activity, and then stop when you reach that point. That means when you start to feel tired, bored, or at capacity you stop working. Leave it for later, or better yet, ask someone else to help.
Ask for Help
Such a bold move, right? Asking for help is almost unheard of among the nonprofit leader set. According to the norms of the sector, you are supposed to be superhuman. Saving the world, by yourself, on a shoestring. But that’s absurd. To truly be powerful, you must recognize that you can do much more, you can create much more change, if you stop going it alone. I recognized this myself recently. After running Social Velocity for 12 years largely on my own, yesterday I hired a full-time assistant. And I am already, 24 hours into it, feeling an enormous burden lifting from my shoulders. I’m telling you, asking for help can be game-changing.
Joy can be powerful? Yes! What brings you joy is usually connected to what makes you powerful. And so often in the social change sector, the work is burdensome, exhausting, joyless. But, if you can find the joy again (or maybe for the first time) in the work that you do, you will have so much more energy, more inspiration, more power to get things done and to inspire the help of those around you. So stop believe that you must wear yourself out in order to get everything done. Start making time to find and revel in at least a few activities that bring you joy and an increase in your power will soon follow.
It is so easy to forget how powerful each one of us is. But I will tell you, from personal experience, that once you start to reclaim your own power, you become a force to be reckoned with. And at this moment in time, more than any other, we need you powerful. So start reclaiming your power.
There is much more guidance on how to reclaim your power in my upcoming book, Reinventing Social Change, out February 2021. To get book release updates and early access to the book, make sure to sign up for the Social Velocity e-list here.
Photo Credit: Thomas Kelley