Passion. It’s perhaps the largest driver of quality work in the nonprofit sector. We choose to do what we do–often for less money than we could get elsewhere–because we want to work for a cause we love. We want to stand for something. We want to do good.
But it’s hard to maintain a high level of passion all the time. That’s when burn out sets in–even for young nonprofit professionals. The long hours, the wearing of many hats and the tight budgets get to us, and we find ourselves trying to discover that passion again.
While some degree of burn out may be inevitable, there are ways to combat it. Here are some tips to keep that fire blazing.
1. Save tokens of inspiration
You know that grateful letter you got from a client that gave you goose bumps? Or the picture a student drew just for you? Keep these inspirational pieces, and come back to them when your passion runs dry. You’re doing good work–remind yourself of that.
2. Update your resume–even if you’re not job hunting
After two years at my current position, I updated my resume to apply for the YNPN-TC Board of Directors. During the process I realized how much valuable experience I’d gained from my work. You may not realize all the skills you’re gaining from your job until you put them on paper. And that realization is refreshing in and of itself.
3. Use those vacation days
I’ve heard many nonprofit professionals say they’re too busy to use their vacation days. That may be true, but I firmly believe that we become more efficient (and happier) when we take time away from work to rest and renew. Vacation days are part of your benefits package for a reason–take advantage of them.
4. Seek out new challenges
Sometimes burn out isn’t from a lack of passion, but a lack of challenge. If your work has become boring, take the reins and ask for new challenges. And if your current position doesn’t allow for new responsibilities, look outside of work for challenging projects. Organizations, like YNPN-TC, are always looking for quality volunteers to help with a variety of professional tasks.
5. Talk about your work, and why it’s important, with someone new
Have you ever noticed how your passion comes out when you’re describing your work, and the work of your organization, to someone who’s not familiar? There’s no reason that experience has to be spur-of-the-moment. Seek it out. Find a neighbor, an acquaintance or anyone who doesn’t know what you do on a daily basis. Don’t give them an hour-long elevator speech, but get into a conversation about your work. Your own passion may come through in a more powerful way than you expect.
There are many ways to reinvigorate your passion. The important thing is, when you feel burn out setting in, take action. The nonprofit sector needs young nonprofit professionals– like you–to lead and inspire our sector.