10 creative tips for staying healthy while working at a nonprofit

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[Image description: Two bowls of oatmeal or yogurt, maybe tapioca, topped with an assortment of colorful fruit and spices, including strawberries, raspberries, orange wedges, and star anise. Image by Brooke Lark of Unsplash.com]

Hi everyone. Before we tackle today’s topic, here’s some NAF logo merchandize! Apologies for taking so long. Now you can get a t-shirt or hoodie or mug and declare yourself #nonprofitAF. They make great gifts for nonprofit people, or whimsically confusing gifts for everyone else. 

It is the New Year, which means many of us are thinking of ways to improve ourselves. However, that can be challenging when all of us are so busy doing important stuff to make the world better. Stuff like binge-watching season 4 of Grace and Frankie on Netflix while eating an entire family-sized bag of wavy potato chips (Look, you have your way of making the world better, and I have mine).

So here are a few creative tips to help us be healthier while we do nonprofit work. Special thanks to the NAF Facebook community for all the inspiring suggestions, many of which I’ve combined into the ones here:

  1. Make your desk a standing desk. Standing desks have been shown to improve posture and increase blood flow to the brain while releasing negative ions to purify the air. Or something. But they are expensive. However, you have plenty of stuff you can use to create a makeshift a standing desk. Just find things nobody would miss and stack them: Binders of materials from the last expensive training, copies of your org’s strategic plans, printed-out bylaws, safety manuals, etc.
  2. Conference calls are a great time for you to take a walk or a nap. Just set your alarm for 30 minutes, then take a walk or a nap and come back when the alarm sounds. When you get back on, just say, “Sorry, I hit a rough patch in the reception, what are the next steps?’ or “These are all amazing points, but can we go through each potential course of action and discuss the possible liabilities?”
  3. Do some nonprofit yoga. Here is a post I wrote a while ago with several poses you can try, including the “Sustainability Plan” and the “Reclining Warrior.” Colleague Jana Arlis Cupp Cain has some great additions, including the “Downward Donor Retention”: “From all fours push into your hands and slowly raise your hips. Then press your heels down and let your head hang freely, allowing you to stare back at the donor who did not renew during this year’s annual fund drive.”
  4. Incorporate more laughter into your work and office culture: There are plenty of studies on the positive effects of laughing. Figure out some time for your team to get together and read through your cashflow projections and fundraising plans for the next fiscal year.
  5. Have healthier snacks available: Many nonprofits have terrible snacks that are not only full of sodium, fat, and sugar, but also possibly duck feathers or human hair. Have fresh fruit and veggies available at reception and on conference tables. This way, it will force everyone to leave the office from time to time to find other snacks, thus increasing their steps count and exposure to fresh air.
  6. Keep your mind sharp through daily Funding Sudoku. Funding Sudoku is when you tryfigure out which funder is paying what part(s) of your organization’s work. If you are a beginner, start with just those two elements. Once you master that, try ones that have more elements, such as funders who have weird fiscal years and only want accounting for the period of April to November, for instance, as well as those who have different categories of expenses than those on your chart of accounts.
  7. Get extra sleep by camping at the office from time to time: As colleague Robyn Rost says, “Simply curl up under your desk with a blanket and the cushion from a broken office chair. You’re spending 10-12 hours a day at work anyway.” Sleeping at the office also eliminates the stress of being stuck in traffic.
  8. Carve figurines out of soap to include with thank-you notes: Handwriting thank-you notes to donors is great, but you can make them feel extra special while also getting more mental and physical exercise by whittling tiny figurines out of blocks of soap. At first, you might want to try simple figures like animals. But as your skills progress, you can make figurines that look like your donors. Just to be sure, use soap that is fragrance-free or some donors may not be able to appreciate your gift.
  9. Incorporate movement into your community engagement activities: For example, instead of having people fill-out online surveys, consider walking to their house or work place and asking them to verbalize their opinions. Also, instead of voting with sticky dots, try voting with prickly darts. Give people five darts each and ask them to throw the darts at the priorities they choose. They can keep walking back and forth to remove and re-throw their darts if they miss a priority they were aiming to vote on.
  10. Meetings with certain program officers are great opportunities for Kegel exercises: Just follow the conversation and clench and unclench your pelvic floor based on the conversation. For instance: “We are only giving you half of what you requested [Clench]. However, it’s now a multi-year grant [Unclench]. But this year we’re making it reimbursement-based [Clench]. Luckily, we’re simplifying the reporting requirements [Unclench]. But, you can’t use this fund to pay staff [Clench].”

If you want further tips, go to the NAF Facebook page and scroll down to the post published on November 30th 2017. Our colleagues there have brilliant additional advice. Cheryl Moeller, for example, recommends that we “eat one candy bar for dinner instead of two at the office,” while Darren Farrington recommends not cleaning the fridge or microwave for months to help suppress appetite.

There you go. Just because we work at nonprofits does not give us excuses to be unhealthy. With these creative tips, we can all be a bit healthier, not just for ourselves and our families, but because the sector needs us all to be at our best so we can do our best.

[Image description: Someone wearing a white t-shirt with the NAF logo.]

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Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NAF by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NAF Facebook community for daily hilarity.

Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.

Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organizationRainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

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