What does it take to be resilient while working at a nonprofit?

When someone says resilience, what comes to your mind? Do you picture a house, standing erect during a storm, fighting against the wind and the rain to remain upright? Do you picture an old tree, battered and swaying in piercing winds but continuing to endure the forces of nature? 

While resilience can often be compared to tenacious objects or organisms, it can also refer to people or even whole organizations.

According to the S. D. Bechtel, JR. Foundation, resiliency is the “capacity to respond effectively to change” and to “adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances—and to seize opportunity”. It’s not the absence of change that creates a resilient organization, but rather, how an organization responds to change.  An organization is not truly resilient until it has met these unexpected conditions and thrived.

The cliché that we learn from our mistakes is utterly true. Through an organization’s trials, employees can learn how to truly thrive.  The same can be said of our personal lives. As human beings, we must all remember that we cannot separate ourselves from our work.

Here are a few tips for tackling unanticipated circumstances while maintaining resilience.

Tip #1 

Remember to look at all parts of a situation and how they all interact! New isn’t always better. 

A key part of building resiliency is maintaining a culture of innovation. According to the Social Innovation Review, cultures of innovation value diversity, and, in turn, diverse parts help build resiliency. What does this mean? 

This does not simply mean that an organization or a person should only focus on bringing new solutions to a problem. Rather, we should strive to present diverse solutions, while remaining mindful of the impact each solution may have on various parts of the organization. 

For example, part of my job is event management. Every year, when I review a new event management platform, I’m mindful that just because it’s new, it does not always mean better. Early on, we worked with a particular platform branded as top of the line but was wrought with bugs. 

As we moved along in the process, we realized some solutions created more problems. I would have to find work arounds to the “top of the line” system. Eventually we decided to stick with good old Microsoft Excel to manage the information. I was mindful of the pitfalls of this new platform and remained vigilant technical bugs that impacted the overall system. 

Tip #2 

Remember to maintain diversity in your life. If you are a manager, work to diversify your team. If you are not a manager, you can still promote diversity. Advocate for cross-training or for professional development. Learning more skills and diversifying your own skillset can help your nonprofit become more resilient. Remember to take this into your own life. Sometimes you just need another viewpoint. Diversify!

Diverse supporters are so important to organizational and personal resiliency. A study by the Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, describes how important diversified financial, political, and community support is to an organization. This lines up with the cliché, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

The same can be said for staffing.  When facing challenges at work, I’m thankful for my coworkers and the diversity we all bring to the table. On my team alone, we have people of all ages, ethnicities, and life experiences bringing their skills in communication, fund development, leadership, and graphic design from all ages, ethnicities, and life experiences. Sure, we can tackle problems alone, but together, I feel like we are unstoppable! Our ability to support each other is so impactful when we have to be resilient.

Tip #3

Remember to connect with others. Positive support can have a positive effect on resiliency and it’s up to us to interact with others to receive such a basic human need.

Support is critical when facing problems and thriving while on the job and in life. Research shows that positive support and good social relationships have a positive effect on our health. When challenges are coming at you professionally or personally, it is very important to remember to interact socially—whether in-person or online.  If we are receiving the social support we need, then we can help our mental well-being, enabling us to tackle problems more effectively.

For me, this makes perfect sense! I am just one human being. When personal problems spring up or work becomes too hectic, I often have to remind myself how important it is to interact with others.  Laughter with my sister or a quick word about a problem with a coworker can do wonders. 

If you’re interested in learning more about resiliency, check out the links below!

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