Reflections on People and Morale

When I walked into Re:build conference last Friday I felt a bit out of the place. The room was full to the brim with boys in skinny jeans, plaid button-down shirts, and thick-rimmed glasses. Most of them were hunched over their laptops or typing on iPhones and iPads, either taking notes, tweeting or both. As much as I work (and love working) with developers, I tend to stick out like a sore thumb. In case you haven’t guessed it, I had entered a conference about building for the web.

Now you are surely wondering, what does any of this have to do with my nonprofit? Well, even though I am sure you get just as excited as I do over user experience, hover effects and coding with the Twitter Bootstrap, I will not bore you with those aspects of the conference. As your end-of-year campaigns get closer, it is important to take breathers and make sure you are also taking care of yourself during one of the busiest times of the year. I am going to share with you four tips that I found particularly inspiring.


#1 Hire people who look for problems and want to fix them.

More often than not, nonprofits have a limited number of people on staff and therefore hiring can be exciting, yet stressful at the same time. You are most likely looking for someone who can wear many different hats and is an expert in their field, but is also a good communicator, is able to assist person X with their responsibilities, and, and… But one trait that cannot be taught and is a good indicator that a person will thrive in your nonprofit is if they are a “fixer.” Hire people who are bothered by things that don’t work well and want to improve them. Once they possess that skill, many of the other things can be taught.

#2 Naps are a part of my business model

“Why don’t more offices have nap rooms?” This quote comes from Jason VanLue, who is an excellent designer and provided some great advice. I mostly included this tip not because I think that every person should include naps in their workday, but rather to use it as an illustration that there are simple things you can do to improve both your productivity and sanity throughout the day. Whether it be a 5-minute nap to boost your energy level, a brisk walk outside or a quick yoga-stretching session, all of those things improve morale. Think about stepping away from your desk a few times throughout the day to refresh yourself, in whatever way works best for you. In the spirit of full-disclosure, since I live right around the corner from where the conference was held, I did swing by home for a quick powernap mid-conference. It certainly made for more enjoyable last sessions!

#3 You are happier at work if you have more personal relationships.

People make other people happy! This tip was from Willo O’Brien, whose entire presentation was about how to take care of yourself in the workplace. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but it’s important to do things like company outings, grabbing drinks after work or spending a few minutes a day talking about what you did that weekend. You spend day in and day out with these people, so why not get to know them. Have some fun with it!

#4 Find the sweet spot of what you do: do what you love, what pays you well, and what comes easily to you.


Those who work in the nonprofit world typically do not have just one job responsibility – there are too many things to be done and too little resources for you not to take on roles that sometimes you either do not have experience in or perhaps do not enjoy as much as others. Every once and a while it is healthy to take a step back, look at all of the responsibilities that you have on your plate and think about those three questions: What do I love? What pays me well? What comes easily to me? Perhaps the answer will drive you to either re-organize the way the responsibilities are distributed in your nonprofit or think about moving into a new role.

I love learning about web design, connecting with others in the industry and hearing from the movers and shakers in my field, but when came to the end of the conference there was just one quote that really stuck with me. It was from Willo O’Brien and she said, “Life is too short and you are too amazing to not be happy.”  I hope that you can take that to heart this week and maybe even implement one or two of these tips to improve both your workplace and yourself.

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