Staying Energized in the Nonprofit Sector by Rachel Tanzer

Staying engaged and excited about working in the nonprofit sector can be challenging at times.  When clients appear to be disengaged, programs end, or service is limited due to lack of funding I need to be reminded why I choose to work for a nonprofit.  

Last February I had the opportunity to hear Alex Kotlowitz, the author of Never a City So Real, speak.  After listening to his speech I took away a few concepts that reminded me why I choose to work in a nonprofit.

  • Building connections. Creating connections among individuals can help give them a voice and help let the light of the individual’s spirit shine. When Mother Theresa came to the Chicago she observed that not only do we have economic poverty, but we are also experiencing “poverty of the soul”.
  • Have expectations of your clients.  Some individuals have lived in environments where nobody has ever had expectations of them.  When you are frustrated and tired and have told your client his/her options hundreds of times, try to remember that you may be the one person who hasn’t given up on him/her.  By offering expectations and consistency on our end we are able offer a new experience and remind our clients that inherently we are all good people.
  • Encourage story telling. Story telling can be through spoken or written word, visual art, music, dance, etc. If we can offer a safe environment we can encourage our clients to tell their stories. If individuals start telling their personal stories, their imaginations can be sparked to build new confidence. If confidence exists our clients have a greater potential to remember that they are not defined by their circumstance but rather by who they are.

I know you have made the conscious decision to work in the nonprofit sector. You are most likely aware of these concepts and ideas, but after hearing Alex Kotlowitz talk, I felt reenergized.  I hope these reminders do the same for you.

Rachel Tanzer is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. She works for CJE SeniorLife offering community programs to older adults, caregivers and baby boomers.  In her free time she explores Chicagoland with her husband, hound and terrier.

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