PLC’s Leadership Conference, TIME OUT, was a great opportunity to reflect, learn and connect. It was great to see so many Peel nonprofit leaders come out and enjoy the day.

Beth Kanter, PLC’s keynote speaker for the morning, did a great job emphasizing the need for us to take better care of ourselves. She shared a few horror stories of leader burnout, but focused her time on a number of practical ideas and strategies for self-care. We learned that together our organizations can have a greater impact if we not only take care of ourselves, but look out for those around us as well. I found myself reflecting on my past experiences of burnout throughout my career and how I might have been able to avoid them or lessen their effect if I had committed to a few of these self-care strategies earlier. At least I was comforted by the conversations I had with other leaders realizing I was not alone, even if I sometimes felt that way, in at times, being overwhelmed or without the energy to do my job. Connecting with other leaders reminds us that it is not ourselves but the nature of the job that can isolate us from the supports that help keep us healthy.

Many leaders throughout Peel Region and beyond attended the conference, and based on our initial review of the feedback, over 90 percent of attendees would highly recommend other leaders attend TIME OUT. It can be a challenge to convince ourselves that we, as leaders, deserve time away from the crucial work of our organizations. We may tell ourselves that we are so vital to the organization that we can’t afford to take a day away for training and development. Or perhaps we lack the resources to cover the cost. Maybe we believe that we are supposed to know it all already or have it all together all the time and attending a leadership or training conference would reveal our inadequacies or betray us as “pretenders” to our boards.  Or maybe we don’t see the need for training believing it is just not as important or as urgent as the day-to-day work of the organization.

We need to change the culture in the nonprofit sector to attach greater value on training and development. All of us, our boards, our leaders and our staff, could benefit by making a culture of learning a priority. In my first experience as an ED, an important people-goal was that staff would leave better off than when they arrived. During their time with the organization, I would encourage them to learn new skills and develop in their abilities even if that meant freeing up both time and money for them to take advantage of outside training opportunities. As a staff team, we set aside time each month to learn together or to play together, both activities were intentional efforts to team-build and develop capacity within the organization. Too often staff are seen as replaceable resources as opposed to renewable – and that goes for EDs too! There is organizational benefit to building training and development into our staff policies, as well as approve budgets that allow for the cost of courses and workshops or training days. We need to value learning and growth for ourselves and others so that we can grow within the organization as opposed to burn out of it.

Beth’s focus on impact in her discussion around self-care makes a powerful argument that many of us can come around to support; burnout negatively effects the bottom line. For example, if we don’t get enough sleep, we begin to lose focus. If lack of sleep becomes chronic, it effects our productivity over the long-term. This lack of effectiveness negatively impacts the “bottom line” of our goals and objectives as a nonprofit. Beth’s point is this: self-care, or what she terms “we-care”, helps us, our staff and our organizations better achieve our missions. When we take care of ourselves and those around us we are better able to take care of those under our care. When we value training, and make development an important part of our work, our effectiveness, capacity and overall impact increases.

The happy healthy nonprofit is not wishful thinking or a nice ideal. It is essential for us to more effectively accomplish our mission and to be around to talk about it. Challenge yourself: what will you start doing today to take better care of yourself?

Thanks for reading,


This week’s blog was written by Bill Crawford. Bill is a Capacity Building Coach with PLC. He has over 25 years of leadership experience in charities and nonprofits. He is married with two grown daughters. When not coaching leaders or helping organizations build capacity, he is often out riding his motorcycle with friends. 

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