My tenure as a nonprofit leader was demanding and stressful. Life at the top of an organization can be lonely. Oftentimes there is no one to commiserate or celebrate with who understands the complexity of the role and who can directly relate to its demanding nature.
I’ve found that in nonprofit management, it is rare to have an employee, or a Board member ask their CEO “How are you doing?” Coming together – that is one of the first items on every meeting agenda. It has been incredibly welcoming to be able to share, and to talk openly about the hurdles we have all overcome in the past month.
I found an outlet for venting my frustrations, working through difficult scenarios and managing a multi-million dollar business by joining a community of peers in a Nonprofit Leadership Circle (“NPLC”). In this forum, a small group of nonprofit executives gather monthly to share their successes and discuss their challenges under the cone of silence. We chat about personnel issues, funding opportunities or problems, tax law changes and other matters that are critical to the success of nonprofits, and threaten the sanity of their leaders.
The concept of an NPLC was the brainchild of Patrick McWhorter, who was recently appointed CEO at Arizona Citizens for the Arts. Patrick brings his years of experience in nonprofits, business and government to facilitate a discussion among current and former CEOs. I have made wonderful friendships and formed alliances with CEOs from Treasures for Teachers, Desert Foothills Land Trust, Foothills Animal Rescue, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children (among others). We learn in our discussions that the problems we face are common among nonprofit organizations, and that with the community of peers, challenges can be more easily tackled.
As we gathered for our last meeting of 2021, the conversation revolved around resilience, and how these brave leaders continued to pursue accomplishing their charitable mission despite COVID, hiring problems and all that has been thrown in their paths over the last 24 months. Chrisie Funari stated quite competently that she now realizes that nothing in life or work will ever stay the same. New, unexpected issues will pop up to challenge her, but like all of the group, the overriding love of the work being done, and the passion for the cause will continue to carry us forward.
I give thanks to Patrick and to my friends from this NPLC for the ever-important work that you all do, and for giving of yourselves to help me during the challenges of my nonprofit career. I have learned from you that having a community of peers to share with helps to keep one grounded and focused, and truly makes all the difference!
Thanks to my friends Patrick, Christine Thompson, Barb Blalock, Vicki Preston, Shannon Valenzuela, Justin Owen and Chrisie Funari. I have learned much from this opportunity to participate in the Nonprofit Leadership Circle with you!
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.
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