"I didn’t used to be like this," one usually upbeat nonprofit executive said to me yesterday. She continued: "All I can think about is the election. I used to hate CNN and now I’m addicted to it. I haven’t looked at my 401k statement because I don’t want to know how bad it is." Said another: "We’ve already laid off 2/3 of our headquarters staff. Will we have to do more?" And a third commented, "We’re chewing our hands."
Economic crises aren’t new, but what IS new is the remarkably unanimous viewÂ that this one is perhaps the worst since the Great Depression. Nor are presidential elections new, but few have as dramatic differences between the candidates and thus, have so much at stake. The newspapers are full of ideas on how to cut back on personal living expenses, and every nonprofit newsletter seems to be collecting stories of people working harder.
It’s useful to take a moment simply to acknowledge the current anxiety–and admit that we might be tired and demoralized by it. As people who care about people and the world, we nonprofit staff, board members and volunteers are often worriers, anyway. We worry about children’s health, about fresh water conservation, about rights for prisoners, about the future. We often turn our worries into energy for working onÂ the future through community nonprofits.
In the midst of awaiting election results, waiting to hear about a grant proposal, waiting to see if your spouse gets laid off, and waiting to find out how much the car repair bill will be, take a Blue Avocado moment to remember that as humans, we sometimes can’t help but worry. At least let’s not worry about the fact that we’re worrying. Cut yourself a little slack right now.
* In this issue you’ll find a Board Cafe column on the board getting a sense of itself as an independent body, a news article on the immigration rights movement, and some fast, fun group activities you can do at your nonprofit to remind yourselves that we are worrying and working for good causes. Â — Jan Masaoka
P.S. Despite all the sincere expressions from foundation people about how much their investments have dropped and how anxious they are for their nonprofit "partners," I haven’t seen even one thinking about laying off staff, cutting salaries, or reducing board member compensation. I’m reminded of the unofficial motto of foundations: "After us, you come first." Jan