The Lessons I Learned from Working with Nonprofits

Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle. 

By Mike Maloney

Recently, I’ve started focusing more of my personal and professional life on helping nonprofits. As a former “agency guy,” it was never something I set out to do. It just sort of happened. But I’m glad it did. The experience has certainly taught me a lot about purpose and fulfillment, but surprisingly, it also taught me a lot about life. Here are some of the key insights I’ve taken away from my experience with nonprofits:

1) Take time to find the right partner. Nonprofits live and die by aligning themselves with the right champions, supporters and allies. Life is no different. Do not underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. They’ll lift you up when you need it most, and they’ll keep you grounded when you’re losing your way.

2) People don’t just want to feel needed, they want to feel valued. Anyone can be needed. But if you really want to get the most out of the people in your life, you have to make them feel valued. When people feel like they’re contributing, applying their best and having a positive impact, you’d be surprised at how much more they’re willing to invest. The same rule applies for nonprofits.

3) We all need time to think.  Ideas are power. Don’t settle for doing things the way you’ve always done them. It will stagnate your growth and rob you of opportunities. So take time to think outside the box. Come up with new ideas and new ways of tackling problems. And ask yourself, ‘If I started all over today, is this the same path I’d take? Or is there a better way?’

4) Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Everyone has their own way of seeing the world. That’s what makes life great. So make your own mark. Create your own path. And do what works for you. Don’t get caught up trying to be more like everyone else. You’ll go faster and farther looking ahead than you will looking behind. Celebrate your differences and roll with authenticity instead.

5) Find your passion. What is it that gives you a sense of purpose? No really. What is it? You need to know. Every so often, give yourself a gut check and make sure you’re still on track. And whatever you do, don’t get caught up “just doing”. Understand why you’re doing it. Once you do that, something magical happens. Life stops feeling like work, and more like fulfillment.

Mike Maloney is a freelance communications strategist, and Co-Founder of The Give Agency, a partnership with Sun Life Financial that helps non-profits solve their biggest issues free of charge.