In my mind, the new year has always really begun in September, rather than January. I know what the calendar says, but it seems that in a practical sense, everything in my life has always gotten going in the fall.

So, as we approach this “new year”, I have been in a sort of reflective mood. I’m thinking a lot about setting goals, creating long-term agendas, and putting myself through all kinds of self-evaluations.

If you’ve read any of my earlier posts this month, you’ll notice that I’ve written about The 10 Things I Love about Fundraising and What Traits I Admire in my Non-Profit Colleagues, for instance.

In these last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received in my non-profit career and which of those nuggets I should pass on to people just entering this industry.

So, I’m going to write about the best advice I have, but I am also very curious as to what you think should be shared with non-profit rookies to get them on the right path. Please share your thoughts in our comment section. Here is my own personal best piece of advice:

Try to be as creative as you can in everything you do.

I strongly believe that the best part about working in the non-profit world is that you get lots of opportunities to be creative. You can be creative in the inter-agency collaborations you chose to embark upon, the novelty of fundraisers you hold, and the variety of services you provide. You can even be creative in the ways you train your staff and how you market your product or service to your community.

Really, in a non-profit job, the more creative you are, the better your chances of striking upon something new and exciting that will fire up your supporters. If you aren’t a very creative person in a non-profit, I think you will struggle with the free-flowing nature of this industry.

So, the first piece of advice I’d give to a new non-profit worker would be to really get in touch with your creative side. One of the exercises that has always helped me get thinking in creative ways is to take two completely unrelated things and find a way to integrate them. For instance, I take two very different board games, like Monopoly and Mouse Trap, and make one game out of them. I’ll combine the pieces, the play money, the rules, the objects, the dice or the sand timer, whatever, and make something brand new up. Sometimes, I’ll even try to work in a physical game like hopscotch or four square into the board game mix. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but the more you find ways to create something good out of very different components, the more you are opening your mind up to new ideas. Of course, I personally like to do this listening to really bold classical music like Wagner or some Mahler. It’s very inspiring!

While thinking about board games might not be applicable to your situation, this process is a fun way to loosen up your mind and get the creative juices flowing, which can then be applied to other pursuits.

Ok, so there’s my best piece of advice. I know this doesn’t even begin to cover all the things people should know or try to exhibit when starting out a n0on-profit career, but that’s my two cents. What do you think?

Photo by: HarshLight

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Posted on 23 August 2011

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. tami says:

    I would tell them not to be an idealist (that’s a hard one). I think many of us go into the non-profit arena thinking that it’s going to be all about the cause – saving endangered animals, funding a museum’s existence, helping women and children, etc. In reality, non-profits operate (or really, they should) just like for profits. You will certainly find many (many!) good-hearted, hard-working, honest people, but you will also often find shoddy leadership, distrust, negative politics and slackers. Don’t let it get you down. Find your happy place. Find a good boss to work with and do what you love – and seek out the colleagues who you share the same work ethic with.


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