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What do wellness and self-care mean to you? Both buzz words, as they’re often labeled, have a multitude of meanings to different individuals. Known as the industrial wellness complex, wellness and self-care can easily be reduced to trendy fads and temporary fixes you might see on Tik Tok. But the recently revived self-care movement, originally created at the intersection of women’s liberation and civil rights era, aims to address root causes and create communities of care, so that incorporating self-care into our daily lives is sustainable and has long-term benefits. The question then many people have is, “but how do we do this?” Additionally, this question has become a central topic of discussion in workplaces.

Findings in the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s “State of Nonprofits 2023” report include that one of the top challenges facing nonprofits currently is staff burnout, specifically nonprofit leaders. Despite being a sector that promotes well-being, artworkers are some of the most overworked and underpaid. And with the world coming to a full stop during the pandemic, it became evident that work-life balance was, well, not so balanced. As we adjust to the “new normal,” conversations around self-care and wellness have prompted many employers to create pathways to integrate positive self-care plans into daily workplace operations to avoid burnout.

Creating a self-care plan for the workplace begins with a well-defined vision that is grounded in clear principles and standards, and includes a clear road map for people to follow, as advised in the article The Power of Self-Care: A Bridge to Communal Care (Nonprofit Quarterly, February 2022). This first step is crucial in legitimizing the cause and allows people to measure progress and make changes based on realistic and achievable goals rooted in sustainability. The article further delves into the correlation between a lack of personal self-care and the subsequent decline in quality of leadership, stating “exhausted leadership is poor leadership.” It suggests that social transformation work begins with the self and should be considered as a metaphor of peaks and valleys. Advocacy work happens at the peaks, but the valleys are a moment of rest and reflection to regain strength to climb the mountain ahead. Thinking about self-care in this way in relation to our work life by building this model in organization workflows should ensure that none of us falls victim to burnout.

The Driehaus Foundation has listened and learned from some grantees about how their organizations are addressing leadership burnout. Some groups are providing workshops with licensed professionals such as grief counselors. Others are offering discounted membership to gyms or physical therapy clinics or giving staff more paid time off to replenish before the next project. Many of these organizations are moving towards implementing self-care as a communal practice in their everyday operations. Shifts like these in the sector led us to ask ourselves, “What does funding self-care opportunities look like?” and, “How can we provide resources that support organizational change that leads to healthier workplace environments and sustains initiatives to integrate organizational self-care plans?”

In fall of 2022, the Foundation began exploring these questions and, through research and conversations, we expanded our supplemental professional development grants to include funding eligibility for self-care and wellness initiatives. The new Professional Development and Organizational Vitality grant program is intended to promote the professional and personal growth, as well as the well-being of individuals working in the nonprofit sector. We believe individual well-being is vital to thriving organizations and that strengthening individuals within an organization strengthens overall organizational health.

While the topic of self-care is an ongoing conversation, the Foundation is taking steps towards supporting nonprofit organizations in creating healthier organizational environments. It is important that philanthropy ask itself what role it can play in supporting resources for nonprofits to create and integrate self-care plans. As a movement, self-care and communal care can be a long road, but it’s vital we remember movements require people to come together to create change that benefits everyone.

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