Top Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness as a Nonprofit Leader

by | Dec 11, 2023 | CEO/Executive Directors, Guest Post | 0 comments

This article was contributed by Kyle Cannon, product evangelist at MassageBook. 

As a nonprofit leader, you have many important responsibilities to perform. Tasks can quickly pile up, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Too much of this can lead to chronic stress and even burnout, negatively impacting your physical and mental health in the long run.

Although stress is an expected part of taking on a nonprofit leadership role, you can minimize the effects by incorporating mindfulness into your work. In this guide, we’ll go over the top ways to incorporate mindfulness for yourself as a nonprofit leader and for your nonprofit’s employees. Let’s dive in!

How to Be a Mindful Leader

You don’t need to work at a massage business or be a yoga instructor to practice mindfulness—this therapeutic technique is helpful for individuals of all occupations, including nonprofit leaders. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

One of the main benefits of mindfulness is that it helps you stay grounded and in the moment, which can prevent anxiety and stress about the future. Here are a few practices you can put into place to be a more mindful leader:

  • Develop emotional intelligence. The first step to mindfulness is to develop self-awareness, and part of that is recognizing your emotions and triggers. If you’re particularly prone to anger and frustration, examine the situations in which you tend to feel that way.
  • Active listening. As a nonprofit leader, it’s crucial to know how to communicate effectively. Active listening is a way to enhance this skill and stay in the moment. Be empathetic and ask questions to show the other person in the conversation that you’re paying attention and value their input.
  • Self-reflection. Reflect on yourself as a leader by pinpointing your strengths and weaknesses. Intentionally create space to sift through your thoughts and interactions and evaluate them objectively. For example, you might reflect on a situation where you didn’t communicate well with an employee. You might discover that you were snippy at the time because you hadn’t had a meal in over six hours—in the future, you’ll know that this is a trigger for you.

There’s a lot of advice out there that reinforces the idea that as a leader, you’re responsible for the success of your nonprofit and the engagement of your team members. While that may be true, being a good leader means taking care of yourself, too. If you’re not in good health and spirits, then you won’t have the capacity to drive your nonprofit’s success.

Mindfulness and caring for yourself go beyond the mental and emotional—it encompasses the physical as well. If you’re experiencing any physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension, consider making lifestyle changes to combat these effects. In the short term, you might get a massage to help you relax. If cost is an issue, MassageBook suggests examining your health insurance. You may be surprised to find that your provider covers medical massages!

Top Workplace Mindfulness Practices

Aside from the overarching mindfulness tips we mentioned earlier, you can also implement workplace-specific practices to stay grounded and become a more effective worker. Here are a few mindfulness workplace practices:

This image lists four top workplace mindfulness practices, also covered in the text below.

  • Set daily priorities. You undoubtedly have a variety of important tasks that tug at your attention at any given moment. This can quickly become overwhelming and stressful. Give yourself space to breathe by setting a daily priority. This should be the most important or time-sensitive task. Work on your daily priority until it’s complete, and then move on to your other tasks.
  • Avoid multitasking. Although many believe that multitaskers can get more done in a workday, studies show that for most people, multitasking makes them less efficient and more likely to make a mistake. Continue practicing mindfulness by focusing on the singular task you’re working on at the moment.
  • Delegate tasks. While it may be tempting to try to handle everything on your own, you know that running a nonprofit takes a team. To that end, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to qualified employees. For example, if you need to align your blog content with your marketing goals, ask your marketing committee to handle that task.
  • Perform breathing exercises. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, permit yourself to take a step back. Perform breathing exercises such as the 4-7-8 exercise, where you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then exhale for eight seconds. This will help you reconnect with your body and detach from your anxious feelings.

Whether your next big task is a presentation to board members or creating a major donor outreach plan, these practices will help you better tackle your responsibilities.

Creating Space for Mindfulness for Employees

As a nonprofit leader, you have the power to not only focus on mindfulness for yourself but also create space for mindfulness for your nonprofit’s employees. By doing so, your organization will be better equipped to increase employee engagement by fostering a more positive working experience.

Here are a few ways you can be mindful of your employees’ mental and physical health:

  • Give realistic deadlines. Set attainable deadlines for tasks to avoid adding more stress to your employees’ plates. For example, if you’re getting ready for your nonprofit’s annual gala, begin preparing months in advance to give your team ample time to plan a stellar event. This also gives your marketing a more realistic deadline to create promotional materials, which must go out before the event occurs.
  • Encourage breaks. 91% of employees agree that taking a break helps them maintain mental focus, and 88% of employees say that they feel refreshed and reenergized after taking a break. Empower team members to disconnect from their work through lunch breaks or take quick, five-minute walking breaks.
  • Allow remote work. Save your employees from long commutes by allowing them to work from home. Or, if you’re not ready to go fully remote, consider a hybrid work model where employees work some days in the office and some days at home.
  • Establish wellness programs. Show employees that you care about their well-being and want them to thrive at your nonprofit by offering wellness programs. This can look like a monthly gym membership stipend or catered healthy lunches. Encourage your employees to look inward and stay on top of their health needs to involve them in mindfulness.

Although you lead a nonprofit, you can follow in the footsteps of businesses by investing in software that will streamline your operations. For example, just as a massage therapist might purchase massage software, your nonprofit should invest in a tool to make your employees’ lives easier.

According to Kindful, the most useful type of software a nonprofit can invest in is a constituent relationship management solution (CRM). With the right CRM, you’ll help employees center mindfulness by reducing their workload and improving your nonprofit’s overall approach to donor management. This type of tool will automate tasks, make donor information easy to access, and provide you with actionable analytics and reports.

Another way to help your nonprofit’s employees center mindfulness is to work with a fundraising coach. These professionals will teach your team members the skills they need to become more effective fundraisers, increase their productivity, and stay in the present.

Don’t wait until you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing other effects of stress to put together preventative measures—the best time to prioritize mindfulness is now. Start with the practices we’ve outlined for you above. After you’ve got a grasp of how to incorporate mindfulness into your work routine, branch out to help your employees become more mindful as well.


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