It’s a simple question, really. What keeps nonprofit leaders and workers up at night? Is there anything that can be done to help them sleep better?
I recently asked this question in an anonymous 3-question survey. I received an interesting set of responses.
Half of respondents said that what kept them up at night were things that I categorized as “job issues“–things that are just part and parcel of what their work in the nonprofit world is.
Here are some actual quotes so you know what I mean:
One Director of Development stated: “not having enough time and resources to do what needs doing”.
A freelance grantwriter responded: “Not having enough work to ensure a steady income.” This person also added “not hitting the target in terms of what the funder wants to see”.
Others indicated similar answers: “Deadlines.” “Stress of completing work on time when they are all a priority.”
The second set of responses relate directly to organizational finances. This topic was voiced by one-fourth of the respondents. Here are quotes from them:
“Finances, in a word.” (Program Director)
“Being able to raise enough money for our organization” (Grantwriter)
“Developing stable money for operations” (Executive Director)
“Crazy a** government leaders who find it easier to be mean…and not fund programs that in the long term save millions in taxpayer funds…” (Program Director). (OK, so this is slightly paraphrased! This respondent had some STRONG insights.)
Quality of Administrators and Other Workers
The final theme that comes out of the survey answers is that some of the respondents (25%) were concerned about the quality of their co-workers. Here’s what they said:
“Administration unqualified to lead.” (Consultant)
“Top-heavy management and their not understanding what the front line staff is doing; They ask for near impossible tasks to be performed.” (Program Manager)
“The unprofessionalism of many of today’s workers.” (Support Staff)
“Poor management/professionalism of the management.” (Community Outreach Specialist)
So What Now?
These three themes don’t come from a statistically significant or randomly selected sample of nonprofit workers, but they do echo earlier work I’ve done on the topic.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to help people such as these respondents be able to sleep better.
One way is to help people understand how to write better proposals to more appropriate funders.
I’ve developed training materials to help grantwriters become better at their work, so that’s a start.
Using the principles that I teach in my online training materials, a colleague and I were just awarded a $200,000 grant from a foundation! And the application was only 3 pages long!
These materials are not quite ready to release, but if you’re interested in being informed as soon as they are ready, please sign up on a special mailing list at