Issue 70 - Spring 2022
Despite our weather's ups and downs, a sense of lightness and forward movement can be felt across our organizations this spring. I am trying to make the most of this shift to create more balance in life, never an easy goal. But self-care is essential in the midst of so many project challenges and personal distractions. I am being more selective about commitments, building in time for travel, and trying to focus my energy on those things about which I am most passionate.

In that vein, on the heels of a partnership webinar for the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, I am excited about another presentation. Attorneys Matthew Loftus, Aaron Shepherd, and I will deliver a webinar for Pro Bono Partnership of Ohio this fall. Registration for the September 15th workshop will soon be available on PBPO's website ( and we hope you'll join us.
As spring unfolds, I'm reminded of just how much stress the past season has brought. Winter predictably affects our sense of well-being, plus the continued impact of COVID-19 raised significant barriers for mission advancement. Added to this were challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, the realities of funding, reporting requirements, and other factors, all leading to the necessity of serious self-care.

When exploring a new partnership or nurturing an existing one, be sure to assess your attitude about self-care and how much it is emphasized in your organization. Ask your partner(s) to also describe how much of a priority this is for them, then have a candid conversation about what self-care means in each nonprofit. If your responses are significantly different, this may be a red flag for working together.

As you prepare for your discussion, consider a few examples from organizations that prioritize self- care:

  • Generous time off. Whether it's a flexible PTO bank or separate accruals of sick, holiday and vacation time, it's important for employees to rest and recharge with income protection. Look at the policies of both organizations to see how they compare. If they differ, consider adopting the more generous policy, rather than reducing benefits. A potential combination with a new partner is the perfect time to make changes.

  • Employee Assistance Programs. It's estimated that 25% of adults are struggling with mental health concerns at any given time. If neither organization has an EAP program, consider adding one- they are surprisingly inexpensive and have an impressive return on investment.

  • Incentives for healthy behavior. Some agencies give discounts on health insurance when employees demonstrate healthy behaviors. Others provide prizes, cash bonuses, or time off when employees commit to self-care.

  • Give regular reminders to staff to take care of themselves and help them see self-care as going beyond a bubble bath or retail therapy. Real self-care requires a commitment, consistency and behavior changes for long term impact.

  • Make time. Offer a daily minute reflection or provide yoga once a week during an extended lunch hour. Arrange an impromptu afternoon walk around the building, or mid-morning exercise moment. If you provide food for a meeting, be sure to choose healthy options and not only what is on sale. Self-care is different for everyone, so try to offer a variety that allows for individual choice.

  • Model it. People learn what they live, and leaders are never observed more than during partnership discussions. Once the staff learns of the change, they are likely to be stressed and overwhelmed by uncertainty. But if they see you taking care of yourself, they will be more likely to do the same.

In an industry that is designed to care for others, don't forget to take care of yourself and to encourage your workforce to do the same. The results will be a healthier, more engaged team and more positive experiences for the clients you serve.
During the last month, three people asked about resource allocations during a partnership exploration, so I'm offering a brief collective response. The resource questions fell into three categories:

Time. Adding a partnership exploration to an already demanding job can be overwhelming to anyone who is not highly skilled at time management. Part of the challenge is, simply, the unknown. The amount of time required to pursue a project like this varies from day to day and may require far more hours than expected. It is especially important to delegate and consider what initiatives might be delayed. It helps to routinely build in space and time for anything that pops up - some reserved time on the calendar helps.

Emotional Energy. As I often say, nonprofit partnerships, especially at the corporate integration level, are not business transactions. They instead represent a combination of cultures, people and traditions. As a result, the explorations can be highly emotional, often draining those involved. It is important to create and observe boundaries, establish agreements for how to work together and give participants time to mourn and express their feelings. The projects also require dedicated effort, which can range from showing up on time to meetings to applying diplomatic skills during difficult conversations.

Dollars. The cost of a partnership of course depends on the type. If the goal is a merger or an acquisition, significant investments are required. Attorney fees, marketing, possible benefit changes, facilities upgrades - the list can seem endless. The best way to manage this resource allocation is to work with your partner to create a realistic budget based on projected costs, prioritize expenses for the first year, and don't forget the contingency plan. In general, money will not be saved for the first year or two because the transition costs outweigh the desired savings that will be realized in time.

Have questions? Please let me know and I will do my best to respond quickly.
I loved Jacket Weather by Mike DeCapite! Anyone who enjoys food, friends, music, Manhattan, and a good love story will be immediately hooked by his amazing writing. I hated to leave this one.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer-winning writer for the Miami Herald, has been my favorite columnist for years. Pitts always delivers just the right, sane message about social issues and his gritty novel The Last Thing You Surrender is excellent. The story of a World War II veteran and the family of a man who saved his life highlights the shared trauma of the country's racial history.

David Dominé’s A Dark Room in Glitter Ball City may resonate if you have Louisville connections. The book is filled with references to local history and places, many familiar to even casual visitors.
Interact for Health
One of my favorite organizations is Interact for Health, an independent foundation. The excellent staff works tirelessly to improve the health of people in 20 counties in our area through grants, education, research policy and engagement. They have always been leaders in addressing the opioid epidemic as well as working to reduce tobacco use and supporting school-based health care.

It can be easy for all of us to invest in projects that never go anywhere, so let's celebrate one success. In 2018, I supported a project for Interact for Health and multiple partners. My report, summarizing the thoughts of 51 key Hamilton County stakeholders, was part of the county's pre-arrest diversion planning to deflect people with mental health and/or substance use disorders away from traditional criminal justice programs and connect them with evidence-based public health services.

The National Office of Drug Control Policy recently announced a model law to encourage states to adopt deflection programs. The program they highlighted in the press conference was Hamilton County's Quick Response Team's intervention/deflection efforts. So many people and agencies tirelessly supported this work for a long time, and we should be proud of this well-deserved honor for our area.
End Point
Human services leaders invest in the health of their employees but can easily forget themselves. The director and direct reports also need physical and emotional support, especially when considering a formal partnership. These nurturing efforts should never be considered self-indulgent, rather they provide the additional stability that enhances service delivery.

As Melissa Steginus wrote:
"Self-care is your fuel.... Whatever the road ahead or the path you've taken, self-care is what keeps your motor running and your wheels turning."
Best wishes for a restorative spring,
553 East 4th Street,
Newport, KY 41071