Nonprofit Network Blog

Peer Support - A little understanding and support would be nice

Thursday, May 20, 2021 10:43 AM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)


Regina Pinney
Executive Director


A little understanding and support would be nice

Imagine being hired and supervised by a large group of people, all required to think independently, yet collectively. They are not paid and rarely trained. This group changes almost every year.  They know a just little bit about the complexity of what you do, so you need to provide them the right amount of solid data and opinion built with lots of facts and intuition at the exact right time they need it to make really big decisions.

Your work is vital – critically important. Literally saving lives or saving entire communities. Your organization matters to many people – the people you serve, and the people you employ.  Your income is rarely secure, your expenses always fluctuate, and your supervisors want to know why.

On a normal day, in a normal year, the work is stressful.  You must hire and retain amazing people – but you know or fear you can’t pay them what other places can.  So, you need to provide stability and an amazing work culture to keep these amazing people.  Your employees need to feel valued but held accountable to the metrics that are used to ensure that individuals who donate their hard-earned money keep believing that your work is working. 

Do all of this and every day get even better.  Status quo just will not do it.

Add a few pandemics, and the good answers to important questions are few and far between.

Leading an organization is incredibly rewarding, and really tough and can sometimes feel very lonely.

But it doesn’t have to be. One way to navigate the complex role of being a nonprofit Executive Director is to practice lots and lots of self-care.  We even teach a workshop and have shared articles about self-care, and you can find a few of them here; 


But we also strongly believe in the power of networks. Lots or people can give advice, but only peers share your actual perspective.  A peer is a person who has equal status – not necessarily one from the same sector, or has all the same issues, or even the same size of organization, but someone who understands the complexity of the role and the issues we all face. We encourage you to find a group of peers that can help you problem solve, dream, brainstorm, hold you accountable, support you on bad days and celebrate with you on the good days. 

Every community has opportunities for nonprofits to network, and these are powerful places to find people who might provide you peer support.  Here are some great questions to help get the conversations started, so invite a colleague for a cup of coffee (virtually works too!), to take a walk or schedule a phone call. 

  • How did you become the Executive Director/CEO of your organization? What was the path that led you to this position?
  • What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
  • What is your relationship with your board?
  • What are the challenges facing your team?
  • How did your organization fare in 2020 and how is it doing in 2021?
  • How has your organization addressed equity issues?

If you both enjoyed the conversation, found nuggets of great ideas that would make your job easier and you felt comradery, you might want to set up a regular, recurring appointment (we get busy – and we need to prioritize the important things.  Peer support is important!).  And, you might want to add others to your group.

Another great way to start, add or expand your peer support network is to join a Peer Coaching Group. 

Coaching Groups, facilitated by a cognitive coach, allow you to meet peers and build relationships that extend, if you choose, long after the coaching group ends.  Because these groups are built outside of your normal networks, it extends beyond your own sphere of influence and helps broaden best practices from other communities and sectors. 

If you are interested in learning more, email Regina@nonprofnetwork.org to learn how peer coaching groups work.   If you have your own peer support network but seek a facilitator to help guide the coaching process, we do that as well.


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