From Self-Care to We-Care: Black Lives Matter Strategy for Wellness | Beth’s Blog

From Self-Care to We-Care: Black Lives Matter Strategy for Wellness


This photo is from an open space session during last week’s Funders Learning Lab: Investing In Network Leadership.   I proposed a session with a title, “Going from Self Care to We Care” to talk about how do we scale a culture of self-care in networks.   The networks, nonprofits organizations, and movements are filled with people who are passionate about social change work, but often work hard and long with few resources and many just keep going without giving a thought to self-care.

I posed the question, “How can we go from “self-care to we-care?”  In other words, not just having an individual realize the importance of self-care and changing their behavior, but making it part of the culture of the way we work in our sector.

I was lucky enough to end up in conversation with Allen Kwabena Frompong, one of the movement leaders from BLM NYC.   He shared an amazing story about how people in the movement self-organized individual wellness plans for each other.   They did this with few resources, relying on people with professional experience in the wellness area to help with an assessment survey so they could formulate customized wellness plans.   The plans are being implemented with a gift economy and social proofing or accountability buddy check-ins via social media.

The Guardian Voluntary Twitter account tagged me in a post to mark World Mental Health Day that included a link to this article, “Charities Risk Loosing Staff if They Don’t Pay Attention to Wellness,” which is part of a larger series of articles exploring physical and mental well being in the nonprofit sector.   The article has some terrific anecdotes and stories about scaling a wellness culture.

  • Wellcome Trust:  This health care funder has a work culture that encourages their staff to move around – they don’t need to be sitting at their desks to be working.   In other words, they encourage people to move around during the work day and that they don’t need to eat lunch at their desks.   They also encourage stand up and walking meetings.

    Mind:  This mental health charity encourages staff to create a “Wellness Action Plan” with their supervisor.  The plan identifies specific support needs, accountability buddy system, flexible working hours and other typical features of an organizational wellness plan.  What is usual is the inclusion of “mind days” – an extra six days of holiday a year on top of the regular 25. In addition, they offer yoga and mindfulness sessions along with gardening and craft groups.

The article includes an interview with Andy Gibson, founder of social enterprise Mind Apples, which works with employers on staff wellness.  He had this observation of nonprofit work culture:

“Despite being in the business of supporting people, charities can suffer from seeing staff as costs, believing the less you spend on them, the better. It’s a terrible false economy.  Many workplaces seem to go about making everyone as stressed as possible and then it’s just a matter of which one snaps first.”

The article suggests that nonprofit need to be more proactive and provide an open forum to discuss wellness.  The point is to empower staff to do what helps them stay healthy and make it part of the culture.

Does your nonprofit have a plan or strategy or culture of wellness?  What does it look like?

10 Responses

  1. Hello Beth,

    I have been extremely impressed with one of my clients, Goodwill Manasota (Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and Desoto counties in Florida). They recently launched an internal wellness program called “Good Wellness.” It encourages team members to invest in themselves and family members, while providing ongoing support for employees who have physical, emotional or other challenges (more than 12% of this workforce has significant disabilities).

    Goodwill also created a 48-page guide that offers education and resources for mental health, nutrition, family support, financial wellness and fitness, with discount offers within all of those areas.

    The goal of the program is to create a workplace of healthier, happier team members who proactively monitor their well-being. It is also another way the organization tries to show its employees that they are valued as people, not just corporate “assets.”

    Thank you for all the wonderful information and resources you so regularly share – and for offering us the opportunity to share as well!


  2. Beth says:

    Thank you for sharing this information about Goodwill’s program. I’m thrilled to see this.

    Would you be able to make an introduction to someone at the organization to interview? As you may have guessed, this is a topic I want to explore deeply because I am writing a book on it with Aliza Sherman –

  3. Absolutely, Beth! Let me find out who the best person might be for you to speak with and I’ll get back to you.

  4. This is really well thought post. We follow four lessons…
    Leadership commitment provides a foundation for success.
    Values should guide communications.
    Have a system and measure results.
    Select investments wisely.

    This strategy is well connected. Even if one we won’t follow there will be up-slide in the whole process of execution.

  5. Agree, my experience in non-profit behavioral health led me to develop a staff development model focused on their personal and professional growth. Wellness is critical and includes exercise, nutrition as well as workplace culture which is often toxic. I have found using Brene Brown’s Daring Way model for behavioral health professionals, teams and organizations builds courageous professionals, compassionate teams and connected organizations. BHForice-Behavioral Health workFORCE is the name of the program I hope to provide to more folks this upcoming year!

  6. Great piece on a really important topic. I’m a staff member at UCLA (a public university – in many ways similar to a nonprofit) with an institute focused on interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach. I’m part of a terrific wellness program offered by the university that offers participants intensive lifestyle training in exercise, nutrition, stress management, and
    mental conditioning. The program has really helped me, personally and professionally. I look and feel better and find I’m a much happier and productive employee. Nonprofits – any kind of workplace really – can benefit from providing these kinds of programs to employees. Investing in human capital is critical!

  7. […] companies are trying it successfully. And Beth Kanter wrote about some US and UK organizations that are making wellness and flexibility […]

  8. […] running and most popular blogs for nonprofits.  To read the original article on Beth’s blog, click here. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, […]

  9. Sharon Kunkel says:

    Hello Beth – Following up on your request to speak with someone at Goodwill Manasota about its new Good Wellness Program. I’ve got two folks from the HR department who would love to speak with you. Feel free to write me and I’ll give you their contact info, plus provide you with the PDF of the Good Wellness Resource Guide. Have a great day!

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