Is Nonprofit Service to Others Part of Your DNA?
I attended a recent Kiwanis service club luncheon in Indianapolis. The theme of the lunch was nonprofit service by a variety of youth organizations related under the Kiwanis umbrella. Kiwanis International is a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children. Kiwanis clubs host nearly 150,000 service projects each year. It is amazing that Kiwanis has more than 550,000 members at a spectrum of ages.
For example, Key Club International is the oldest and largest Kiwanis service organization for teens and teaches service to others. Circle K International is the world’s largest collegiate service leadership organization sponsored by Kiwanis and performs half a million hours of service each year. The Aktion Club is the only service club where adults living with disabilities can learn leadership skills by participating in a variety of Kiwanis service projects.
K-Kids is a Kiwanis program where primary school students learn about self-empowerment and leadership by planning and participating in service projects. The Kiwanis sponsored Builders Club is the place for students 11 to 14 years of age, where they develop leadership, improve self-esteem and learn life skills through service. The stories told at this lunch by youth were amazing and life changing. Why is serving others important, especially for those in the nonprofit field?
Khaled Allen’s Warrior Spirit blog post “The Importance of Serving Others in Personal Growth,” relates to the fact that if you can develop yourself you can serve others better. He says we are more effective when we act in groups, and we derive a sense of purpose from making the lives of others better in addition to our own. As Napoleon Hill points out in his book, “Think and Grow Rich,” the best way to become successful is usually by helping others do the same. What goes around comes around.
Our Everyday Life Blog states helping has a dual benefit. Not only does it provide support to those on the receiving end, it makes you, the helper, feel good. Research led by Dr. Suzanne Richards at the University of Exeter Medical School indicates that altruistic behaviors, those born of an unselfish concern for the welfare of others, can have a profound effect on a person’s emotional well-being. It also has positive effects on physical well-being. Helping others also affects brain chemistry. Scientists have documented the physiological changes that occur in the brain when someone sees the response to their altruistic behavior.
In Power Essence’s “5 Benefits to Helping Others,” by researchers Stephen Post and Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, research has shown that giving things away and helping others has a significant positive effect on our happiness. By being genuinely interested in helping others, you will find out that helping others is a key to happiness; helping others builds trust; helping others comes back to you and your life can take on new meaning; helping others builds networks; and helping others improves society.
In the article, “12 Attributes of Great Nonprofit Leaders,” by William Moran JD, he notes that no one has all these traits, but they are something to aspire to as we admire nonprofit leaders. These attributes are:
- Self-starter with high energy.
- Passion for the organization’s mission, which drives them.
- Ability to accept and motivate others with the ability to attract and motivate others.
- They are “Servant Leaders”, where giving is more important than getting.
- Deals well with conflict and handles adversity with grace.
- Think strategically, but implement tactically understanding the big picture.
- Financial acumen as they understand finances.
- Fundraising skills, especially in the major gift realm.
- Ability to listen and collaborate with others.
- Sound judgement and can arrive at a good decision.
- Persistence and persevere through difficult times.
- Stamina both physically and emotionally.
If we want to succeed in the nonprofit world, we need to care about and have empathy for others. In the nonprofit world we provide a service to others on a daily business. It is all about building positive relationships that can only come about if we give ourselves and encourage others around us to give as well.
By serving others we serve ourselves and feel better about making a positive difference. If service is not naturally in your DNA, learn to understand the importance of service. If you personally enjoy the act of giving to others, your nonprofit career will not feel like a job. It will feel like your personal mission is continually being achieved. That fact will be both satisfying to yourself and the institution that you serve. I do hope service is part of your DNA either naturally or learned through experience!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.