I’ve just come off a Zoom call with a very tired and jaded non-profit Director.

It’s been a tough year and she’s clearly had enough. I see her slumped shoulders. I hear the flat tone of her usually upbeat voice. I imagine she’s drawing on all her reserves just to show up with me for this early morning call. I really feel for her and I know she is by no means alone. I’m hearing the same challenges time and time again from non-profit leaders like her.

“It’s so unbelievably hard to keep motivating everyone day-in day-out however rubbish I’m feeling.”

“I can’t face our annual conference being online again.”

Another Monday morning meeting on Zoom – give me real people in a room, please!”

Yes, I know. it really is hard. You’ve tried every trick in the book to keep connection and motivation strong, haven’t you? Quizzes, online parties, favourite cat videos, personal check-in calls to each of your team members and yes, these great strategies work

You’ve been open and vulnerable about the challenges you’re facing and that is good too. Your team needs you to show up authentically in this difficult time so that they can trust you.

And you’ve had enough now. It’s time for something different.

The joy of peer support

One of the ways I’ve encouraged my coaching clients to help themselves keep going over this past relentless year is to prioritise joyful, warm-hearted connection with their peers; others who understand what it’s like to head up a non-profit team or organisation. You can feel very alone in a leadership role at the best of times, and this year has definitely not been the best of times.

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been running my Leaders Who Brunch Virtual Cafés for non-profit leaders like you. We’ve seen so many benefits to regular connection – it feels really important to continue this sort of peer support. Here’s why:

1. Advice and ideas from other brilliant minds

However experienced you are, there will always be gaps and blind spots in your thinking. When you’re focusing intently on your own particular challenge or problem it can be hard to lift your head above the weeds and see a solution. Getting advice and ideas from experienced and thoughtful peers whom you trust and believe in can save you buckets of time and energy.

2. A safe space to let off steam

Even when you love what you do, it can still be hugely helpful to have a safe, non-judgmental space to sound off, reflect and be heard when things aren’t going so well. Sure, we can be more authentic in our roles these days – we don’t have to hide our feelings all the time – but there is definitely something about having a neutral space if you need to let rip. It can be a life saver in tough times.

3. Accountability and a little push when you need it

A supportive peer group can provide the extra nudge you need when you’re about to step out of your comfort zone. It can also work as a wonderful, virtual ‘pat on the back’. Setting an intention and being accountable to a group will keep you going when it’s easier not to.

4. Unexpected ideas or ways of thinking

Working in a close-knit organisation, a feedback loop of ideas can be hard to avoid. Getting inspiration and fresh perspectives from outside your network can provide the extra spark you need. Whether it is a new way of looking at the big, complex challenges for our sector or new ways of tackling the small, practical things – a fresh perspective can be hugely beneficial.

5. Building resilience

It’s clear from research that those who are part of a supportive community are more likely to bounce back from setbacks and roll more successfully with the ongoing ups and downs of life. With the long, drawn out quarantine we’ve all endured, peer support and connection has been more important than ever.

Last week, I ran the first of the Summer sessions of my free Virtual Café, Leaders Who Brunch. A great bunch of non-profit leaders met together to let off steam, have a laugh and support each other. I shall be offering this safe, non-judgmental space to help you navigate the rest of 2021 alongside your peers with ease and joy. I’d love to see you there.