Photo credit: kalexanderson, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: kalexanderson, Creative Commons/Flickr

In a recent article on the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Brendan Tapley—a communications and marketing consultant—argues that the sector is suffering from lack of pride and how this makes it difficult for us to celebrate our work and advocate for support for our institutions. While he focuses on organizations, he makes a compelling argument that our collective inability to state our impact affects how many of us view our own work and talent,

“The nonprofit world is by and large a history of dedication to thankless causes, but in embracing that spirit of martyrdom too fully, employees can adopt inferiority complexes.

Many nonprofit workers come to believe they are not as talented as people who have chosen to be elsewhere, somewhere the culture may outwardly value more—somewhere in the for-profit world.

What’s more insidious is how this attitude gives rise to a belief that anyone looking to join their organization is likely to be less capable, too.

In the aggregate, that kind of collective martyrdom—however false—can lead to a very real ineffectuality. Because if a calling to service means subservience, why would talent ever be tempted to join or encouraged to stay once it arrived? In reasserting pride alongside service, nonprofits ensure they will attract the best and brightest.”

And let me add something: rarely does this belief stay within the sector. People begin to view nonprofits as places to go if you want to do easy work or if you don’t want to be challenged. People begin to look down not only on the sector at large but also on the people who work there.

How do we get pass this? The first step is learning the difference between pride and hubris as the two relate to our work (there is a reason, for example, why when many groups fight for equality they begin by cultivating a sense of communal pride). We cannot demand respect from others if we don’t respect ourselves.

The second is actively witnessing and celebrating the change you create. I’ve written before about how one of the best ways to reinvigorate yourself and recommit yourself to your work is to get on the ground floor as much as possible and see the impact of your work. However, this can do more than just reenergize you; it should also help you see how your hard work, brilliance, and excellence are truly making a difference. Thinking any less isn’t just a disservice to you but also to the people you serve; given the urgency of many of our social issues, people deserve nothing but high-quality support to help them move forward.

What do you think? Is the sector suffering from collective martyrdom? Should we take more pride in our work?