Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Finding What's Relevant Today

I lost a subscriber today. Not the first, definitely not the last. The reason? The dreaded "Content no longer relevant".

The truth is that when I started writing about nonprofit identity, I thought that topic would carry me through writing unlimited posts. Even when I ran through the topics that interested me I still had an impulse to use the blog as a repository of reference information. 99% of that material related to nonprofit accounting and occasionally to compliance or fundraising. I've always worked in finance and tech. Two nonprofit spaces were full enough; the marketing/fundraising blogs and the IT/Tech blogs. Still, I can suddenly be inspired by some miracles of technology lately, especially the tech that speaks to blogging. I found a fair amount of my posts were tech or tech humor, accounting or compliance reference all forming a frame for my general philosophy on nonprofit identity.

In the meantime, my life changed radically. I was ten years into a job and twenty into a career when the signs of burnout started to show. I was overwhelmed with insecurities, suddenly feeling I'd lost my edge. All of what I used to call confidence now seemed to be nothing more than unsubstantiated hype. The more burned out I got, the worse everything seemed. My writing turned to preventing burn-out, to yoga, to stress reduction, etc.

It was just about then that I made my decision to walk away. After ten years I left my well-paying, secure, (somewhat) prestigious job. For the first time in my life I "leapt without a net". It didn't occur to me then, but it's clear now, that my own identity was entwined with my idea of nonprofit identity. Turns out I've been working for nonprofits for almost half of my life! Also, I'm what used to be called a "career girl". I've chosen the path less traveled, never married, no kids, two-cat limit (no cat lady action here!). What I'm trying to say here is this: my work was my life and vice versa. So now that I'm not working, it has thrown me into some serious self-examination. If I am what I work, what am I now?


Kenrg said...

Hi Pam,

I've been feeling the nonprofit burnout quite a bit myself lately - or, more to the point, fundraising burnout. And, like you, it has led to questions of identity and the two decades spent developing the skills.

Maybe there's a nonprofit recovery group we can each join?

Pam Ashlund said...

Thanks Ken, or should I say "Hi my name is Pam"? ;-)

Gregory Fearon said...


That should have been


Gregory Fearon said...


As you'll see from checking out one of my blogs (, I've come at the same question with my colleagues who retire from many years in public service. Their jobs defined very much their sense of "goodness", and they are having a hard time seeing themselves in the same easy way they did when they were working.

Unfortunately, few of them can be convinced to write about how they feel, but it gets plenty of discussion between strokes and putts on golf courses.