Lilly Endowment’s nonprofit renewal program highlights benefits of rest
(As nonprofits seek ways to encourage employee retention, enhance recruitment and minimize burn out, Not-for-profit News explores the benefits of Lilly Endowment’s renewal grant programs in this second part of a two-part series. Read Part 1)[Headline] Part 2: Is it time to take a break? [Subhead} Lilly Endowment’s nonprofit renewal program highlights benefits of rest [Byline] by Shari Finnell, editor/writer, Not-for-profit News
(As nonprofits seek ways to encourage employee retention, enhance recruitment and minimize burn out, Not-for-profit News explores the benefits of Lilly Endowment’s renewal grant programs in this second part of a two-part series. Read Part 1 https://charitableadvisors.com/is-it-time-to-take-a-break/)
What would you do with $10,000? How would you rekindle your passion?
Those are the types of questions posed by the Indy Arts Council to applicants of its Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship Program, an initiative funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc., to ensure that artists and art administrators have an opportunity to replenish and reignite their creativity.
For one applicant, the answer to that question resulted in her traveling to Nigeria, recalled Nikki Kirk, director of community investment for the Indy Arts Council.
“As a dance teacher, she had been teaching various African dances but had never been to Africa,” said Kirk, who oversees the arts fellowship program. “While in Africa, she took three classes a day, learning from the folks who are from the region where it started. It re-energized her teaching by allowing her to really get to the heart of what the dance form is all about.”
Jean Luc Howell, director of historic preservation at Newfields, used part of his renewal grant funds to travel with his girlfriend during an extended road trip. Along the way, they visited historic destinations, including the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Del., and Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio. In addition to exploring the historical sites, Howell made wax rubbings of historical manhole covers he came across.
The award came at a time when nonprofit organizations are under intense pressure to come up with new ways to attract visitors, Howell said.
“Having a break was phenomenal, especially now,” said Howell, noting that many organizations operate on a year-round schedule to remain competitive. “We don’t have quiet times like we may have had in previous years, where you can take a breath, clean your office and catch up on other things.”
“With our current seasonal programming, the schedule can feel unrelenting. You must put something out that’s the best or the newest to get people’s attention,” he said. “You’re competing against people going to the movies or even staying home to stream movies. And there’s pressure to raise money as a nonprofit through income-generating programs. You can lose the passion for why you wanted to work in a museum or a nonprofit in the first place.”
Giving nonprofit employees an opportunity to step back, whether through the renewal grant programs, paid time off or other benefits, has become increasingly important in today’s climate, Howell added.
“There’s so much more pressure,” he said. “Things like this are going to be more important as we move through issues of DEI and other heavy things we’re dealing with at work. You need an extra break from trying to navigate all of that as well.”
Exploring goals through the process
With up to 200 applicants vying for 40 grants through the renewal program, only a fraction of them will be able to take advantage of a renewal, Kirk pointed out. However, she said, the grant application process itself can be therapeutic.
“Some of the individuals that I’ve spoken to have said that even writing the grant application has been renewing for them because it’s about answering questions like, ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘Why do you want to do it?’ ‘How is this going to impact you?’ ‘What’s inspiring to you?’,” Kirk said.
“For the folks who do receive the grant, it’s really impactful and powerful, eEpecially during these times of COVID and excessive burnout,” Kirk added. “But beyond that, for the folks who aren’t selected in this round they get some form of renewal by writing down what they want to do. That type of creative writing style has an impact.”
Lilly Endowment has numerous renewal programs that are designed to help rejuvenate professionals in various sectors, including teachers, pastors, youth workers and human service workers. The program for artists and art administrators was implemented in the late 1990s.
“People experiencing burnout don’t necessarily turn out the most creative work because their minds are in so many different places,” Kirk said. “Being able to take that time for yourself helps you invest further and more heavily in the work as you come back into the space.”