119: How to Create a Culture of Wellness in Any Non-Profit Organization with Rosa Julia Rivera

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“If we can tend to our emotional well-being, if we can tend to our injured self, if we can talk to that part of us that is always struggling with that imposter syndrome… if we can nurture that piece, everything in our life gets better.”

Rosa Julia Rivera
Episode #119


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

When it comes to non-profit work, your ability to fundraise is not possible if you do not prioritize your mental health and wellness. The clarity, energy, and ability you’re looking for does not reside in how much you push yourself, but how you take care of yourself.

Here to unpack that is further is Rosa Julia Rivera, a clinical therapist and Co-Owner of Chicago Growth Mindset, a Latina-led private practice specializing in integrating workplace mental wellness programs and providing evidence-based behavioral healthcare for high stress professionals, community healers, leaders, and first responders.

In this episode, Rosa offers you her expertise on creating a culture and mindset inside your organization that supports the health, wellness, and recovery of people in high stress, mission-driven positions. She also gives tangible advice on how to thrive and feel empowered as a development director in a non-profit, especially if your boss doesn’t prioritize employee well-being.

As we’re experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis, this episode is incredibly necessary. If you gain something from it, don’t hesitate to share it with a friend, coworker, or loved one you think would enjoy it.


Rosa Julia Rivera


  • Chicago Growth Mindset
  • A big shout out to our sponsor Instil, the holistic tool that reimagines nonprofit technology in ways that deepen community relationships and nonprofit processes to magnify impact. The platform’s advanced UX design and real-time analytics supercharge donors, increase volunteer engagement, and smooth donor management and operations across your entire organization. learn more at instil.io/mallory. 
  • If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.

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Get to know  Julia Rivera: 

With her professional foundation as a clinical therapist, Ms. Garcia Rivera works systematically, taking a non-judgmental, strengths-based approach to facilitate change and foster emotional growth, helping organizations and individuals build resilience and social emotional capacity. Ms. Garcia Rivera draws on nearly three decades of experience and leadership providing culturally responsive clinical services. Presently, Ms. Garcia Rivera is the co-owner and the architect of Chicago Growth Mindset, a Latina led private practice specializing in integrating workplace mental wellness programs and providing evidence-based behavioral healthcare for high stress professionals as well as community healers, leaders and first responders.


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episode transcript

Mallory Erickson  01:35

Welcome, everyone, I am so excited to be here today with Rosa Julia Rivera, Rosa, welcome to What the Fundraising.

Rosa Julia Rivera  01:43

Thank you Mallory for having me today.

Mallory Erickson  01:45

So let’s just dive in and have you tell everyone a little bit about you and your history and experience. And what brings you to our conversation today.

Rosa Julia Rivera  01:55

I am the co owner and architect of Chicago Growth Mindset that we are a Latina, led private practice that specializes in organizational wellness, and high stress professionals. I’ve been a therapist for over 30 years and also worked in the nonprofit sector for about 10 of those years in leadership and development, which is what brings me here today with you.

Mallory Erickson  02:17

Yeah, I think your experience in all of the different sections and iterations of your professional experience. I think all of them speak to what fill you with so much wisdom that’s valuable to Fundraising Professionals. But I would love to just start and hear a little bit about your experience inside a development office. What led you there? And how did your experience as a trained clinical therapist show up in the way that you thought about or ran that development department?

Rosa Julia Rivera  02:50

That’s a great question Mallory, I can imagine people would wonder how does the therapist end up leading a development department. I started in a nonprofit social service organization has been in Chicago for over 100 years. And I started by creating their mental health department. So I was the Director of Mental Health when I got hired. And that made sense. I had been a clinician for 20 some odd years, I’ve run various clinical teams, super excited to bring mental health to this organization. And it was the first time that I was in social service community, nonprofit, before that I had done nonprofit that like a corporate nonprofit hospitals, those types of things. It’s a different animal than doing community, nonprofit social service work. So the whole experience was really new to me. And I realized now that this happens a lot in nonprofits that my second year, I had become the director of mental health and youth programs. By the third year I was the director of all programs. By the fourth year I was the CEO of the organization. So I went from being a therapist, to being the chief operating officer kind of myself. This worldwide is like what’s happening and I was so used to asking people how they feel and wanting to connect with people. And this was I remember, they called me because the air conditioner broke. And I was like You must feel really upset. And they’re like what we’re calling you because you’re the chief operating officer. And I was like, I don’t know anything about air conditioners like so in the nonprofit sector when you are the director of our programs, what they don’t tell you is if your manager of youth programs quits, you are now the manager of youth programs. So that position gets filled. As the director of all programs, I interacted with development department all the time. And that was the first time I met a grant writer and mind you this was an agency that never had mental health. But we were really leaning on the development department to help create this vision of what mental health would look like in this nonprofit. Within a month, the grant writer was my best friend. I was bringing in muffins coffee, like what do you need? I got you. I need you to write this grant to help me create a mental health department. So that familiar with the development department that way initially as a Director of Mental Health and then taking out all the programs I interacted with development department almost every day grants were do reports were do site visits funder study events that I would speak out. When you become the chief operating officer, and your Director of Development quits, you become the director of development. I found myself with amazing grant writers and amazing event planner, our marketing and social media person, amazing team of individuals who were really mission driven, and really there to do some incredible work and feeling really lost and how to do this, the boss at the time had a famous saying, like just Google it. As always her way, like just figure it out. And at that time, really understanding you are the Director of Development feeling that you are the heartbeat of the organization feeling that pressure, I started to feel that. And that’s how it was kind of you’re now the director of development, you have to a $14 million go. And this amazing team really supported me. But what I realized quickly, I had 30 years of running a clinical team. And the way that clinicians work is very much about their why, why they do the work. They’re not there for the big paychecks, they’re there for why it matters to them. And I realized really quickly in this development team, that there wasn’t much difference. The direct service was different therapists saw you and did their work in a clinical way. But all this amazing development team was very much there for the why. But also as a clinician understanding how quickly clinicians for example, burnout, one of the reasons that Chicago growth mindset focuses on high stress individuals is we saw therapists burning out, we saw therapists getting sick, and we said if the healers are getting sick, then what are we going to do. And I really thought especially during COVID, the same thing happened, the development department, like for them, it was saving lives just in a different way. It was additions, it’s doing a suicide assessment. For grant writer, it’s getting this grant that’s going to fund three clinicians who can then work for a year in grammar school to do whatever beautiful project that we created. And really seeing that they had that same mentality of not just needing to, they all had their craft, I was lucky in that all of them knew grant writers know how to write grants. Event Planners knew how to develop events. But what was missing was the same kind of things that were missing was running clinicians is having that mindset of how to do this work, how do I frame this in a way that’s sustainable? for the long haul?

Mallory Erickson  07:35

Thank you for sharing your journey and drawing those parallels for us. I want to talk about that piece in particular, like how do you set up a mindset and maybe a culture inside an organization that can support the wellness of individuals that are in these high stress, mission driven positions, which I think also lend itself to a higher level of sensitivity. And I use that word really positively, but you know, deeply feeling people who love to be in connection to one another that also then perhaps make them more susceptible to some of the inputs around them. Before we talk about that, though? Will you talk to me a little bit about how burnout happens from maybe more of that, like clinical perspective, like what’s happening inside our body and our minds. When we hit that point of burnout.

Rosa Julia Rivera  08:34

I think understanding that stress takes a toll on our body. And I think 20 years ago, people thought stress was a headache. Maybe it was some tension in your neck. And it’s really been just in the last 20 years that science has caught up and understand that that stress can cause cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, we now understand that our body, even though we feel like we can ignore stress Keeps the Score. It’s constantly taking in what’s happening. And this acute stress of deadlines are due and that grant didn’t come through or depending on who your boss is the pressure of failure. And what that means and defining yourself by your performance. How many people do that? Oh, you didn’t meet that deadline? I’m a horrible person. Well, wait a minute, how does your deadline have anything to do with who you are, but we connect ourselves to our performance all the time. And so when someone gives us feedback, it can hit us so hard. And for short, and social service, I see that that people are working through their heart, it’s hard work. That’s what we’re doing. And so we’re in this vulnerable space all the time. And so when it’s really minimizing stress and not understanding how chronic stress how acute can turn into chronic stress, and how stress not just affects our body, but our brain, our prefrontal cortex or hippocampus, all those things are mid dilla. All those things are being activated by stress in different ways. We now know that our brain shrinks, our executive functioning shrinks our ability to problem solve To us logic shrinks when we’re under a lot of stress, right? We’re prone to more accidents, we’re prone to missing deadlines, we’re prone to not getting in a report on time. But all of those things take an effect on our body. And oftentimes in social service, we’re not making widgets, like if we were a car manufacturer, and you had a bad day, and it wasn’t going your way. Okay, maybe I could have made more widgets. What we do is in social service and support communities, and oftentimes the most disenfranchised, the most disinvested communities, oftentimes we carry the weight as a brown woman and carry the weight of what has happened in my history, right. But I can imagine at any point, we take that on, because we know why our communities are struggling. We know if you’re doing this work, and you’re in the nonprofit work, you understand how disinvestment has led our communities to where they are, and so it becomes your personal mission. And that can get exhausting we, in our lifetime, Mallery they never see the changes that we hope that we’re planting seeds for now. So where do you get your passion from? How do you fill your cup back up, if you’re constantly having to pour in and change is happening, but sometimes it feels like at a turtle’s pace. So, so much happens when we’re feeling burnout from our brain shrinking to getting sick, our immune systems go down, which is the time of COVID and everything else that’s going around, this becomes such a major concern. But again, we know that chronic stress can lead to so many issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, you find yourself unable to connect and want to do anything at night because you’re exhausted. So you want to have a bottle of wine, watch Netflix. So now your social relationships are being affected. It’s just the trickle down effect to all parts of your life.

Mallory Erickson  11:44

Do you find that people when they’ve been in a state of chronic stress for so long, I start to believe that that is their equilibrium?

Rosa Julia Rivera  11:57

Yeah, I hear people say I’m just an uptight person. Oh, I’m always stressed out. I’m just a nervous person. I’m just always an anxious person. Absolutely. But even more than that, thinking about our communities, somehow we have to normalize it think about the stress that our children are under in Chicago, right? Like, just the amount of violence that happens if we don’t normalize it, we live every day, we’d see many more children having heart attacks from the amount of stress that so part of us normalizes it for survival. But that’s what I mean, our Body Keeps the Score. So you’re fine, right? I just had worst day, I’m stressed out, but I still made dinner, maybe I even worked out that 30 minutes and like, did what I need to do. But if you’re not going to the root of the stress, and tomorrow, you go back at it again, and you’re not identifying what’s at the root of what’s stressing you out. And that also just as bad, right? Throwing a wedding, stressful baby shower stuff, like going on a vacation, sometimes where how the plane cough, but it’s short term, it’s good stress, we know what the end you’re gonna be laying on a beach climbing mountain, it’s this chronic bad stress, where you don’t know the end of it, you don’t see the end of the tunnel so we can keep going. But our body is, and you may never know, you may never know that you could have lived to 98, but died at 63. You’re not going to really know the toll that stress took. But we now know that stress does affect every single part, from our brain, to our heart, to how we carry weight to how we metabolize food, all of that is affected by stress.

Mallory Erickson  13:26

Yeah, wow. One of the words you use made me think of this word is this idea of recovery. And I think about recovery time in nonprofits and with fundraisers in particular, how there is really no space given for recovery. And I think about it in particular to things like getting rejected, like they get a no on a big grant, you know, you were sort of sharing some of those stories before and then that rocks then you know, they have this real not just there is this stress of how are we going to meet that deadline? How are we going to fund that program, all the people who are going to suffer because we don’t have the money. But then I think there’s also this whole other piece like you were saying before of I’m not good enough or I’m bad or I did a bad job. And so there’s this huge toll that it takes I think on like all these different tiers or elements of what make us feel stressed or disconnected and become more disembodied. And then we’re just expected to like get that email and walk right into a major donor meeting. And when I’ve talked about recovery time around some of those things, you know, there’s the we don’t have the time sort of mentality and putting aside that narrative for a second. Can you talk to me about what are different forms of recovery that can bring us back into more of a grounded state reduce SAR stress like what are some different wellness strategies that your organization supports organizations to start to implement that help with some of that like recovery? Yeah.

Rosa Julia Rivera  15:12

I think where we ground a lot of that is having the proper mindset, that development oriented mindset, that growth mindset when working with organizations or with individuals. And just so that we’re all on the same page growth mindset is the term that Dr. Carol Dweck, it’s been a few years now she wrote a great book called Mindset and recommended such an easy read and such a easy way to understand what is a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset and simply a growth mindset when we fail? Seeing it as an opportunity, right? Oh, I just learned a new way not to do it. Oh, okay. Like I understood that, and I’m gonna do it better. And we know scientifically that every time we fail, you come one step closer to success, that’s just fine. So it’s not like anything hokey that I’m saying, We just know, if we keep practicing that things get better. And then a fixed my set is constantly again, defining yourself by your performance, being afraid to fail, not taking a risk for failure, not taking a risk in anything because of fear of failure that you might have. And so really talking about having one understanding that it’s not either or, like, even as a therapist every day, I’m catching myself, and I can see it more, right, because I talk about it all the time. And so I can see those fixed mindset statements, I’m so stupid for forgetting my phone, but like already putting myself down, like, how many times do we do that? Like, oh, I turned the wrong way. Like sometimes our natural instinct is to put ourselves down and to have this fixed mindset, if you will, right. Not many of us get feed back and like, oh, that sounds great. Now, I know one way, and thank you for telling me that I did that wrong. So it’s human nature almost that we’re trying to work against, or at least the way that society has set it up, right, the way that society is built, there is a lot more fixed mindset out there than there is a growth mindset. So talking about what that looks like, is the first thing that we do. I think that was the first thing I did with this development department once I saw their mission that they were mission driven. And it’s funny that you say that there’s no recovery time. In nonprofit, you tend to see that teachers look forward to that summer time. Therapists also look forward to summer times their school based news workers look forward to when school goes back, because then they’re not doing all day long. But what I saw in the development department is that there was never, and if there was we put an event oh, let’s put the golf outing there. Oh, now it’s gala season. Oh, no, hi, don’t rest. Your laurels are only halfway through. And, oh, we have a new idea. We want to launch a whole new department. And as a director of programs, so I was famous for like, oh, I have an idea I want to do you see all these great roles. But you’re right. A lot of people. And all the other deadlines are still there all the other thing that I went through a summer soiree, that would be fun, like all these brilliant ideas that you don’t understand the logic and the logistics that kind of go back, there was never recovery time for the development department. There wasn’t even time to process when failures happen. Because the pressure was now you have to write what was I told when I first ran out development department at 20 100 grants, 80 of them will be rejected 20 will be accepted. I had to raise $14 million. Some of those grants were $3,000, which is nothing. And those were the ones that had six reports and wanted 12 copies of something. And it didn’t make sense. I need 500 grant writers like for your math. Two people here are not going to be able to like cut it right. And with that kind of math mentality. So there was never a recovery time even time to celebrate celebrations when you did get that big goal. When the gala made more money than it ever had in history. It was okay, that’s good is the golf outing in six weeks. All right, let’s get those celebrating. You said what are some strategies, right? So the growth mindset, having that proper mindset, learning, teaching yourself so that you can catch yourself, not feeling bad, not judging yourself, Oh, my God, I’m such a fixed mindset, just learning to catch up and coming out of that celebration making time to celebrate. What does that mean? Because we talked about it when you’re writing the proposal, hey, this means two therapists job and 80 children, then we got it and development department didn’t get to talk about it anymore. Now it was Haiti of clinicians who just got this grant, we get to do this wonderful thing and development was seeing it. I think that was the thing that the development department was really missing, especially during COVID. I hired a whole new team during COVID. They never got to see the children. As a CEO, I would end my day in the classroom because I needed to see the why I need to physically there was a horrible day dealing with air conditioners and budgets and firing, hiring. Nothing to do with mental health. And when I sat in that question, I could see the why. I was like, Okay, I’ll be back tomorrow. The development department doesn’t get to do that very often on if they do they don’t feel construct theory. So comfortable walking into a classroom, and interacting or staring or whatever I needed to do development department doesn’t always feel so close to programs because their development, so taking time to celebrate. And I would say I want to show you the site, I want you to meet a clinician, I want you to watch, like, come see, come hang out, grab some breakfast, and let’s go to the early childhood center where you get to see three year olds who are doing that civic engagement grant that you wrote, that took you 12 days to write and 500 attachments, like let’s go see the kids and so celebrating, visually seeing your why whatever that means. However you do that from a vision board to literally sitting in a classroom, recognizing what self care is, and isn’t all about Netflix and half a bottle of wine. I’m not judging your life. But it’s not self care. Self Care is an act of being healthy. It’s an intentional act of doing better, you have to be mindful, it has to go into your calendar, it is a variety of things. I just turned 50. And when COVID hit three years ago, I started to work out they said the number one reason that people were passing away was obesity. My Look, I told you, I didn’t feel oh, at that time, I was like I have the worst luck. Here. I’m going to get a treadmill and in my 50 at the time, 47 years, I did. Shamans I do yoga. And the therapy I’ve been like I’m really big on attentional self care and working out was like, I couldn’t believe people don’t talk about it more. It felt like such a beautiful way to manage your stress to kind of let it out feel physically Great. talking to friends making time being in nature, like these are all scientific things. These aren’t like oh tips that Rosa likes like science shows you that being a nature, elevate your hormones, your serotonin, dopamine, like all these things start to happen. Being around people that you love, again, that this isn’t roses, tip science shows what happens to our body, to our prefrontal cortex to our hippocampus, how our amygdala relaxes when we’re around love. And that could be your fur babies, it could be your family, it could be your partner, could be your best thing. But really making time for those things and understanding the science behind it. Because I think oftentimes we minimize it like it’s a hokey thing. And I’m just gonna walk binge watch, blacklist, and like, maybe have more than half a battle tonight, I’ll be fine. But knowing that our body’s not keeping all that and like, okay, like you’re not going to manage, so I’m going to kind of find something else that’s here. So being super mindful about self care. And then when it feels like it’s too much getting help, people are now getting that mental health. It has nothing to do with I don’t see crazy and couldn’t do schizophrenia. That’s not the type of therapist I am, right. So understanding how to invest in ourselves, and how to prevent things from happening instead of waiting to like, you’re actually depressed, like, I’m kind of blue. It feels some anxiety, like, let me get on this. And maybe it’s 10 sessions, maybe it’s five sessions, maybe you don’t need this long term, Freudian and on the couch for half my life, and maybe you do, I’m not demeaning that either. But just when it feels like it’s too much, making sure that you get that out. So those are some of the strategies that I like to not just teach development department. But anyone that we work with organizationally to take that lens of mindset and celebration and love recovery, recovery is so keen, and the mindset of like, what did we learn? And it wasn’t till I finally hired a director of development, who was like, let’s ask everybody like, why we’re not getting these grants, let’s learn from it. Yeah, maybe we’ll learn something. And I was like, look at that mindset, like, forget them. There’s the whatever, you’d have to know somebody. He was like, let’s reread it. What if we, you know, what if we took it, and we added a couple other pieces to it, maybe the next one. And I could see growth mindset, and I was so happy to give him back his wonderful department. He had had such great experience. He was amazing and really led with that growth mindset. And so that like, he was so Okay, when they did it, he would buffer that, like, Oh, it’s fine. We’re not gonna get it every grant, you’re fine. Why don’t you go home early? Why don’t you like he was, like, really allow for that space and time to recover and come back feeling re energized right now. So we strategize. Okay, maybe I could have added more research and maybe it didn’t have the number, whatever it was, but re strategizing is what we want the ultimate goal.

Mallory Erickson  24:21

Okay, there’s something that you’re just saying in there that is making me think about something differently for the first time, which is about this piece around the safety, to look deeper the safety necessary to be willing to grow especially together in those moments. So I think about all of the avoidance of looking at things like we didn’t get that thing. It hurts, like I feel hurt. I’m spiraling my nervous system is activated all of these things. And then so often, I think we choose the flight options perhaps So away from that the Netflix, the wine, the all those things. And what you’re describing in this development director was, it sounds like their ability to create like a connected safe space to say, no, let’s not look away, it’s okay that this happened. Let’s not look away, let’s not run away from this, let’s figure out what happened. And so we can do better in the future. But that there was like, you know, I think about it’s kind of a weird story maybe to insert here. But I, I remember, after I had my daughter, I was really struggling with my weight and my body image. And I was avoiding the scale, like at all costs, like I was just like, I cannot step on that thing ever. And then I had this moment where I was just like, wait, but the number is just a number. Why am I so afraid of looking at it? And it’s like, oh, well, I’m afraid of looking at it. Because the moment I see that number, I start being so mean to myself, like, how could you ever let yourself gain this much weight? How could you? And so the ability to look at the hard things to sit in them, and actually do the work to use them to grow instead of just running away from them? Because they activate us initially? Can you talk to me about how we can create those moments that culture on our teams?

Rosa Julia Rivera  26:27

Yeah, before I hired the Director of development, I would talk about it. And everybody knew way back when everybody knew I was in mental health. So it was very easy to say, oh, there’s Rosa wanting us to talk about our feelings. He came in as a very respected experience director of development. And they could see that the professional benefit wasn’t just Rosa, that was the hard part about being a therapist is when I come to you. And I talk about growth mindset, or any of the other pieces. Oh, she’s a therapist, right. But he wasn’t, he had always been in development, he had been the director of development for major organizations. And his was like, but we get to learn, and here’s how I do is by delving deep, right. And so he was able to show them I was we were both saying the same things, but how to really realize your professional benefit, we often get motivated with that. We want maybe to be promoted, or we want to make more money, or we want to work less. So we got to work smarter if we’re going to work less. So we all kind of have these professional ambitions. And I see that a lot in the development department. I think most grant writers that I’ve hired wanted to be the director of development, so that ambition is naturally there. And sometimes people minimize and I think that’s changing since COVID, the emotional factor of like, well, emotions feel better if you could see it, and you learn from your mistakes, and you are learning to not be critical. And we tend to think like yeah, that would be nice, but it’d be nice if I got this promotion. And so being able to see the professional benefit of learning how to shift our mindset, learning how to care for our emotional well being, and how that’s directly invested into our jobs, our relationships, our health, our physical health, like that’s the other thing science just caught up on. It’s no longer mental health and its health. It’s got different components, and they’re completely doctors, so many doctors will tell you about patients who come in and I have a headache, and there’s nothing wrong with you taking the test. And then what’s the next question to ask how much stress do you have? What kind of job do you have, like we now get it that our bodies and our mental health are completely connected. And so I think really owning that fat will help keep us motivated and knowing that if we can tend to our emotional well being if we can tend to our injured self, if we can talk to that part of us that is always struggling with that imposter syndrome of whatever it is your weight or your job. If we can nurture that piece, everything in our life gets better. And that’s an incredible investment. No, like if you work out every day, the only thing well, your mental health will get better too. But you would physically see it when you take care of your mental health. You think clearer. You’re better as a wife as a husband, as a mother as a daughter as a best friend. Like there’s just so much as to yourself and you’re not in the marriage thing. How did you let yourself get that blank? Hey, girl, let’s go workout today look at you looking sick, right? Like, like, I see I got more booty and enjoying it and like, right, but like and then pushing yourself to do what you would have done. Instead of saying, look at you, and how could you do that. And that’s so horrible. Still having forced yourself to go to the gym when you’re working at a negative, as opposed to like, I feel good about myself. I’m gonna go to the gym now. Maybe your workouts even better. You know. So I think it’s tying into the fact that it’s an investment in our whole life.

Mallory Erickson  29:40

When I started reading your work and learning about what you do, I think I was so excited about bringing your voice nonprofit fundraisers in particular. I mean, you hold this historical lens into the space and into the departments and to me what you’re talking about right now is the whole deal. You know, like we are obsess in the sector with the strategy and the templates and the tactics and the event and the thing and just give me the one right way to do this thing. And to me, at the end of the day, our ability to do any of those things to send the template to walk into the meeting to think clearly about whether or not we should even have a golf event, or it’s a good use of our time and money, like those things, those actions, the doing of fundraising is not possible. If we do not have wellness practices, if we do not have mental health, to be able to we keep banging our head against the wall looking for clarity around a decision. And we continue in that state of overdrive and overwhelm and chronic stress. And we wonder why we can’t just think our way out of it. And to me, the answer lies in everything that you’re saying that the clarity that we’re looking for the ability that we’re looking for, the energy that we’re looking for, resides in how we take care of ourselves, and support our whole human ness and our whole health, to be able to show up to our jobs every day, a question I get a lot is okay, I agree with everything you and Rosa are saying, and that’s what I want for myself and my job and my organization. But I have a boss who really doesn’t understand the need for all of these things, or doesn’t value the mental health of their team. Do you have any suggestions for somebody inside an organization that doesn’t have sort of organizational support around wellness and how they support their own mental health?

Rosa Julia Rivera  31:51

I think advocating for yourself, I think that’s going to be the first thing is finding your voice. Most nonprofits have heard this from all their employees. And I think oftentimes the development department is just not people don’t physically see them all the time, because they are working from home, we’re writing grants, and so you don’t see someone banging their head against the wall, like you might see if they’re working in an after school program or something like that. So one advocating for yourself, because the bottom line is that every single organization needs development, it is the most sought after it is the got the largest turnover, because there’s constantly and every time I’ve gotten a chance to talk to anyone in development is that they are looking to be set as a human being they do want to celebrate, I want you to see my humanity. So recognizing your worth first and foremost, like I am telling you what, and maybe I’m in Chicago, so maybe specific to Chicago, but like development, they’re so sought after they’re so like revered when you find so everybody knows who the good development directors are in the city, right? They’re different work, who often do consulting, because they can’t take profit. So knowing your worth knowing what you bring to the table and not being afraid to advocate for yourself. setting boundaries. I think we started to see that post COVID with our development department, and it was really new for the org. Like no one can email me at night, like yeah, here’s nine to five, no, there’s no American like, what emergency what a grant like maybe a deadline once a year, but like it shouldn’t be this recovery, looking at your strategy. Like we would spend 10 hours writing a $3,000 grant like, and then you think about all the salary, you do the math, we just spent $5,000 To make 3000 If we’re lucky if you’re one of the 20%. So being strategic and not being afraid of that I think this particular development director keeps coming to mind. Really comfortable an advocate really knew his worth. And I think that’s hard. I think part of it was he was a white male. So there’s a different sense of entitlement that I wish everybody. Anyway, there’s a big difference for me, when I see people in development department who are people of color serving people of color than people who are white serving people of color there is that more of like pressure that you’ll be put on yourself. And as a brown woman, I’m guilty of that, like I don’t need to work 60 hours a week, because my community is emotionally on fire. So not being afraid to set those boundaries, realizing what your boundaries are, what do you need, like some of us work at night, and that might be okay. Some of us we want our mornings. But knowing what feels good for you and advocating for that creating those boundaries. Talking about strategies, every CEO will listen if you help them do the math, divide how many hours it takes to write a $3,000 grant, how many people from the director of development to the CFO who had to write the budget to the stamp cost and then do your math and then show it to people like do we really want because I can take these 10 hours, add it to five more hours and write a $95,000 grant and so being strategic and 100 people are gonna listen to this. So I say this gently that a lot of CEOs know how to run a development department or know a whole lot about development. Don’t tell anything, but if you know, it’s okay that most CEOs will listen to you. This is your expertise. I’m going to help Your bottom line, let me explain to you and a lot of CEOs need visuals, and your development people are amazing at visuals, so do a couple of graphs and some pie charts. Show like, this is my worst, this is what I could bring to the table, if allowed to do things in a way that makes me feel good and seen as a human being. And I said at the interview, I think that was the other thing is listening at the interview. So I could go back to my CEO and say, Listen, this person wants to be humanized, wants to celebrate once recovery, and also has an experience of bringing in all this money. So like, how are we going to do all these things? Right, and this chaotic? And maybe it is canceling the damn Pulseaudio?

Mallory Erickson  35:43

Yes, oh, my gosh. Okay, what question Have I not asked you that I should be asking you about all of this,

Rosa Julia Rivera  35:52

the only thing that kind of comes to mind is thinking about, like, I made the joke that CEOs don’t know. But I also shared with you that I was a CEO, whose whole background was in mental health, all I’d ever done and yet, I was a director. And it takes a while to find a director of development in this world, just so you know, who can run the event and do private grants and do federal grants and do applications for you know, major, like, it’s just crazy what we asked here, and we used to say a unicorn all the time, I think it was cute to say we’re looking for a unicorn, why are we looking for unicorns, right? Like, I think that’s the other piece of it. And then I, when I did meet my development department, they had different backgrounds that come in, like not many people go to school saying, I am going to be a grant writer, I’m going to fundraise, there’s so many varied backgrounds. So I used to work in grocery, I used to work in LA, a lot of people come in from LA, and I want to do something that’s more mission driven. So really realizing the diversity, if you are a director of development, or someone who’s running an organization is listening to this. It’s really meeting people where they’re at. It’s not a development team, it’s individuals and a development team. And so different people might need different things. And I think it’s perfectly okay, and an investment, as well as helping the bottom line, when you can individualize your approaches and leadership. So as the Director of Development individualizing, your leadership approaches to the individuals who are on your team, there was no one size fits all clinicians to be people who went to school to become clinicians and got them. And it wasn’t like that when I ran the development department, everybody had a different start. And what brought them together was that mission. And so how do I take all of these different personalities, right? And how do I create individualized approaches, and part of that is respecting that you know what you need? I don’t have to figure it out for you, Valerie, you know what feels good for you. I like working nights, I like working days, I want to do four days a week, I’m more impactful that way. And I can spend three days really recovering that man, are you gonna get some good four days better than five days? Because, right? So having that discussion with different people and not being afraid to have that kind of flexibility and trusting because development department is so unique, because they really are driven there for the mission. There’s no big checks in that profit, even for the director of development. There’s not like, no one’s making millions and I was showing up in a Lamborghini. Like that’s just not what’s happening. So recognizing that, why to speak into it and realize that everybody has an individualized way to maximize their outcomes, whatever that is. So helping people thrive as their best self, not my best self, that is the organization’s best self, what is your purpose? So

Mallory Erickson  38:36

that is such good advice. Okay, we’re coming up on time. So tell everyone where they can find you how they can work with you. Thank you so much for this incredible conversation.

Rosa Julia Rivera  38:49

Thank you, Mallory. I had a fantastic time. Thank you for letting me talk about development. That’s not something I get to talk about all. We are Chicago growth mindset at Chicago growth. mindset.com. We offer a variety of services. Definitely find me on LinkedIn, Rosa, Julio Rivera, I’d love to connect with all sorts of professionals. Thank you so much for having me here today, Valerie. I really appreciate it.

Mallory Erickson  39:11

Amazing. Thank you for joining me.

Rosa Julia Rivera  39:14

Have a great day. Take care.

Mallory Erickson  39:22

All right. There is so much inside this episode, but here are a few of the things I am double clicking on right now. Number one, even acute stress like deadlines or the pressure of failure takes a toll on your health and well being acute stress can turn into chronic stress, which takes an even bigger toll. That’s why it’s critical to create an organizational culture that supports health and wellness. Number two, there is not enough time or space for recovery in nonprofits, organizations can implement recovery strategies for fundraisers to reduce stress and process rejection. And this is crucial for Let’s fundraiser resilience over time. A great example of a recovery strategy is focusing on having a development or growth mindset. Rather than a fixed mindset, that mental practice inside your organization alone can make a big difference. Number three, when self health isn’t enough to quell your stress, or recover from burnout or rejection, it might be time to seek professional help. Access to therapy is not equitable. And so I understand that not everyone listening to this will have access. But I highly encourage you to look at the options your insurance may have for group therapy, low cost telehealth options, or other mental health tools and resources that are working to increase access. Getting yourself some level of support is really important. Number four, remember to have compassion for yourself and be gentle with yourself. Notice when you start being critical and try to consciously shift that to empathy and forgiveness. And number five, if your boss doesn’t value employee wellbeing enough to give you support, then unfortunately, you’re going to have to find your voice own your worth and advocate for yourself. You can start by setting boundaries to protect your health and wellness. Okay, for additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to Mallory erickson.com backslash podcast to grab the full show notes and resources now. You’ll also find more information there about Rosa and our amazing sponsors in still. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I’m so grateful for all of my listeners and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you missed me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram, under what the fundraising underscore. Have a great day and I’ll see you next week.

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