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Starting a Nonprofit? Here’s How to Fight Founder Loneliness

An overhead shot of a business meeting.

You’ve been hard at work developing your nonprofit, building it from the ground up. You’ve carefully researched the needs of the population you wish to serve, identified ways to meet them, and created a pipeline to necessary resources. You might have even caught the attention of your local media or planted seeds for a budding network of advisors or volunteers.

While you have a connection to the outside world, you sense a certain longing for camaraderie in your working hours with people who are creating, building, or hacking away at a new idea or project.

You may not realize that it is natural to experience “founder loneliness” along the way and that many of your fellow nonprofit leaders are likely to silently be experiencing it, too. According to Forbes:

"One reason why so few founders are vocal about loneliness is the fear that friends and loved ones simply won’t get it. Other founders, however, will. That’s why building a network of like-minded entrepreneurs is critical to overcoming feelings of isolation."

How can you build that network? As the article suggests, consider a space where innovation can be nurtured, creative solutions discovered, and breakthroughs occur: a social-impact coworking space.

This is different than temporarily setting up your office operations at a local coffee lounge. The energy present in a coworking space lends itself well to new ideas and relationship-building. Not to mention that some coworking spaces offer helpful tools like desks, printers, and wifi, and opportunities to host events to get the word out about your new initiative.

Check out coworking spaces tailored for nonprofits and social innovators, such as ImpactHub (a global network of 50 shared work spaces), Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation (New Orleans), Wix Lounge (a free coworking and event space in NYC), and PunchRock (D.C.).

To make the most of these spaces, consider your fellow members as ambassadors for each other’s missions. When you are exposed to the work of another founder while he or she is in the thick of it, you can attest to the mission and spread the word to others, and they can do the same for you. The connections you make in a coworking space can also provide an authentic support.

Looking for a coworking space near you? You can find a few on Idealist.

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by Victoria Crispo

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