Heads up! In one month, SJF will take an organization-wide wellness pause from December 12, 2022 through January 6, 2023. In this period, staff will not be working and we’ll take a break from sharing updates about our work on social media and by email.
If you have questions or matters to close out before the end of the year, please get in touch soon! Click here to email our info account to get connected to the right staffer for your inquiry.
If you have a time-sensitive need while we are on pause, please email our info account. This account will be checked once per week on Wednesdays. For urgent requests, please note “Urgent” in the subject line. For end-of-year donations, please note “Donation” in the subject line. You will receive a response within the week. Otherwise, we thank you for your patience and will respond to you after January 9.
SJF’s wellness pause from December to January is one part of our effort to position Black liberation and wellness as guiding principles for our work. Racialized capitalism demands the degradation of our mental and physical health as the price for its constant churn to produce more and greater wealth for the few. The nonprofit sector, SJF included, is no stranger to these patterns! We earnestly lament burnout, but place the onus to rest on the individual, on people who are already up to their eyeballs in responsibilities and deadlines, then wonder why turnover is so high. It became clear to us that a deliberate, organization-wide pause was necessary to achieve the collective rest we need. We took our first pause one year ago in December of 2021 and found ourselves more rested, more creative, and better prepared overall to tackle the work we had ahead of us in 2022.
Since then, we’ve also adopted a 4-day/32 hour work week. This is a big departure from the standard American working week! Some in our community have reached out with questions: How do you make it work? Are you able to run programming, support donor organizers, fundraise, and award grants as effectively? Are salaries lower because staff work fewer hours? What’s changed behind the scenes? Can it really…work?
These questions have come from a place of curiosity and wonder, from folks who invest themselves in SJF through donations, volunteering, and engagement. They come from people who, just like us, love to dream of expansive, liberatory futures and who, just like us, have been conditioned by white supremacist, capitalist norms to unconsciously doubt that those futures can be achieved.
The answer is yes! The work is happening! We are raising and moving millions of dollars, doing political education with donors, supporting powerful grassroots movements! Staff are being paid just as much! And yes, it has been challenging to scale and manage workloads, to try really, really hard to not respond to emails on Fridays knowing projects will move a little slower, to learn how to set goals with timelines that incorporate rest as a key parameter. We still move through disagreements and tensions; we still must push ourselves to show up to conflict in generative, grounded ways. We are proud of our work in 2022. We see it accomplishing real, material change. And we see where we need to make adjustments and keep cracking away at the very hard nut that is achieving work-life balance under capitalism, through a recession, during a global pandemic, and in a sector shaped by constant urgency in response to the constant crisis of oppression.
From the viewpoint of serving our grantees and our community, it benefits our mission to retain staff so we can build the collective foundation of knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to do our work well. Moreover, our staff are representative of many of the communities we serve: we are a majority Black, Black-led organization with a racially and ethnically diverse staff; we employ queer and trans folks, immigrants, parents, caregivers, survivors, and community organizers. We would be remiss to champion Black liberation — which we believe to be at the root of liberation for all people — without turning our gaze inward to create the conditions most supportive of our own survival and wellness.
It is worth giving this very different way of doing things a chance. It is worth giving our organization time to adjust and investigate.
By doing this we not only give ourselves more time to rest, but also the opportunity to gain new skills (facilitating meetings more effectively, updating and documenting our processes, building stronger data systems, etc.) and learn from and share those learnings with our community (Outcome 6 of our very new 2022-25 Strategic Plan). The wellness SJF desires isn’t limited to our organization — we aren’t the only nonprofit that has adopted a shorter work week and we hope we aren’t the last! We’re able to make these changes due in part to our access to resources as a foundation, the size of our staff, our donor organizer base, and the number of decades we’ve been around. The policies we’ve developed work for us based on our particular conditions. However, by sharing our process, we hope to enable others to make similar changes. Nonprofit professionals who’d like to learn about how we did this in detail, please email our Executive Director, Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes!
We are conditioned by white supremacist, capitalist norms to believe that things are just “like this,” that they always have been — a lie that negates the brilliance and difference of our many homelands pre-colonization and the spread of global capitalism. But there are so many different possibilities and ways of being. If we charge ourselves with struggling for a better world, we must take action to establish it, not only in how we interact with our donors, grantees, and community members, but in how we treat ourselves. We can evaluate our success not only by how many new donors we gained or how much money we moved, but also by how much energy we have to do the work, how strong our internal relationships are, and how long staff stick around. Thank you for being part of our ongoing transformation. To more life in our movements!