The Benefits of Humor and Play in Nonprofit Work

In the world of nonprofit work, it’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of the issues we’re addressing. We’re often dealing with pressing challenges, tight budgets, and high stakes. While passion and dedication are crucial to our mission, we mustn’t forget the importance of humor and play in our work. So let’s explore the benefits of laughter and playfulness, and how they can make a difference in our organizations and the communities we serve. Grab a cup of joe, relax, and let’s have some fun!

Boosting Morale and Reducing Stress

Nonprofit professionals often face long hours, demanding tasks, and emotionally taxing situations. Injecting humor and play into the workplace can help relieve stress and create a more positive work environment. Take the example of Charity: Water, an organization that has built a culture around fun and playfulness. They’ve been known to host office Olympics and wear costumes to work to lighten the mood and improve morale.

A few years ago, they partnered with The Second City, an improv comedy school in Chicago, to create a comedy training program for their staff. They’ve also hosted improv workshops and stand-up comedy nights at their offices around the world. This approach has helped them foster a sense of community and shared purpose among employees.

Encouraging Creativity and Innovation

Humor and play can spark creativity and inspire out-of-the-box thinking. When we’re able to let loose and have fun, we’re more likely to come up with unique ideas and solutions to the problems we face. For instance, Movember, a nonprofit addressing men’s health issues, turned a fun idea – growing a mustache during November – into a creative and highly successful global fundraising campaign.

One of the ways they did this was by engaging people in creative competitions, such as mustache-growing contests, mustache-themed art exhibits, and challenges for kids to create humorous videos about their dads or grandfathers growing mustaches. Movember also hosts an annual global event called Mo Space that brings together supporters from all over the world for parties and celebrations.

Strengthening Team Cohesion

Laughter and play can bring people together and foster a sense of camaraderie. Activities like team-building exercises, games, and shared jokes can break down barriers and help colleagues bond. At the annual staff retreat, employees engage in lighthearted activities such as talent shows and themed dinners to build connections and create lasting memories.

During the retreat, employees are encouraged to form teams that will compete in a popular game called “Capture the Flag.” This activity requires participants to work together as a team while also having fun. In addition to strengthening relationships between colleagues, uses this event as an opportunity to bring new employees up-to-speed on their mission and culture.

Making Your Organization More Approachable

A playful and humorous tone can make your nonprofit more relatable and accessible to your target audience. By incorporating humor into your communications and storytelling, you can create a memorable and engaging brand. The American Red Cross, for example, uses humor in their social media campaigns to capture attention and generate awareness about the importance of blood donations.

In one campaign, they showed the importance of donations in a tweet they posted in June of 2018. The tweet shows a picture of a blood donation center with a sign that reads “HemoDynamic: Blood, Sweat & Tears – It’s Kind of Our Thing.” The caption reads “We promise donating blood isn’t as scary as the name of our bloodmobile.” The use of puns and humor in the tweet helps to lighten the mood and make the idea of donating blood seem less intimidating, while still conveying the important message that blood donations are needed.

Enhancing Resilience and Adaptability

Laughter and play can help us cultivate a sense of perspective and develop resilience in the face of adversity. When we’re able to laugh at ourselves and find humor in difficult situations, we’re better equipped to handle challenges and setbacks. Nonprofit organizations like Clowns Without Borders send professional clowns to conflict zones and refugee camps to spread joy and laughter, demonstrating the healing power of humor in even the most dire circumstances.

Laughter and play are also important elements of resilience training, which is now used in many companies and organizations to help people deal with stress. Research suggests that humor and laughter can help us develop a sense of perspective—our ability to see things from multiple angles and points of view—which is an important component of resilience.

While the importance of humor and play may be underestimated in the nonprofit sector, it’s clear that embracing a lighthearted approach can have numerous benefits for our organizations and the communities we serve. By cultivating a culture of laughter and playfulness, we can improve morale, foster creativity, strengthen teams, and make our work more engaging and impactful. So go ahead and crack a joke, play a game, and remember – laughter truly is the best medicine!

Mission Forward

Mission Forward is a weekly LinkedIn Newsletter written by Paul Durban with tools, tips and tricks to help nonprofits reach their goals. Subscribe to the newsletter on LinkedIn.