Feeling Burnt-out? Lacking Inspiration? Check Out Durfee’s Nonprofit Leader Lifeline

When Carrie Avery took over as President of the Los Angeles-based Durfee Foundation, she reflected upon how she would interpret her grandparents’ wishes and guide the family philanthropy in her own way.

As she looked around at nonprofits in the Los Angeles, she saw entirely too many nonprofit leaders who were overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and burning out fast. "It seemed like such a loss," Carrie told the Bridgespan Group.

Her solution was a sabbatical program that would give nonprofit leaders a break, spark some inspiration, and ultimately keep them in the game. The program was launched in 1997 and allows grant recipients to design their own time off in whatever way would rejuvenate them both professionally and personally.  

If this sounds like a dream come true, read on to learn a few essential things about the Durfee Sabbatical Program.

$45,000 Is Up for Grabs

The Durfee Sabbatical Program offers up to six individuals stipends and expenses of up to $40,000 to travel, reflect, and renew themselves in any way they choose. Durfee is not in the business of telling you what you can and cannot do with the time and money. However, there’s another $5,000 up for grabs for candidates affiliated with organizations that are willing to establish a permanent fund for staff development. The whole point of this is to enable other staff members to access to training programs or short-term leaves to enhance their professional capacities.

Sabbaticals Are for Three Consecutive Non-Working Months

You’re not allowed to split your time off into segments because the program requires a sabbatical of three consecutive months. Both large and small nonprofit leaders are encouraged to apply, but only paid staff members working in Los Angeles County are eligible. This is not the time to write a book, pick up a second job, or pursue any goal-oriented projects. Durfee wants recipients to get out of Los Angeles to travel, spend time with family, and develop new interests.

Sabbatical Awards Aren’t the Top Funding Priority

In 2013, sabbatical awards accounted for $212,500 of the Durfee Foundation’s total $1,154,931 annual giving. Although these awards have received a lot of attention from local charities and suspicious funders, more Durfee funds actually flow to the Stanton Fellowships and the Earthwatch program for high school students.  

Durfee Wants to Build Positive Long-Term Nonprofit Relationships

In exchange for a much-needed break from stressful 80-hour work weeks, Durfee expects to foster long-term relationships through its sabbatical program. The foundation stays in touch with nonprofit leaders long after the sabbatical period is over through semi-annual lunches, biennial retreats, and occasional follow-ups.

"The conversation immediately elevates to the bigger challenges of the work they do, the challenges facing the sector, and the work-life balance," Carrie said. “These convenings, in other words, provide an additional way for participants to step into a creative space, breathe, and refocus.”

The entire sabbatical grant application process is conducted online, and application forms can be accessed on the foundation website. The program is offered biennially, and the next application deadline is March 19, 2015.

Related The Durfee Foundation: Los Angeles Grants