Having joined Imago Dei, just three months ago, I am already deeply inspired by the incredible work of our grantee partners and the impact they achieve in the world. Our partners, while diverse in their missions and the ecosystems they work in, all share a common thread – the presence of passionate dedicated leaders who wholeheartedly serve their communities. In serving so tirelessly, it would be easy for our grantee partners to overlook their own spiritual, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. So, I was thrilled to discover how Imago Dei’s commitment to partners extends to their holistic wellbeing by nurturing the “inner life” of their leadership and staff through the Keep the Spark Alive Fund. This funding is available to current grantee partners in our core portfolio with smaller budgets.

Looking back on 2023, it’s fascinating to see the ways each of our partners defined what “keeping the spark alive” means to their staff and organization. From restorative activities to soul care literature, this blog will explore the unique ways three grantee partners – World Without Exploitation (WorldWE), African Road, and Kupenda for the Children – used the Keep the Spark Alive Fund to support wellbeing in their organizations.

At Imago Dei, we find immense joy in investing not just in the impactful programs of our grantee partners, but also in the individuals steering these initiatives and their teams. The annual Keep the Spark Alive Fund is our commitment to supporting the wellbeing within smaller organizations working tirelessly towards positive change. Every year, our grantee partners define what “keeping that spark alive” means to them, dedicating themselves to establishing a lasting culture of wellbeing for their organizations.

Our partners, engaged in the vital work of restoring human dignity, unleashing human agency and healing societal fractures, use the Keep the Spark Alive Fund for a variety of activities to nourish their spark – the essence of what drives them. These range from staff retreats to stress management programs, showcasing the innovative ways our partners prioritize nurturing their inner life.

We know that good leadership is irreplaceable for achieving the social impact our grantee partners set out to achieve. As Perennial Co-Founder, Britt Yamamoto, shared on our blog previously, “more than anything—ideas, strategic plans, policies, funding—positive social change requires humans, leaders, to make the impossible possible.” With employees in the nonprofit sector among those particularly vulnerable to burnout, investing in the inner life of leaders and supporting their capacity for renewal is critical to Imago Dei’s holistic approach.

Here, we share three creative ways grantee partners shaped a culture of wellbeing for their staff in 2023:

World Without Exploitation (WorldWE)

WorldWE’s all virtual team gathered in person for a self care presentation titled “Tuning into the Wisdom of the Body to Optimize your Advocacy Journey.” Led by Laura Mahr, a former practicing attorney and founder of Conscious Legal Minds, the presentation focused on tools to promote productivity and build resilience to stress. The team learned how to cultivate resilience by “neuro-hacking” their nervous system throughout the day through “mini-moments of well-being.” Through the lens of neurobiology, staff and survivor trainees discussed strategies for self-care, empowering them to mitigate vicarious trauma in their daily work.

African Road

The leadership and staff at African Road recognized the shared desire for spiritual connection and growing stronger as a team. With funding from the Keep the Spark Alive Fund, they organized a 2-night retreat with a facilitator to guide the team in restorative reflection, dialogue, and practice. This dedicated time together provided space for team building, spiritual coaching, soul care, and reflection. The retreat, filled with restful and insightful moments, strengthened team connections and contributed to a caring staff culture. For African Road, it was an opportunity for the team to exhale, reflect, and grow stronger together.

Kupenda for the Children

Kupenda invested in the course “Discover the Enneagram: A Tool for Christian Spiritual Transformation” to dive into the individual desires and motivations of its staff to explore how they impact team dynamics. Facilitated by Enneagram trainers, Doug and Adele Calhoun, the course fostered a sense of unity, understanding, and compassion among team members. The Keep the Spark Alive Fund enabled Kupenda to provide the virtual course to all 14 staff members in the U.S. and Kenya, focusing on team building, conflict management, and spiritual growth. The insights gained from the Enneagram are actively being applied, influencing task delegation and enhancing overall team effectiveness.

Pictured above, Nyanam is also exploring the Enneagram to advance team self-awareness. In 2024, the team will be reading Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram by Adele and Doug Calhoun and The Road Back to You – Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron, and reflecting together during weekly team meetings.

More reflections from our grantee partners on how they’re keeping the spark alive.

With the holidays behind us, and a new year underway, January can be a great time for goal setting and reflection on what nurturing your inner life means for your organization. These stories exemplify how grantee partners are not just focusing on their external missions but also prioritizing the internal wellbeing of their teams. As we start this new year, may we all take inspiration from their commitment to the whole person, weaving a fabric of compassion, resilience, and wellbeing into the heart of their work.