Most not-for-profit employees experience a deeply intrinsic motivation for their work, commonly saying it is their calling in life. This strength of purpose offers upsides and downsides for their resilience, defined as the ability to cope and thrive through adversity. On the upside, the determination of these devoted people provides energy for them to maintain their commitment to their work through obstacles and setbacks. On the downside, burnout and emotional exhaustion among those in the caring professions has reached a crescendo. Determination alone can prove brittle in the long run.

However, we may be able to strengthen the ability of these dedicated individuals to sustain their efforts by increasing the fulfillment of their psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. These calling-oriented people desire a say, value learning, and want a connection.

At the organizational level, resilience is defined as the ability to adjust positively under challenging conditions and emerge stronger. Resilient organizations apply their intellectual, cultural and financial resources to cope with and learn from unexpected events. These nimble organizations plan for the best and prepare for the worst, not relying too heavily on past success to predict future outcomes. They also love learning, relentlessly seeking feedback and applying it in the desire to improve.

This evidence-based session explores the psychological needs of purpose-driven employees and the success factors of resilient organizations, proposing practices for leaders of animal organizations to adopt.