Tim Delaney shares more than his professional ascent. He shares a deeper exploration of what it truly means to find fulfillment in both career and life.

Ep 148 Achieving Personal Fulfillment Through Nonprofit Leadership

Tim Delaney shares more than his professional ascent. He shares a deeper exploration of what it truly means to find fulfillment in both career and life.

In this captivating “BF to AF” podcast episode, Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, takes us on an enlightening journey through his life and career. This episode isn’t just a tale of professional ascent; it’s a deeper exploration of what it truly means to find fulfillment in both career and life.

Tim Delaney: A Story of Purpose-Driven Change

Tim’s story begins in his law career, where he started as an attorney. While this career path is often associated with success, Tim felt a different calling. His desire to make a tangible difference led him from the courtroom to the boardroom, as he became the CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits. This transition was more than a career shift; it was his shift towards a life that aligned with his core values to give back. Tim benefited greatly from a scholarship early in his career, which motivated him to pay it forward to give others a chance to succeed in their lives.

Key Discussion Points:

1️⃣ Chasing Fulfillment: Often, we chase career milestones without understanding what truly fulfills us. Tim’s revelation about the importance of fulfillment over traditional success metrics offers a refreshing perspective. He discusses how the realization that he was, in fact, chasing fulfillment all along in his career, gave his journey a more profound meaning. This part of the conversation is particularly insightful for those re-evaluating their career paths.

2️⃣ Embracing New Opportunities: Tim’s narrative encourages us to listen to our inner voices. He talks about the pivotal moments when he chose to step into the unknown, embracing new opportunities that aligned with his desire to make a difference. This segment is not just inspiring but also practical, offering advice on how to recognize and seize life-changing opportunities.

3️⃣ The Power of Nonprofits: In a world driven by profit, Tim sheds light on the immense value of nonprofits. He connects their work to the five pillars of fulfillment: health, fitness, career, relationships, and legacy. This discussion is an eye-opener for anyone looking to enrich their lives through meaningful engagement in various sectors of society.

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Midlife Career Reboot Workbook | Bernie Borges | Midlife Fulfilled Podcast

Episode Transcript

Bernie Borges [00:00:00]:
Tim, welcome to the Midlife Fulfill Podcast Day BF TO AF Episode.

Tim Delaney [00:00:05]:
Thanks, Bernie. I’m delighted to be here. Been looking forward to this conversation with you from the exposure I’ve had so far to your great podcast.

Bernie Borges [00:00:14]:
Well, thank you, Tim. I’m delighted to have you, and I’m looking forward To our conversation, you know, we agreed that you would do a BF to AF episode. You have an illustrious career. There’s lots that you could Teach on, but you suggested that we really kinda focus on the fulfillment aspect. Before we get started, Tim, why don’t you tell the listener, what decade are you in age wise?

Tim Delaney [00:00:40]:
I’m in my sixties.

Bernie Borges [00:00:42]:
Okay. I’m in that same club, so, it’s a good club. Well, from a context perspective, I think your fulfillment story is around career. You’ve had, again, an illustrious career. So where would you like to begin your story, Tim?

Tim Delaney [00:01:01]:
I’ve always been a fan of The Wizard of Oz. And, starting at the beginning of the yellow brick road is was wise for Dorothy, and and I’ll I’ll start there. I was born in a long no. I, my career started, I’m an attorney by training, And, I started working for a large law firm, out west and was delighted to be, practicing law there and, became a partner, and, it was a dream come true in many ways. But then a little voice was telling me, there’s gotta be more. There’s gotta be more. And so, in pursuing the fulfillment Quest. When the attorney general of the state invited me to become the state solicitor general, I went over and did that, in part because I’d spent the 1st part of my career, at the law firm actually suing government quite a bit.

Tim Delaney [00:02:02]:
And, I thought, well, maybe I can fix things from the inside. And so, I went over to work at the AG’s office and There was an intervening, e election, after the 1st 4 years of my service and the new AG came in and, she was from the opposite party and promoted me to be her chief deputy attorney general. Did that for a couple years. Then At the end of my 1st AG’s, term, I thought I would pursue a dream, but I postponed it at that time. And the journey was to create a nonprofit center for leadership, ethics, and public service. And I did that for 8 years crisscrossing the country, working with Judges, legislators, nonprofits, executive officials, mayors, etcetera. Just trying to help people understand where some of the ethical laws are, what the limitations are, and reminding them why they’re doing public service. And then in 2008, my predecessor was leaving, and the board at the National Council of Nonprofits recruited me to take on the the role of being the CEO.

Tim Delaney [00:03:19]:
So, For the last 15 plus years, I’ve been the president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, working with nonprofits across the country.

Bernie Borges [00:03:29]:
Okay. Well, first of all, congratulations because in about 5 minutes, you just covered about a 40 year career history. Good. That’s pretty remarkable. And I’m gonna ask you to press rewind and go back to something at the beginning of your career overview. You said, Tim, and I’m gonna paraphrase because I don’t know that I can quote you verbatim, but you said something to the effect of you were chasing fulfillment. I’d like to unpack that, Tim. When you said that, and I think it was in reference to the early part of your career, if I’m not mistaken.

Bernie Borges [00:04:02]:
What did you mean by that? What what what what does chasing fulfillment mean at that point in your career?

Tim Delaney [00:04:09]:
I Would say I’m not done chasing. It it’s it’s something that’s always out there. It’s it’s elusive. I’m back.

Bernie Borges [00:04:18]:
But did you know you were chasing it though early in your career?

Tim Delaney [00:04:21]:
No. I I I didn’t, I didn’t use the word fulfillment. I just knew that I was not fulfilled, and I needed more. And, again, a blessing for me. I I was able to receive, scholarships in order to go to undergraduate and then law school and policy school. So I knew I needed to work at at a private law firm to pay off all the student loans that I had amassed over the years, in conjunction with the scholarships. And then at the law firm, I was doing as much pro bono work as possible, trying to help people in the community. When there was injustice, I had the opportunity to step forward and health people, and That was fulfilled, and it was usually, situations where in my opinion, the system was lined up against individuals, and so we needed to fix the systems.

Tim Delaney [00:05:21]:
And, you know, you can do so much pro bono on the side, but I I needed more of that in in terms of helping people and, you know, representing the big Banks and the big manufacturers and the big everything else, those paid the bills. And, that that’s certainly what my Partners wanted was, the people who would be billing all those hours and bringing in the money, and and I understood that. But Since that I am adding value to the world, and whether it was me representing this bank in this case or somebody else, it was We were nothing unique. Whereas, stepping forward and doing some of the pro bono work could actually solve problems and help people. And and that that’s what really drove me doing more and more in the community. At at the same time, I was doing That at the law firm, I was also getting very, involved in the community, serving on nonprofit boards, sitting on the the, the city’s parks and recreation board, just service in a variety of different ways. And and and that’s where I was finding happiness and joy. And I just felt the golden handcuffs of the law firm getting tighter and tighter.

Tim Delaney [00:06:42]:
And, I knew if I didn’t evacuate quickly that, I I might be stuck there forever. And, and again, it was It was a great firm, great people, but, I I needed more.

Bernie Borges [00:06:55]:
You said that you didn’t know you were chasing Fulfillment, but that you knew that you were not fulfilled. Do you remember reaching a point in your life, and I’m not asking you For, like, the day, but do you remember reaching a point where you did realize that you were chasing or wanted to chase fulfillment?

Tim Delaney [00:07:16]:
In those terms, the the the first time it really kinda clicked that that’s what I’ve been doing was when you and I Spoke recently, and it was just like, it all clicked and I understood it. And until then, I I just knew that there was this drive, this desire to do more, to help more, and I continued to to do that. It’s through Various, jobs I’ve I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to serve in.

Bernie Borges [00:07:46]:
So then what it sounds like then is you you you’ve wanted for For many, many years, you’ve wanted to make a difference beyond just the economics of driving the billable revenue that a law firm Is in the business to do is to drive billable revenue by supporting their clients, but you’ve long wanted to make a difference. You Sounds like you had opportunities early in your career to make a difference through pro bono work. But, Tim, it also sounds like over the years, That desire, that drive for you to make a difference just it’s it sounds like it continued to sort of grow inside of you, like You wanted to do more is kinda what I’m hearing.

Tim Delaney [00:08:30]:
That that you’re assessing that out very health, that because it it has been Something that’s growing. And and when I’m caught up in the big things, in in various jobs I’ve had, The rest of the world kind of shuts up because you can you could see and feel and sense that you actually are making a difference, And and that’s where it’s fun and exciting. And I the drive to make a difference, to have impact, I think it’s fueled by 2 things. 1, when I was, very young of the city library was just a couple blocks away. It was a pretty rural town in Indiana, and I was able to walk down the street to the library and and read the children’s book section because it was a small library in a small town. It wasn’t a big children’s section. And there were, At my age, only a few books that I was able to read, and it turns out they were about our nation’s founding fathers. And I would read and reread those.

Tim Delaney [00:09:39]:
And for whatever reason, stuck out that in order to be somebody, you needed to be a lawyer. I didn’t know what a lawyer was, but I just had this crazy notion that if I was gonna have impact, that’s what I needed to do. And Lo and behold, when, I’m a a father and I’m reading books and I saw those and got them from my daughters and would be reading to them, I recognized, wow, those founding fathers were also printing papers and were, at Sayers, for the land, and we’re, marketeers and and all sorts of other things. And for whatever reason, And farmers, certainly, and I glommed on to being a lawyer. My life might have been easier if I’d So I wanna be a farmer. Probably would have worked a lot harder as a farmer, but and so so that’s one thing that that fueled me. And the other was, Again, the way nonprofits have in influenced my life is I received a scholarship from people who were generous, who never knew that I existed, but gave money and it built up over the years. And I happened to be the recipient, And I was able to then go to college that way, and I just felt a desire to give back.

Tim Delaney [00:11:00]:
That I couldn’t and find out who set the scholarship funds up decades earlier. So it was a matter of paying it forward. And so, just using the training that I had as an attorney to then do good in the world It was a way of paying them back and feeling like, the debt that I owed them was being reduced, but it could never be paid paid off. I just, you know, felt like I needed to continue giving, and so that that’s been the driver.

Bernie Borges [00:11:33]:
Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. And and I’ve I’ve heard that before. I think it’s just part of our human spirit because I’ve heard others Share similar stories, Tim, where they were they had the good fortune. They were blessed by others, whether it’s individuals or organizations, and they felt Feel compelled to give back. Let’s talk about your current role. You’ve been the CEO at the National Council of Nonprofits since 2008.

Bernie Borges [00:12:02]:
I don’t know if the map on that is about 15 years. Let’s call it about that. What’s that about? Not just the job, but in the context of The fulfillment that, you experienced from it.

Tim Delaney [00:12:14]:
When I arrived within just a few weeks In the summer of 2008, the nation’s economy cratered, and it was the great recession just erupted. And, nonprofits were caught in in that. Donations went down significantly. Government Stop paying on their written contract agreements to we’re hiring nonprofits to go ahead and do the work, would promise They would reimburse the nonprofits for the work that we’re doing on behalf of those governments, and then governments were waiting 2 or 3 years to pay them back in essence, forcing nonprofits to be subsidizing governments. How backwards is that? Yeah. And the systems are set up against people who are trying to do good. And and so, I feel fulfilled when we Are able to go out and convince legislators, at the state level, talk to people in congress and so on, to make a difference. But one example is, with COVID, when it erupted and the congress was passing all sorts of laws quickly to try to help different industries survive.

Tim Delaney [00:13:36]:
They were they left nonprofits out of some of those bills. We saw the drafts, our organization working with colleagues, here in our network across the country, we’re we’re able to we we drafted language and and convinced congress to put it in there. And, according, for example, on the PPP loans, nonprofits were left out of that. And so money could go to small businesses, but not Small nonprofits who, were 10% of the workforce. We’re the 3rd largest employer in the country collectively, and they left us out. And so we were able to get nonprofits inserted. And according to the SBA, nonprofits were able to Receive, $50,000,000,000 in PPP loans. And again, according to the SBA, that saved about half of the nonprofit jobs in the country.

Tim Delaney [00:14:36]:
That’s significant. Can you imagine America without half the nonprofit workforce during the depths of the pandemic with all the cars lined up, seeking food and people lined up seeking shelter and all the great needs, that can’t be done without nonprofits. And so, it it’s a thrill to fight the good fight for people who are trying to do good in their local communities to help other people.

Bernie Borges [00:15:04]:
Yeah. So I think then, you’ve just connected some dots for me, Tim, where you said that you’re still chasing fulfillment, And it sounds to me like that ongoing chase, if you will, is simply the the work that you’re doing and the impact that you’re having By being in service to and and in support of nonprofits across the US. And I assume it’s it’s US based. Right? US focused?

Tim Delaney [00:15:30]:
It primarily, we we actually have expanded into Canada. Our network, the National Council of Nonprofits is the largest network of charitable nonprofits in North America that we connect nonprofits coast to coast, border to border, and into Canada now. Just trying to help, connect dots. We we we do 3 things. We connect nonprofits, so that they can do peer learning and work together on community problems. We champion nonprofits in public policy advocacy work and trying to help people understand they have a voice, and they can talk to their government officials. Nonprofits are the closest people to the actual social problems. They will know the solutions better than anyone health.

Tim Delaney [00:16:19]:
So we shouldn’t be hoarding those solutions. We ought to be going and talking to lawmakers to say the system’s broken, here’s how you can fix it. Unfortunately, a lot of lawmakers ignore nonprofits, and so it’s it’s a it’s a clash. And, then The third thing we do is we inform, people about nonprofits, including informing nonprofits. But we do research, we publish it. We do a lot of sense making, looking at the trends that are developing. So, the through those three things, we have our fingers on in a lot of different pots that we’re stirring all the time.

Bernie Borges [00:16:57]:
Okay. And so so back to the fulfillment Question. So you’re still chasing that fulfillment just by virtue of what you’re doing and the impact that you’re having In the nonprofit world. Is that right, Tim?

Tim Delaney [00:17:10]:
Yes. The the the active chasing normally occurs in in my experience with with the different jobs that I’ve had. At a certain point, I understood that I would never be able to reach the the kind of fulfillment that I needed at the law firm. So I’ve started just looking around, then at the AG’s office. I knew I wasn’t gonna do that for my entire life. And I was looking around, I helped impeach a governor and remove him from office. It removed some other elected officials when I was at the AG’s office for breaching the public trust, and then, was I’ve always been enamored with leadership and how people can serve. And so, I I kept walking around going, What on the planet can I do where I can be marrying leadership and ethics and public service together? And Thought about going to university, but I didn’t wanna be caught up in, the the something that’s big, but Then, get squeezed out because of the university setting.

Tim Delaney [00:18:21]:
So, I finally said, I’ll create a nonprofit. I didn’t know what I was gonna be involved, but I just did it. And then this opportunity came up, and so I took that. But at different stages, in in previous jobs, there came a point where I realized this isn’t enough. I need more. So it wasn’t consciously saying I’m gonna go today, I’m still chasing, but it it’s really when it reaches the point. No matter what I do, I’m not gonna be able to do it enough, and so I need to find something else to do. And to to your listeners, I I would encourage people to listen to those inner voices and have the courage to then act.

Tim Delaney [00:19:07]:
Too many people, are unfulfilled because they get on the first step of the conveyor belt of life, And they just kind of roll on on that conveyor health, and nothing much exciting happens. They just keep Move it along. And there are places where you can jump off that conveyor belt and chart your own path and do something different. And That’s when the magic occurs. When you have the courage, you take action, and you’re creating something. And it’s scary as all get out, but it it’s energized.

Bernie Borges [00:19:43]:
I couldn’t agree more. Very, very well said. Very articulate, Tim. What comes to mind is that You provide great inspiration to I’ll call the younger listeners. In this case, I’m referring to people Specifically in their forties. The reason that I I call out that decade, Tim, is because I often hear from people in their forties This sense of I’ve gotta I’ve gotta achieve x, y, or z now before it’s too late as if, You know, the the the world is gonna end or the life is gonna end in the next 2 years. For some reason, many people in their forties think that They just gotta make everything happen. That’s this fulfillment journey that they’ve they’ve been on.

Bernie Borges [00:20:30]:
It’s gotta happen now. And you and I, because we’re both in that same decade, are charging hard with lots of energy, working hard, Chasing fulfillment, recognizing it. We we’re we’re doing it knowingly. We’re chasing fulfillment knowingly And enjoying the journey along the way, and I hope that anyone that’s in their forties Ken, look at you and I. We’re here to feature you, not me, but be because we’re both in the same decade, I, you know, I can speak a little bit for both of us saying Expect. Look forward to the continuation of the journey. Don’t think that because you’re in your forties, again, I’m speaking to the listener, not you and I, Tim, that it’s gotta happen tomorrow. You are a great example of You’re enjoying the journey in your current decade, and there’s so much that we have to give for a long, long time.

Tim Delaney [00:21:27]:
Absolutely. However, my, take on is, again, it wasn’t until We spoke, recently that this concept of chasing fulfillment, it was really more about making a difference. It was about having impact. And now I’m seeing that I get fulfillment from doing that, but but I didn’t have that label before. And and so I offer that perspective. The the other thing for your younger listeners is I’ve been Taken aback recently, by my own ignorance, and, I’ve had my my nose to the grindstone just focused on doing things, but I’ve had in the back of my head this scene from, little big man where the chief starts to wander off into the prairie and Dustin Hoffman’s character chases him and like, you know, where are you going? And the chief said, you know, in our culture, we go off, when The spirit calls us, so we’re gonna die. And so we just walk out, and we don’t, you know, push down on everybody else. Now that’s my memory.

Tim Delaney [00:22:42]:
I’m not saying that That that’s exactly what what was said. And then the chief comes back, couple days later going, well, I guess the spirit didn’t didn’t need me. I I misheard that call, and that that gets repeated throughout. But in my head, from long ago, when you turned 65, you retired, and then you you kinda shriveled up and, You know, we’re a raisin, and and then you died. And it it’s just recently that I’ve become aware of The tremendous life opportunities after people retire, their their 1st career, whatever that may be, or multiple careers that they’ve strung together. And there’s so much future out there, to provide more impact. And that impact can be for society like I have been, chasing, Or it can be for yourself. I I’m, you know, I I’m intrigued by how you have your 5 pillars of of fulfillment, and, you know, with health and fitness and career and relationships and legacy.

Tim Delaney [00:23:54]:
And it it it struck me that People can get involved with nonprofits in all of those aspects to pursue with health. You got the physical with nonprofit hospitals and clinics and youth swimming. Mental, you’ve got education centers from Preschool to going to Yale, teaching to suicide prevention, and so that there’s a full range of fitness. You’ve got little league all the way to the senior Olympics and beyond, careers. A lot of people start their careers as interns at nonprofits where they get exposed to, a variety of different things, and then they go into the for profit market or like I’ve done working for nonprofits, either as a volunteer or full time employment and relationships with yourself through education, relationships with God, through of religious congregations and spiritual centers. The the relationships with others, the opportunities are endless. Your relationship with the environment through conservation groups or climate change groups responded to natural disasters. So legacy, pretty much Any and all of the above, and giving back through your time and donations.

Tim Delaney [00:25:14]:
So your Five pillars of fulfillment. If anyone’s searching for fulfillment, I invite you, please get involved with a nonprofit. That’s where you will find fulfillment and and happiness.

Bernie Borges [00:25:28]:
Wow. That is beautifully said, Tim. Very eloquently, said, and and I think we’ll, we’ll wrap it there. This is conversation that has really exceeded my expectation in terms of just gaining further insight and understanding into To the experience that you’ve had. I’m I’m really struck by what you said about how fulfillment is only a recent sort of understanding for you, But I would even submit to you that it was just a different word for you. It’s something you’ve been very, very aware of for decades. It was just a different word, And now the word fulfillment resonates with you, and and and that’s great, but you certainly have been aware of it. It was just a different word, And and now you’re, applying that word in a way that’s meaningful to you, and and that’s that’s terrific.

Bernie Borges [00:26:17]:

Tim Delaney [00:26:19]:
I would agree with that, Bernie, and and take it a step further. And I thank you for, exposing me to This concept of fulfillment through your podcast. But but recently in I had a conversation with Someone on Saturday, and she was talking about fulfillment and her changes in career and so on. And and all of a sudden, there’s this word that’s popped up. I didn’t have a label or a handle for it before. Now I do. And it helps make me feel a little more fulfilled.

Bernie Borges [00:26:54]:
I love it. I love it. Well, Tim, thank you so much for joining me on this episode of the Midlife of Phil cash day, a BF to AF conversation that is just heartwarming. If anybody wants to connect with you, where they can maybe connect with you on LinkedIn? Sure. LinkedIn, Tim Delaney. Okay. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes Page, so that anybody, who’s interested in connecting can certainly connect with you there.

Tim Delaney [00:27:23]:
Yeah. And and certainly through, the National Council of Nonprofits. I invite people to go to our website, the council of nonprofits.org. The research that we do, the materials we develop, we do it for free as a matter of equity so that everybody has access to it. It’s not a pay to play. And, you will find a wealth of activity information, including, how to link up with nonprofits in your state so that there’s endless opportunities at at your fingertips at council nonprofits.org.

Bernie Borges [00:27:59]:
Wonderful. Well, that will be linked up in the show

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