There are all sorts of books and articles out there detailing the characteristics to look for when seeking leaders for non-profits. They list such things as business savvy, previous volunteer involvement or service to the association.

But few, if any, mention one that is an overlooked important harbinger of success.: Excellent association leaders are those who are gardeners.


You shouldn’t be. Here are 4 reasons why:

Better Mental Health

Those who garden have greater satisfaction with life. Studies show that those who dig in the dirt rate their “zest for life” along with the amount of optimism higher than those who do not.

Another aspect that has been discovered is that gardening helps people handle agitation, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Wouldn’t you rather have someone with a healthy balance in life working with your organization?

More Physically Fit

In addition to improved mental health, those who work with plants have better physical health such as lower diabetes and osteoporosis risks because of exercise, movement (such as bending over) and overall physical activity. That translates into volunteers and staff members who can meet the physical challenges inherent in conducting various association functions such as meetings, seminars and fundraisers (

Better Diets

Beyond the physical benefits that gardening provides those who work in non-profits, there is the very obvious one of diet. We tend to eat those things we raise. With the emphasis on organic food in restaurants and in grocery stores, clearly those who are busy growing food and herbs will cook them and eat healthier. The result is association personnel who not as prone to sickness thus absent from work.

The good news is that gardening is no longer limited to rural or even suburban areas. Those who live in cities can enjoy modest container gardens or even grow fresh herbs inside all year round (  So non-profit personnel can benefit regardless of where they live.

Gardeners Are Like Associations

Gardening is similar to what associations tout themselves to be.  It creates bonds with other people making them feel connected to something larger than themselves. It creates conversations, builds communities and strengthens life long learning as people talk about the success of their harvests, seek help when plants do poorly and share ideas of various ways to meet challenges in growing.

So the next time you are recruiting someone to work with your non-profit, ask if this person is a gardener.  It might just be the person who will “grow” your organization.

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