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The Privilege of Creativity

This first appeared in a recent Broccoli Bite, our bi-weekly email newsletter. If you'd like to dig into these, sign up today.

It’s fun to talk about creativity, inspiration, and ideas.

It’s less fun to talk about how closely the creative process is linked to privilege.

We believe everyone has the ability to be creative. But, not everyone is in the privileged position to bring forth creative ideas, because one or more of their more basic needs are not being met.

In case it’s been a while since you were in high school social studies, here’s a quick refresher on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a theory that outlines five types of human needs that influence our behaviour, depending on whether or not they are met. The most fundamental needs are physiological, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and lastly, self-actualization.

Creativity—that topic we can’t get enough of—sits at the top of the hierarchy as one form of self-actualization. But it’s not at the top because it’s the most important. It’s there because it’s entirely dependent on the other more basic needs being met first.

If it’s creativity you want, from yourself or your team, it starts with humanity.

In a work setting, you can’t fulfil every need for every team member. But, fair compensation goes a long way toward meeting basic survival needs of food, water, clothing, and shelter. But it’s not a cure-all. Money doesn’t necessarily help teams feel like their jobs are secure and that they have the support they need. It also doesn’t necessarily mean people feel like they belong, feel respected, feel confident, or have high self-esteem.

If you’re asking your team to be a fountain of creativity, but the ideas aren’t flowing, dig deeper.

Healthy teams are creative teams because their needs are being met.

Image: Fountain by Maxicons from

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Holly H. Paulin, CFRE and Brock Warner CFRE are the co-founders of Broccoli, and have over 30 years combined experience helping nonprofit fundraisers and charities do more. 

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