Is there someone who has inspired you in life or in your career? A figure who, through their words, has made a lasting impression and influenced the work you do – or how you do it?

I posed these questions to a small group of nonprofit communicators, who responded with some very powerful words; not only the quotes that inspired them, but what these individuals had to say about the impacts these words have had on their work and outlook.

Here are the people – and the quotes – that inspired your peers:


David Foster Wallace

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

“Every six months or so I re-read David Foster Wallace’s commencement address at Kenyon College (later published as the book This Is Water). One of the big take-aways is that we have a choice in how we think– a choice in how we see the world and all of the people we interact with. ‘Freedom’ isn’t the lack of responsibility or care—it’s the meeting of responsibility and the ability to care.

In marketing and communications this idea plays a huge role in my every day tasks. Even though so much of marketing and communications is done online (where people have an easier time voicing their anger and disapproval), this quote reminds me to continue seeking humility and humanity in my work.”

 -Alexandra Axel
Media Director
The Caregiver Space


“One of the most inspirational pieces of writing I have ever read is David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water. It originated as a commencement speech but I read it online several years later. If you haven’t read it you must. There really is so much in this speech but to me it is about being conscious of your thoughts and actions, striving to do a better job of empathizing, and using your education to really think.

In the nonprofit sector we meet, speak, and email so many people every day. We push ourselves to complete as many tasks as we can. This speech is a reminder to instead focus on real connections with people and living a compassionate life.”

-Suzanne Hallsworth
Community Giving & Communications Director
Oakville Hospital Foundation



Mother Theresa

“In high school, I remember coming across a quotation attributed to Mother Theresa, ‘We can do no great things, only small things with great love.’ I have carried this quotation with me throughout my life as a reminder of the importance of investing our hearts into the small things we do on a day-to-day basis.”

-Jason Shim
Digital Media Manager
Pathways to Education Canada



Marcus Buckingham

“Something that has always stuck with me is from what Marcus Buckingham said about leadership: ‘You are a leader if, and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo.’ 

You can always do better. It’s not that what you have done in the past is wrong, and it isn’t about disregarding history. It’s all about taking the next steps and continually raising that standard of excellence within your organization. It’s more than a quote, it’s a mindset. It’s the attitude I carry and want to instill in my team.”

Dusty Buell
Director of Marketing


And you? Is there someone whose words have really inspired and stuck with you? Please share your inspirational quote – and your thoughts on it – in the comments.


Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira