By: Melissa Lagwoski
Big Buzz Idea Group
Do you feel overwhelmed by the demands of your organization? Struggling to balance all of the responsibilities in your work week? Are the pressures of your nonprofit spilling over into your personal time?
These common challenges can happen throughout the year but there are simple actions that will remove those issues for more productivity. And January is a great time to make a few small changes to reclaim your time and elevate your organization to new heights!
Identify Your Priorities
Take some time to get clear about what you must do in the year ahead to move your organization forward. What three things would make the most impact on your organization? We know what our largest priorities are but the daily fire drills in a nonprofit distract us, and when we aren’t focused on the most important work, it doesn’t happen.
For example, let’s say that your three highest priorities are to hire an additional staff member, create a new marketing plan and procure an additional $100,000 in fundraising for the year ahead. Prioritizing your three most important tasks help you stay rooted and clear about what the most important focus should be for you over the next 12 months.
Make a Plan
Once you have identified the three most important items needed to grow your nonprofit, break each task down into mini-tasks that will get the big task accomplished. Large goals can seem overwhelming and stall our progress, so break down that big item into smaller tasks and life gets easier. You can set goals to tackle the smaller tasks on a weekly or daily basis to meet your objective. And when you are chipping away regularly at the individual tasks, you will see progress toward that larger goal.
Using the fundraising example above, a plan will map the steps to secure the $100,000. How much will come from individual donors? How much will come from corporate sponsorship? How much will come from grants? Once you segregate this task into the appropriate buckets, simply identify the steps needed to achieve each of those sub-goals. From there, break it down to identify how many meetings you need to attain each goal.
Thinking about the $100,000 goal by itself may seem daunting, but when you break it down and get to the point that you know you need to complete two grants, renew your corporate supporters and conduct five qualified donor meetings per month, it seems much easier to secure that $100k.
Clarify Your Responsibilities
Too often, busy nonprofit executives have requests and assignments coming at them from every direction: Board members, committee members, clients, program participants, sponsors, donors and staff members all seem to have pressing needs. While it is in our nature to want to do what people ask, and often we think “this will only take a minute” to deliver, the reality is that every request keeps you from reaching the highest level of success. Therefore, it is important to identify those tasks that are the greater use of your time! You need to delegate and eliminate as much of the other work as you can if you want to elevate your nonprofit.
As part of your planning, take some time to think about all of the things that you are working on in your role. Which ones are mission-critical? Code these as A’s. Which ones are necessary but not critical? Code these as B’s. And which ones are lingering out there but not all that important? Code those as C’s, which you will delegate, eliminate or outsource. (link to outsourcing article here.)
It may seem silly to delegate a five-minute task, but after a dozen times you will have cleared out an hour to work on your key initiatives. Clear up one hour each week, and that is 52 additional hours to work on impacting your organization at a higher level.
Carve Out Time
It is important that you first outline your three game-changing initiatives and identify the smaller tasks required to achieve your desired goal. Then analyze how you are spending your time and clear up your calendar of any C’s. But most importantly, it is imperative that you devote some quality time on a weekly basis to keep moving you toward those larger goals that you have set for the organization.
It is easy to get distracted and before you know it, the days and weeks slip by, making it impossible for your organization to move forward. So block out time on your calendar and guard it diligently so that you can devote the time necessary to review your work. During these blocks, you should analyze your progress and make any adjustments necessary to keep moving toward the end goal.
By taking time at the beginning of the year, you can be far more intentional with your work in 2020 and beyond. And these simple-but-effective steps will help you elevate your organization to a more successful future.