By: Melissa Lagowski
President, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
When I first became an Executive Director, I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to roll up my sleeves and dig into the work to make my organization and the community prosper and thrive. But it didn’t take long to realize that running an organization as a team of one was exhausting, though I couldn’t fully understand why the task seemed so daunting.
After many years, as I reflect on my first nonprofit role, it now seems so clear: executive directors are expected to wear many hats. How many of the following hats are you wearing in your organization?
• Customer Service
• Member Manager
• Event Planner
• Board Strategist
• Development Coordinator
• Fundraising Strategist
• Program Manager
• Volunteer Coordinator
• Public Relations Specialist
• Marketing Director
• Message Creator
• Communications Manager
• HR Department
You get the point. Because a nonprofit is a business, we need to run them like a business if we are truly to succeed. So I ask you, “What successful business do you know that has one person filling all of these roles?” My guess is none.
We recognize that all of these positions are important to the organization, but taking on each and every role is not going to get us where we want to go. It will instead lead to burnout. Take these four steps to avoid burnout:
1. Identify What You Are Good At
First and foremost, you have to know your personal strengths. People can learn new skills and talents over time, but to get the most done and be the most effective leader, you need to work in the areas of your expertise. This will allow you to contribute the most value to your organization.
2. Identify What You Are Not Good At
We are all human, and we are not going to be good at everything. When we force ourselves to do tasks that we are not fond of, it usually takes longer to get the work completed, which can drain a lot of time from you and your organization. Take an inventory of which tasks take the longest and which tasks you dislike doing the most. Identify which three tasks on this list are zapping the most time in your week or month. These duties are prime targets for outsourcing! By assigning these tasks to someone who loves this type of work, you will reclaim time and energy for yourself while ensuring that your organization is receiving service and expertise in each area that you outsource.
3. Identify Resources Available To You
Once you identify the tasks to be outsourced, there’s no need to start drafting Request for Proposals (RFPs), but rather you should start talking to Board Members and supporters of your organization about your needs. By working through existing channels, you may be able to find current members who could assist with the services in exchange for an in-kind sponsorship or as part of their give-or-get contribution that should be part of their Board service. This can help you secure additional help for little or no cost.
4. Identify How You Can Secure More Resources
If you have identified your needs and are unable to find support for those duties within your organization, then it is time to craft an RFP and seek out a reputable service provider to assist you. It is important to issue an RFP that outlines your service needs clearly to allow companies to submit their proposals based on identical parameters. The RFP process will take a little time but will allow you to effectively evaluate the organizations available to you while confirming the prices in your market. It is not just important that you get help. It is imperative to take the time necessary to find the “right fit” service provider for the culture of your organization and develop a long-term partnership.
Benefits of Outsourcing vs. Staffing
• Secure expertise for each area of need
• Savings – no payroll taxes or benefits for outside contractors
• Free up staff time
• Increase efficiency
Outsourcing can be enormously beneficial in advancing your organization and reclaiming a few hours of YOUR time back to focus on your most pressing daily, weekly or monthly tasks. While you still have to wear many hats, developing a strong team with a variety of expertise – without hiring full-time staff – leads to greater overall productivity, sharper focus on the mission, and greater impact for your organization.