By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, December can fly by quickly and it is the New Year before we realize it. For many executive directors and nonprofit leaders, December may be no busier than the rest of the year. But this month, do something special for yourself. Carve out some time when you can be alone without the interruptions of your team, your Board or your email. Turn off your phone and truly focus on your thoughts for an extended period of time.
This is an ideal time to think about what you want to accomplish in the year ahead. Too often people are so busy with their day-to-day routines that we don’t have the time to really focus on what we want to accomplish. Without intention, we keep doing the same things over and over again and achieving the same results. Then a couple of years into the project, we wonder why things aren’t progressing faster.
Goal-setting is crucial to success. To identify where you want to take your organization, your programs, your Board, your team and even yourself, you must make time to put in the work necessary to set your goals – and there is no better time than now to dedicate time to this. Some organizations have master plans and strategic plans that help them know where they are going, but many nonprofits do not have these pieces in place so it is even more important that leadership focus on this for your organization.
In an effort to maximize the time you devote to this process, here are six steps to help you identify how you can elevate your organization in the year ahead.
- Take Inventory
To look ahead, it is often important to look back. Make a list of everything that your organization has accomplished in 2019. How many people have you served? How much money have you raised? Have you accomplished any meaningful milestones? What are your proudest moments? Have you added any new programs? What else have you accomplished? Sometimes you’ll find that you have made more meaningful progress than you realized. It is important to recognize (and even celebrate) these accomplishments.
- Lessons Learned
We have all heard it before: “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.” An important part of growth is identifying the lessons learned over the last 12 months. Sometimes the takeaways are painful, but they are also an education all the same. Perhaps you learned that you need to retire an event or a program. Maybe you learned something about yourself as a leader or had a realization about your Board. Reflect over the last year, month by month, to think about your programs, your events and your team. There are probably several insights from the past year that you can better identify when you focus your attention in this way.
- Dream Big
If time and money were no object, what would your organization look like? This could be called your big picture or your ideal state. It is a wonderful exercise to sit down and capture all of your thoughts and ideas about how your organization could change if you had no limitations. How many people would you serve in a month or a year? How many people would be on your team and what would their roles be? What programs would you add? What tweaks to existing programs would you make? Would you add facilities? How would you market differently? Are there partnerships that you would forge? Are there services that you could secure to benefit your nonprofit that you are currently making do without? What new technology would you secure? We often limit our thinking when we presume that the means are not available, so it is important to let your mind run free without any limitations! Capture it all down without any restrictions in your dreaming.
- Rank Ideas
Once you have your vision outlined, it is time to analyze it more closely. While time and budget constraints do impose some limitations on what you may be able to implement, there is a good chance that you could implement some small steps to move you closer to that dream. Take the pieces of your “Dream Big” exercise and list them in order of importance toward the growth of your nonprofit or association.
- Identify Action Steps
Once the list is reorganized in order of importance, look at your top-ranked ideas and brainstorm what steps you could take now to move closer to your ideal state. Maybe you can’t secure three new staff members, but perhaps you could add a contract employee. Maybe you wish to revamp your marketing campaign, and you could start by creating a task force to brainstorm the idea. In evaluating your priority list, you will often find ways to reallocate your existing resources or even start to build support for these growth-oriented options within your organization. By taking a step back to evaluate where you want to go and identify the most critical items needed to grow, it is amazing how you can then start to identify the resources necessary to bring the idea to fruition.
- Create a Dashboard
As you merge back into the daily work routine, it will be easy to become re-immersed in the busy-ness of your organization, so it is ideal to create a dashboard. This tool will serve as a visual reminder of what you are trying to accomplish and keep things on track for growth throughout the course of the year. To create an effective dashboard, identify the key metrics (number of people served, number of dollars raised, number of staff hired, etc.) that are needed to track the growth of your organization. By updating these metrics regularly, you will see the progress you are making toward your goals, which will also allow you to have stronger conversations around the growth with your Board, funders and staff.
If your intention is to really make an impact at your organization and to elevate the amazing work that you are doing, we hope that you will make time to try this process. To really grow, you have to get clear on your goals and set the path to reach those goals. This process is intended to give you the clarity needed to get there. Here is to making the next year one for the record books!