Deep Nonprofit Thoughts & 6 Tips For Fall


Many nonprofits experience a series of “new year’s” throughout the year. There’s the calendar new year. There’s fiscal new year. Then there’s fall – which often kicks off new programming, intensive fundraising, and the sudden absence of nonprofit workers from around their dinner tables.

Shit’s busy. 

And all that extra time you hoped to get over the summer for planning, thinking, finishing up the old and lining up the new… well, between revolving door vacation times, slowed processes, and heat-induced procrastination, you’ve somehow got even more than you had planned for.

But my hope is that through the busy-ness of everything, you are able to take some time and set some goals about just how this program year might go for you. That is, what kinds of actions can you take to make your desk a little less cluttered, to make you a little less stressed, to aim for a little more clarity, and somehow continue to make miracles happen.

You might not walk on water, but I know what kind of incredible somethings you make – often from nothing. 

So in the spirit of a new year, here are some tips for rethinking the everyday and hopefully taking a little off your plate.

1) Start Saying No. 

It’s okay, really. We want to be helpful and we want to please and we want to do everything we can. But sometimes we need to kick ass at something, and every extra thing we add distracts from the ability to do something really well. Saying no doesn’t mean not helping find solutions, it just means not adding another turkey leg to your plate when you’ve already got a rack of ribs to finish.

2) Aim for clearer communication. 

With your co-workers, with your donors, with everyone. Use the appropriate means of communicating – never email when you need to pick up the phone, and never stand in the doorway of someone’s office when you should send a meeting request.

And further to this, are you still emailing documents back and forth documents? Take the time to look into collaborative tools, please. For little cost and a bit of rethinking about how you work, it can save time, money, and lives. Probably.

Learn the art of plain language – it’s not about dumbing down, it’s about impacting up. Plain language gets the point across, ensuring connection to your audience.

3) Please. Stop. Auto. Posting. 

This seems contrary to making things easier. I’m not suggesting you toss out scheduling your tweets or posts all together, I’m just saying you need to inject some real person into the mix. Try to spend even just 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the afternoon responding to people who are talking to you, and expressing a genuine, off-the-cuff thought.

But also, stop auto-DMing when people follow you. It’s gross.

4) There is no general public. 

So stop sending your messages out to the world in this way. You wouldn’t propose to every single person on the street corner. So why propose that everyone should care about your organisation?

They should. But they won’t. So figure out who’s going to care and woo the pants off them.

Well, actually don’t. 4.5 – Keep pants on.

5) Ask better questions. Ask for help.

This has two parts. When I find I’m struggling at work, I often recognize it’s because I didn’t ask good enough questions.

Also, I find that the struggle is sometimes caused by my inability to ask for help.

When the plate is too full, when there’s something you can delegate, when there’s someone who might be able to give a better effort than you’re able to, and when there’s something missing: ask.

6) Embrace Creation, Creativity & Play

When I say creation, I don’t just mean content, though that’s what you were expecting me to say. While it’s true that you’re never done marketing, not everything your organisation creates needs to be about selling yourselves to the next big donor. Create content, yes. But create relationships – that’s something that takes more heart than strategy. Create a unique space. Create a healthy organisation where program staff and communications people and fundraisers create together. Create an actual movement.

And have fun while doing it.