New Year, New Org: Nonprofit New Year’s Resolutions

You”ll stop going to Krispy Kreme….on Sundays. You”ll work out more….than zero times a week. And you”ll stop playing Candy Crush…..until 2am. So many of us are in the throes of setting resolutions.

But what about those nonprofit organizations we work for or run? They shouldn”t be left out the fun. What might those resolutions look like?

So glad you asked! I thought about that recently and came up with this….


New Years Post Image


1. Get More Fit. Though the “Get Lean” movement continues to gain momentum (I have my own opinions on this, imagine that) this refers to the health of an organization. The strength and endurance of an organization  (i.e. business model and sustainability) should be continually worked on. Do you know what donor loyalty and loss rates are? Have the holes, like internal control or loss prevention issues, been discovered and plugged? Resolve to work bit by bit on things that might lead an organization to weaken. Such as a check signature policy here or development audit there.

2. Lose Weight. What would be the metaphorical “muffin top” a nonprofit might want to lose? Things like low impact or low performing programs. Poor performers on staff. Board members who don”t contribute monetarily or substantively. Think about the excess baggage the organization carries and how to trim. It may be as simple as performance evaluations or a Board Member contract.

3. Become More Organized. Bank statements in a Nike shoe box. Board minutes on the top den bookshelf. Resolve to get things in order, both physical and electronic. There are dozens of online programs (Evernote, FreeCamp and a little something I”m working on) that hold documents and even have chat spaces for conversations. Tackle this in small pieces as well. Start with governing documents. Then maybe Board minutes. Consider dedicating an intern or outsourcing large scanning to a third party company. But make sure a physical copy of things like the exemption application, tax documents, audited financials and other books and records mandated by the State(s) you operate in or the Federal Government are gathered and kept where required, like a principal office.

4. Save More Money.  This ties strongly to the resolutions above. Many of the organizations I see losing money do so because of holes in the internal controls, excess weight or disorganization. Things like three different coffee vendors, paying for new equipment because warranties can”t be found, lost or stolen money or low impact programs running at a deficit. So if organizing for organization sake isn”t riveting enough approach it from a budget perspective. What expense line items could be reduced if not removed altogether? Take a look at the budget and actuarials; determine what small changes could be tackled and gain momentum from there

5. Learn Something New. We all know there”s something new to be learned everyday. But when you”re understaffed and over-utilized it”s easy to let training go by the wayside. The problem is the legal environment organization”s operate in consistently changes. In addition to the operational and development sides. Commit to a specific amount of time each week to watch or listen to something new and informational. I”ve even gotten in the habit of putting it in my calendar and blocking off time. Staff should be doing this and the Board should be doing this too. Click on the resource tab in the menu if you want a few places to start, but BoardSource, Chronicle of Philanthropy, BlueAvocado and JDSupra are always great starts for me.

6. Read More Books. This sorta ties in with resolution #5, but is a little more substantive. There”s been such an evolution in and around the nonprofit space that the number of books discussing nonprofits is astonishing. To read the stories of others, see how problems are being solved and delve deeper into the innovations can help tremendously. I”ve also found this encourages organizations to stay on top of their operations, whether it be controls, governance, book keeping or Board relations.

7.  Be More Charitable. Many organization”s are incredibly diligent about working…with their beneficiaries. But quite a few forget to work with other organizations as well. Set up some type of reciprocity, bartering or partner network. Help fill gaps in service offerings programming or resources of someone else. Utilize this opportunity to share costs, exchange ideas and woes. What better way to build donors, clients and goodwill than to work with other organizations? Just make sure to put everything down in writing, particularly where organizations will work together in some type of business venture (remember the Form 990 actually asks about joint ventures and how they”re handled).

8. Learn More/Update Technology. This one is particularly hard for me, especially with how quickly it all evolves (aren”t we on iPhone 10?) But with electronic documents doubling, reporting obligations piling and current reality that content must be consistently generated to stay relevant technology is now a must, not a nice to have. Consider signing up for websites like Mashable or TUAW who post on the latest and greatest, trends and ways to use the technology you already own. Sign up for newsletters from PR and Marketing companies like Twice Media Productions, who teach everyday folks like you and I how to create professional looking content using iPads. But before doing any of that close your eyes, breathe and repeat after me: “I am not Martin Scorsese and we are not competing for an Oscar. No one expects any of this to look perfect.” Now go have fun, kid.

9. Update Policies.   I regularly come across organizational policies dated April 1995 with Y2K references. Regularly. So while we”re in the process of new starts, breathe some life into your policies. After all, these are meant to guide an organization. But that can”t happen if they”re outdated. Are processes the same? Have relevant committees been created which should be referenced? Other policies adopted that should be cross-referenced? Perhaps policies were drafted from a template, but read like a Victorian novel? In any of these cases take the opportunity to pick one or two every couple of months to review and determine whether they even still apply. If so update as necessary, with a focus on making them understandable, easy to read and instructive.

10. Quit Coffee. This last one was just for laughs, because who would do this voluntarily?!