Happy New Year, Oklahoma Nonprofits!

Blog by Daniel Billingsley, Vice President of External Affairs

Besides making sure we write 2019 on all of our letters, checks and documents, the new year brings a wealth of opportunities to make changes that will have lasting effects throughout the year. Here are a few ideas that go way beyond your typical resolutions!


Resolve to assess your policies and procedures. Honestly, this is a long process, but at the beginning of the year, I suggest you begin a somewhat tedious but important task of assessing your policies. Whether financial, HR, fundraising or governance, January is the perfect month to map out a year-long clean up to keep your organization on track. Pull out that big Standards for Excellence binder for more ideas.


Dust off that board agenda and breathe some life into your meetings. Board meetings shouldn’t be painful and they certainly shouldn’t be filled with spreadsheets and reports. Your board should be devoting at least half of the meeting time to generative, strategic discussion about issues at your nonprofit. Get together with your chair and chair-elect along with your governance committee and inject some octane into your meetings. This BoardSource article will give you some tips. https://boardsource.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Generative-Governance-Better-Conversations.pdf?hsCtaTracking=7397a466-9b07-40ea-a51c-cd9c580208ae%7C38ac18cb-b120-498b-80ea-5bf69c5b79a4


It may be spring break, but this is a perfect time to re-write all of those stewardship thank-you notes, receipts and more. Order some nice cards for your best and most loyal donors. It might be March Madness on the basketball court, but for nonprofits, the month should be all about gratitude!


Clean your office. No, we mean it. Clean your office and get your staff and volunteers involved. Spring cleaning is an important ritual. Throw out what you don’t need (recycle, upcycle and donate, too!). I’m also a big fan of cord management, so get a few zip ties to help with keeping those tidy. And don’t forget to consult your Standards for Excellence manual on document retention and organization.


Take someone to lunch. Whether it’s a volunteer, another staff member, a donor, a board member or just a cheerleader of your organization, take them to coffee or breakfast as a “just because.” Don’t ask for anything. Just enjoy the moment of human interaction. We should resolve to do this more often because relationships always lead to greater impact.


Start the work on your end-of-year appeal. It may seem far away, but it’s really all about preparation. Look at your mailing list. Decide on a theme. Interview a few clients or constituents to create a story line. Line up your printing and mailing services. Here is a really good article from Blackbaud about appeals that work.  https://fundraising.blackbaud.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/EndOfYearAssets_eBook_Final.pdf


Go on vacation and make it a good one. Everyone needs a break. Stewardship of donors is important, but self-stewardship is even more critical. If we aren’t whole ourselves, it’s hard to help others. Prioritize self-care.


Celebrate your staff, volunteers and donors. Throw a party or a barbecue or a potluck or just something festive to talk about your successes. Thank people and laud their contributions to the organization and the team.


Have a retreat. Whether it’s for staff or board, retreats are a way to plan for the next 12 months on strategic topics. Keep them generative and not operational. Be forward thinking. Come up with action plans. And then follow up each month to keep everyone on track.


Read a few books. October is usually a busy month for nonprofit employees, but I also think we need to continue educating ourselves about our work. One of the books that I believe should be required reading for any nonprofit employee, volunteer or board member is “Bridges out of Poverty.” This groundbreaking study on the laws of poverty and the way to approach it is an eye-opening and mind-changing book about issues facing so many of us. Regardless of your sub-sector, this book is an absolute must! https://books.google.com/books/about/Bridges_Out_of_Poverty.html?id=HpqMQAAACAAJ&source=kp_cover


Give thanks. Period. To staff. To donors. To friends. To board members. Give thanks.


You’re in the home stretch of the year, but there is a lot to do. At the end of the month, reflect and evaluate. I always say that our work requires daily evaluation and feedback. However, at the end of December, take a moment, an hour, a day to pause and reflect on the past year. Evaluate the good things that happened and make a list of what needs to happen next year. Evaluation is not about criticism. It is about taking an inventory of what worked and what didn’t work so that your organization walks into the next year stronger, bolder and wiser.

Happy New Year from all of us at the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits!

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