As a fitness freak and a nonprofit consultant, I’ve come to the conclusion that working out and working with nonprofits is much the same. With fitness, we hit the gym week after week and eat (what we perceive to be) healthy food. The scale doesn’t budge. We get frustrated. We want different results. With nonprofits, we work tirelessly day and night, year after year because we believe in the mission of the organization. We try to do it all because, quite frankly, it’s just easier to do it than to teach someone else the job. The result is burnout before our event even happens. Looking for different results? Maybe you need to try something new!
by Becky Lunders, teamWorks
Summer is here and with that comes the push to get the body in shape. Some rush to sweat it out at the gym in hopes of being ready for swimsuit season, only to realize they should have planned ahead. There is no fast fix. Others continue to do what they’ve always done and wonder why they don’t get different results. It takes work and you have to mix it up to gain results. The same is true with the management of a nonprofit and utilization of volunteers. When it comes to your organization, are you swimsuit ready?
Just how fit is your organization? Is your nonprofit on a path of continual improvement so you’re ready when the opportunity arises? Or have you been trudging along hoping your events and programs will grow and thrive on their own? It’s easy to do what you’ve always done. But like working out, chances are you’ll get the same results. If you are looking to change it up and infuse some energy into your organization, I recommend a pulse check. Look at where you’re at, and where you want to be.
Invest the resources to hold a staff retreat once a year. Teambuilding is good for morale and brainstorming helps staff to embrace change and think like innovators. This pulse check allows the team to explore what’s working well, and examine where you’re getting stuck. It also helps uncover the opportunities that you might want to pursue and identify what might get in the way. Better yet, invite your leadership volunteers to be a part of the retreat. By strengthening the volunteer /staff partnership, you generate buy-in and rally support for the grand ideas that you come up with together. Once the retreat is over, you’ll want to set clear goals and establish benchmarks so your team can get started.
Just like getting to the gym, you’ve got to make time if you want results. We’re all busy and it’s hard to put event planning and program implementation on hold to be strategic. But if you want to be a fit organization, a little focused time can reap great results.
Volunteer Appreciation Week is the perfect time to pause for a bit and let your volunteers know how much you appreciate them! They will tell you they don’t do it for the recognition. But boy, does it feel good to be appreciated. A little thank you goes a long way towards keeping volunteers happy and engaged.
I speak from experience when I say genuine, timely appreciation is vital to volunteer retention. I recently volunteered to organize volunteers for my son’s 5th grade class – a Science Exhibition / Community Service Day. It’s a volunteer job that comes easy to me (thanks to the tool Sign Up Genius!). I was happy to help.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the outpouring of appreciation I received. The teacher was incredibly grateful and what she had her students do was powerful. They wrote thank you notes. Personal, handwritten thank you notes delivered by the U.S. Postal Services! There was a message from every kid in the class. The one that really got me (pictured here) says, “Thank you so much for helping plan the event on Saturday! An event that is not planned is messy!” Profound. Genuine. To the point. The shower of gratitude made me ready to sign up for the next opportunity. Wisdom from kids is priceless and we can learn so much from it.
As one who teaches nonprofits to appreciate volunteers, I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of the love. It felt good. Take note of this lesson: It didn’t cost money. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t even perfect. But it was heartfelt and timely. And because of that, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.