100 Small Ways To Lift Up Your Nonprofit Career This Year Without Really Trying…

It’s 2022! The year we have been optimistically waiting for the past month – the year we move out of the fog of COVID and the year we get back to normal. The year where our resolutions could be grander than simply ‘getting through the year’ or ‘having a drink with my friends’.

But after realizing 2022 is pronounced 2020 too, and that a new hyper transmissible variant is wreaking havoc worldwide even to those that are triple boosted, we have already started to retreat and reassess our best laid plans.

Research shows that it’s normally February 1st that we normally call it quits on our resolutions, but if social media is any indicator that date has been brought forward to the very first week of the year.

Last year a poll of 2,000 Americans found that it takes just 32 days for the average person to finally break their resolution(s) — but 68% report giving up their resolutions even sooner than that. In fact, one in seven Americans never actually believe they’ll see their resolution through in the first place.

So I wanted to provide a bit of solace (and hope!) and show that you can make progress towards your goals everyday by sharing with my nonprofit & social sector colleagues 100 ways to enhance your skills, your career and fully espouse the values that make those that work in our industry so special, valuable, unique and important to our communities – the very fabric of them and their vibrancy.

So without further ado – here are 100 things to ponder, adopt or share in your quest to make 2022 your best year yet regardless of the circumstances. I have bunched them up too if you are interested in doubling down on hard or soft skills!

Giving Back/Pay it forward – espousing our values is the most important foundation.

  1. Give back – we don’t do enough of it.
  2. Thank people – we should do more of it.
  3. Gift in lieu – donations have a lower environmental footprint for those that have it all.
  4. Volunteer – to learn, to help others, to ground ourselves in good.
  5. Volunteer with your kid/sibling/partner – build memories & shared values.
  6. Volunteer on a campaign – fight for what you believe in & learn more about community need.
  7. Become a mentor – help people realize their potential.
  8. Make a big fuss on social media about new staff and personal/career wins – celebrate your peers!
  9. Set up a recurring donation – commit to a cause, be invested in something.
  10. Donate to a silent auction – regifting that unused timeshare has never been so much fun!
  11. Nominate someone for an award – highlight those doing good work.
  12. Share opportunities – opening doors might help ignite a generational leader.
  13. Donate to a political campaign – real change is in the hands of those we send to congress & representation matters. Give to someone you believe in.
  14. Enrol someone to vote – all of our voices matter.
  15. Give a gift to your colleagues for the holidays – show how much you value their work & friendship.
  16. Give a gift to your boss on National Boss’s Day – October 16!
  17. Give a gift to your staff on National Employee Appreciation Day – March 4th!
  18. Acknowledge staff’s family successes – because their family is our extended family & we should be proud of their wins too.
  19. Donate air miles – we mainly accrue these through work travel anyways, so donate them and enable someone to attend a significant event that they might not be able to.
  20. Pay for someone’s membership – donate $150 to a professional association and allow an emerging leader to benefit from the network and their opportunities – a real good ROI for our industry.
  21. Bring donuts – the fancy ones. Send an all-staff email and hear the pleasing sounds of staff sprinting to the kitchen.

Career Building – run your own race (& it’s something you can control).

  1. Join an affinity/professional association/group – expand your network & get access to curated learning opportunities.
  2. Apply for a leadership cohort – acquire some essential skills and join a cohort of which I guarantee will contain folks that will be in your life forever.
  3. Know your worth – ask for a raise. You can download apps like PepTalkHer and get help developing a narrative to justify it too!
  4. Get yourself a mentor – seek one out, embrace the wisdom.
  5. Set a 3 year credentialing goal – want your Masters or CFRE. Book it in now, don’t let indecision be a barrier because in three years you will still be dreaming the same thing.
  6. Refresh your resume – be ready for opportunity and marvel in your own achievements.
  7. Apply anyways… – Research shows that while men apply to jobs when they meet an average of 60% of the criteria, women and underrepresented/underestimated individuals only apply when they ‘tick every box.’ So, if you think you have what it takes, have transferable skills, are quick to learn, but don’t necessarily meet every single dot point on the job description, please apply.
  8. Nominate yourself for an award – because you can & you know you deserve credit!

Fundraising – if you don’t ask you don’t get (& it’s easier than it seems)

  1. Make 3 asks per morning – you can’t raise funds if you aren’t taking meetings. Reach out to three folks in your database each day to move the conversation forward.
  2. Ditch the electronic signature for ink – if you are mailing out something, take the extra time and use a blue ballpoint pen. It’s those extra touches that are the most authentic.
  3. Convene some fundraisers – get together some of your peers to talk shop, opportunities, trends & ideas. The pie isn’t exclusive…
  4. Send a voice note instead of a text – it generates extra buy-in and avoids a confusion of context.
  5. Send birthday cards – list out all your portfolio’s birthdays and put in a calendar reminder to write them a card a week prior.
  6. Send children’s books on the birth of their new child – insert a note inside the cover
  7. Write a thank you note to donors – because writing is better than email. 
  8. Get a digital business card – they cost $20, sit in your wallet & save the trees. I use Linq.
  9. Wear merch – be proud of where you work, wear a lapel pin to get identified at a donor meeting & you get a real kick when a random person gives you a shout out in public.
  10. Subscribe to Calendly – make scheduling meetings easier & let donors pick the length of time to talk.
  11. Count what doesn’t necessarily count – a lot goes into an ask so celebrate & review the metrics that end up on the cutting room floor. Looking at them might identify new enhancements for the team’s processes & approaches.
  12. Pick up the phone – cold calling is not scary.
  13. Be prepared – when you make that call, make sure you know who you are calling and be ready to build out a real conversation if they pick up. Don’t squander an opportunity.
  14. Reverse engineer goals – goals can be daunting, break them down & win the year.
  15. Add your top 10 donors to a google alert – never miss a beat or circuit breaker to connect.
  16. Add your top 50 donors to a Twitter group – monitor what folks are saying through the clutter of social media and comment in a timely fashion.

Organizational Excellence – because making our place of work better is also important!

  1. Do a quarterly goals check in – yearly goal reviews are a missed opportunity to pivot, reimagine and ground the team in current circumstances.
  2. Increase the staff development budget – decrease the conference budget and encourage real investments in your team
  3. Incentivize learning – identify opportunities and remove barriers to entry by making them pay upfront. Support them authentically.
  4. Do a pay audit – review everyone’s role annually, if people are receiving a different pay for the same amount of work, change it and bring everyone up to the higher level.
  5. Invite those you serve to your board – if you are an educational nonprofit, invite one of your students to the board as a full voting member. They benefit from the experience, and you benefit from their voice, representation & experiences.
  6. Once a quarter give the staff one afternoon off for discovery – go to a museum, watch a documentary, meet with an academic. Come back inspired and willing to share your learnings.
  7. Give an hour or so of grace at the end of the day if it’s raining – commutes suck & the rain just delays folks from getting back to their families.
  8. Give staff some time to volunteer – it’s often hard to find the time to give back amongst all the crazy.
  9. Don’t give up on an employee – invest in them, speak to them, don’t just manage them out.
  10. Give staff a company card – don’t make them pay upfront and take forever to reimburse. You don’t know their situation.
  11. Invest in automation – onboard platforms that automate repetitive tasks, give your staff back the time to advance the work, not just backfill it with more rudimentary ones.
  12. Ensure there are no ‘gotcha’ moments – communicate bottlenecks, don’t sweep them under the carpet.
  13. Join PondPond is a nonprofit tech marketplace where you get paid for demo’s and get discounted tech offerings. Upgrade your capacity & processes today!
  14. Bring your dog into work day – there is no better morale booster!
  15. Set-up a Slack channel – if you have Slack or Teams to communicate (as many organisations have implemented during COVID), set up a fun channel where people can express themselves beyond work – sharing recipes, book recommendations or pictures of their cats that were obviously not welcome to the bring your dog to work day.
  16. Do away with salary cloaking – share the salary range in all job ads. 
  17. Think beyond the three year strategic plan – strategic plans guide & progress the immediate work but also stifle long term creativity. Leave space in staff/board retreats to think bigger.
  18. Be future focused – Once a month have some time in the staff meeting for new ideas and future thinking.

Balance – because we all need it!

  1. Make your bedwatch this video by US Navy Admiral William H McRaven & you’ll understand why.
  2. Bring a plant to your desk – moving back to the office ‘for reals’ this year? Bring a friend, care for your friend, grow with your friend.
  3. Bring a water bottle to your desk – drink up, schedule a reminder if need be.
  4. Reality test – remain objective by seeing things as they really are. This capacity involves recognizing when emotions or personal bias can cause one to be less objective.
  5. Be kind – treat others how you want to be treated
  6. Congratulate others on their wins – follow the adage that there is no ‘I’ in team
  7. Don’t settle – we can & be more. Push others, push yourself. Dare to dream.
  8. If possible, take the stairs – it helps lessen the impact of those donuts your colleague brought in.
  9. Change your phone to grayscale – clicking the home button 3 times will change the color of your screen & will ensure you aren’t checking it as often.
  10. Always book an extra day off after a holiday – we never give ourselves enough time to decompress. We don’t need a holiday after a holiday, just a break. 
  11. Write down quotes or ideas – it curates things that inspire you & helps you download all that clutters the mind.
  12. Be curious – Ask questions, and listen to the answers.
  13. Keep a small pad/notebook on you at all times – jot down everything you see, hear, learn & do during the day & recap each night. I use the Field Notes books as they come in left handed versions. Moleskin is another classic.
  14. Ask your partner to come to a work event – let them see what you do firsthand, it makes the question “what did you to today” more authentic.
  15. Take your kid to a gala – because they’ll love the opportunity to dress up.
  16. Call people in, don’t call them out – cancel culture is a blight on our society and we are so quick to call folks out without context. Let’s be more constructive and lets be more like point 68. Kind, but constructive.
  17. Critical thinking – is what you are reading true? Is what you were taught a fair reflection of what happened? Is the messenger biased? Think for yourself, make informed decisions.

Engineer a spark – create the good you want to see in the world…

  1. Start or join a book club – explore new topics and’or do a deeper dive into your interests – challenge your assumptions with your peers to enhance your learnings.
  2. Write one blog piece – identify something you are interested in and write a 500 word article on it. Write it for yourself not for the clicks and post it out!
  3. Expand that blog – cut the blog up into conversational pieces. Share on social media channels to keep the conversation going.
  4. Partner with someone for another blog – write an article with a peer to enhance the viewpoint and networks you can be exposed to. Use the oped project to help!
  5. Subscribe to Lumen5 upload your article to this AI platform and like magic it will create a professional 2 minute video you can upload to YouTube and share to your network.
  6. Convert to a podcastthe Anchor plug-in on WordPress will turn your article into a podcast episode!
  7. Comment – don’t sit on the fence, if you have something constructive or insightful to say please share it. Don’t second guess or worry about what others think, it adds to civil discourse and helps refine your own narrative.
  8. Subscribe or buy membership to local news outlet – support local news & the stories that count in our neighborhoods. If local news continues to get swallowed up, we lose our identity and don’t see some of the hard, yet prevailing ills in our community that can be solved with our involvement.
  9. If something in the world is frustrating you, write (politely) to your elected representative – the staff will read it at least and it’s a step towards being an advocate for your community.
  10. Join or set up a giving circle – pool your resources, learn about certain issues and grant funds in a more informed and impactful way.
  11. Invite people into the sector – is your friend that is killing it in finance shares with you they want more meaning from their work, don’t just ask them to volunteer, encourage them to become a CFO at a nonprofit.
  12. Invite people into your group – most people don’t join a group as they either don’t know about it or feel they have to be asked. Proactively identify & invite talent to our work and the professional associations that drive knowledge, opportunities and advocacy.

Learning – continuous learning doesn’t have to come from a text book.

  1. Subscribe to 3 new podcasts – there are so many great voices & stories out there, subscribe to a few new shows to learn more history, skills, information, whatever!
  2. Drop in on chats – listen to other thought leaders & peers about interesting topics on platforms such as Clubhouse and the Twitter Spaces function. This is a great space to open your mind to new ideas, practice public speaking & test out narratives.
  3. Focus on 3 hashtags – social media can be really useful if you drill down to some certain subject areas. You’ll identify the leading voices, ideas and opportunities for you in these niches rather than be lost in all the hubris & toxicity of the platforms when left to the algorithms to dictate your main feeds. I normally meander through #philanthropy #nptech #tech4good…join me!
  4. Go to a different conference session – look for a session that isn’t in your wheelhouse or discipline, sit down and learn &/or be challenged. 
  5. Take a free community college or continuing education course – learn a new language or how to use Adobe InDesign…for free!
  6. Subscribe to Canvathis is such a great platform. Terrific for those with a limited marketing budget & want to ween themselves off of Microsoft Paint & the Comic  Sans font.
  7. Ask some what ifs… – what if I was on the school board, what would I do? What would I bring? What could I do better? It’ll also help you learn more about things by taking a deeper than surface level look at how our community works.
  8. Act on those what ifs (& divide it by two) – what is stopping you from running for school board? And what’s stopping you from doing it at the next election rather than in 6 years? If you have something to offer, put yourself forward.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, heck, it’s a list that will mean different things to different people. All I know is that progress compounds, we can all do & be more and from little things, big things grow.

If this list has inspires growth and you want to learn more about curating a better future, please feel free to visit my website and download ‘The Fifteen Rules Of Philanthropic Futurism’ an exclusive free chapter from my book ‘Future Philanthropy – The Tech, Trends & Talent Defining New Civic Leadership’. The Fifteen Rules Of Philanthropic Futurism have been developed to help you approach your work in the social sector through a lens of futurism.

Also if you have any more ideas of little things to weave into our work day and beyond, please let me know in the comments section below!

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