This article was originally published in Nonprofit Hub Magazine.
Finally, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, our allergies are resurging. And, if you’re like me, your office has become something of a warzone: papers, notes, books and old coffee cups crowding your desk, allowing just enough room to rest your arms. Even if your desk isn’t as disastrous as mine, you probably let a few things pile up during the winter months. This is ostensibly why “spring cleaning” became a common household practice centuries ago.
Over the years, spring cleaning has transformed into much more than just deep-cleaning your house or apartment—it’s become an entire mindset. In addition to tidying our homes and offices, we’re cleaning up the more inanimate areas of our personal and professional lives. We’re cutting out negative relationships, distractions and other mental clutter. And, as nonprofit professionals, our organizations could benefit immensely from a little spring cleaning.
I often cringe at the thought of going through old mailing lists, donor banks and other databases, and I would venture to guess you do, too. But trust me when I say the anticipation is the worst of all. The Nonprofit Hub staff just finished cleaning out outdated lists, donor addresses, program users and more. It was daunting—and more than a little tedious—but the feeling of fresh, updated databases is incredible.
What spring cleaning can you and your organization do? Do you have old fundraising materials lying around the office? Has your mission statement not been touched for several months (or even years)? These sort of questions can help you trim the unneeded fat from your organization, leaving you with a lean, mean, positive impact machine.
What can you clean this spring?
While you’re cleaning up your physical space, be sure to tend to your digital properties, too. Websites, especially those which host blogs and other publications, can get awfully messy, awfully fast. Take some time to comb through old posts, landing pages and forms and get rid of any that aren’t necessary anymore.
It’s also important to keep the information on your site—your mission statement, your “About Us” page, your events calendar—up to date. If you hire new staff members or elect new people to sit on your board of directors, make sure your website reflects those changes immediately. Your website is likely the first place stakeholders will go to learn about your organization, and first impressions are key.
If you have former employees who still have usernames, profiles or any access to your web properties, get them removed as soon as possible. It’s not likely that any former workers would act maliciously, but it’s always best to keep your programs limited to those who regularly use them (it’s cheaper that way too).
Think of your website as your virtual office. When people walk through the door (arrive on your homepage), what do they see?
If you’re an up-and-running nonprofit organization, you probably have a database or two that need touching up. Lists of potential donors or prospective volunteers can become outdated quickly. If your lists are long, tackle them in phases, or else have your whole staff go through them at once to cut back on time.
After you’ve cleaned them up, try creating a priority order for your stakeholders. Which donors are most likely to give? Who’s most likely to sign up for your newsletter? Even if you don’t know the hard-and-fast answers to these questions, segmenting your databases will help your marketing efforts in the future.
Pledging to keep your email account tidy is almost laughable in this day and age. With newsletters, promotions, inquiries and reminders flooding your inbox, it can be next to impossible to sort through it all. And if you’re finding yourself deleting dozens, even hundreds of emails without opening them, try designating your primary inbox for only the most urgent emails. Have newsletters, updates and all other subscription-based mail go to a separate folder. If you have a Google email account, all promotions and social media notifications are sorted into different folders already; but if you use a different provider, it might be a good idea to keep those emails—of which there are many—separate from your primary inbox.
Whenever we clean our houses or cars or lawns, we make that internal promise to ourselves that, this time, we’re going to keep it clean. We may stay true to that promise for a week, or a month, but almost without fail we fall into the same pattern of messiness.
The longer we can fight off the urge to throw a loose piece of paper on our desk, or ignore our databases, or let our emails pile up, the better our spring cleaning experiences are going to be.
This spring, let the chirping of the birds, the sprouting of the flowers and the warmth of the sun motivate you. Yes, you should clean off your desk and tidy up your office, but always be thinking about other ways you can make your job—and your life—easier by getting rid of unwanted clutter.