Let’s face it, the last few months of 2022 are a vital time for organizations! You’re trying to reach new goals, set new initiatives, and plan for the incoming year. During this planning, your staff can feel burned out. Consider your staff’s workload, scrambling to make year-end goals, and let’s not forget: their personal lives going into the holiday season.
Don’t fret; we’ll be going through some initiatives to take to stay productive and refocus for a New Year.
How to Stay Productive
Throw a Holiday Party
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just needs to be fun. Throw a party that your staff will look forward to. Long work days are a little more bearable when a party is on the horizon. You can host a luncheon during office hours or have your party at a restaurant on a Friday night so your employees can bring their spouses. Either way, make it special. Decide on a couple of games or maybe even a white elephant gift exchange. Whatever you do, make it worth the hard work they put in all year.
Plan Out Holiday Social Media Campaigns
Social media can be fun for your target audience as well as your employees. Have them brainstorm a special giveaway or a fundraising campaign. Be sure to make it holiday-themed to keep your staff and audience interested. If you struggle to keep your social media channels active, scheduling out your posts in advance can help you stay on track.
Maybe you can partner up with a local coffee shop or restaurant and give away a coupon or gift card to anyone who comments on a photo or likes a post on Facebook. You could also have your donors match the number of likes a certain post gets by the time New Year’s Day comes. Have your employees run with the idea and let them have a good time with it. It’s something that’s a little different and special during the holiday season, but it still maintains productivity.
Your staff works hard all year, so be sure to recognize them. Hand-write thank you notes with a gift card inside or offer a Christmas bonus. If you can’t afford to be financially generous, that’s okay. Just let them know they are appreciated. It will keep them motivated to do their best when they’re feeling burnt out. Expressing gratitude for your support network is a priority, bump it to the top of your list. If you know this is a priority but seems like a daunting task, get creative. Gratitude can be displayed in several ways and there are plenty of tools that can help including automations and integrations that build deeper, more personal relationships with your donors, staff, and support network.
Set some end-of-the-year goals for yourself, your organization, and your staff. Having one common goal to work toward will keep you and your staff productive as the year draws to a close. Make the goal visible in your office so everyone can see it and be reminded of why they do what they do.
Give them a reason to be productive
Make sure your organization is having some small successes along the way. Try partnering up with a for-profit organization. Maybe for every $20 made, a for-profit company will donate a percentage to your organization, or something similar. Don’t worry about burdening the company. They have the resources to carry out orders and produce merchandise, even though this is their busy time of year, too. 20 percent of annual retail sales occur between November and December, so your organization might benefit from that.
When your staff sees that your organization is doing well and making a difference, they will be on board and ready to work until the holiday comes.
Work with them
It’s difficult to come to a balance between working your employees hard until the holidays come and letting the lack of motivation get the better of them. Stay somewhere in the middle, though. Be sure to allow the time off they need, but ensure you are staffed enough to continue their work. Understand their busy schedules and stressful lives, and they will appreciate you more.
Most of all, make sure you get the rest you need this holiday season, too, while preparing for the busy year to come.
Refocus for a New Year
Don’t Drop the Ball
Let’s fast forward, congratulations on your successful end-of-year fundraising campaign! After all the hard work put into the final fundraising push of the year, you deserve the extra plate at Christmas dinner and the extra drink (or drinks) on New Year’s Eve—cheers. But now that the year is over and the ball has dropped, it’s time to make sure you’re not dropping the ball. Here are a few things you can focus on in the first few months of the new year to ensure success for your nonprofit.
Just because your holiday giving campaign ended doesn’t mean its success has to be stuck in the past too. Use the leftover momentum to start the year off on the right foot.
Start by following up with new donors who showed interest during your campaign. Obviously, thank-yous are a must—your donors will love ’em and your mom will be proud—but consider some other ways to follow up too. For example, you could send a short survey to donors. Ask them why they donated and what other causes they support, and don’t be afraid to ask a question to get some more specific information that will help you improve your future fundraising efforts. If you rely on volunteers, ask these new donors if they want to get a little more hands-on and take things to the next level by joining your team of volunteers.
Wrap it Up
Have some fun in documenting the memories, performance, and achievements from the previous year. An annual report is a common publication of nonprofit organizations, an annual report should be a distinct piece of your communications and marketing assets. Since annual reports are big projects, it’s okay to expect more of this signature piece. This signature piece should provide clarity and accountability, inspire conversation, honor supporters, give readers something easy to remember and hard to forget, and showcases your nonprofit in all it’s glory. So get out there and show off a bit. Wrap up your previous year in a beautiful annual report.
Don’t get overwhelmed. An annual report is a complex beast of a project…or is it? A lot of meetings, stress, and far too many words are often put into these temporary snapshots of a nonprofit’s work. This guide breaks down these reports into an easy-to-follow outline while using the “5 W’s”: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
Plan for next year
I’m sure the last thing you want to do in January is a plan for November and December. But the sooner you get in the film room and review the game tape, so to speak, the fresher it will be in your mind once the game day arrives. Take some time to identify your nonprofit’s successes and shortcomings you noticed during the holiday giving season and put pen to paper.
Don’t overthink it. Start with some open-ended ideas on what went well and what can be improved and thank yourself later because these notes will be helpful when the time comes to start planning. Be sure to get the final donor numbers down in writing and compare them to your expectations and previous years’ efforts.
Fight the post-holiday slowdown
The way to combat this is to do a great job of telling your story and pushing your brand to its constituents. Use social media to tell people what you’re up to. Put together some numbers that illustrate your successes during the last calendar year and make them available to your stakeholders and the community – show people where their donations went and how they helped. Use any interview requests or press opportunities to further your organization’s narrative. If journalists aren’t knocking down your door, go to them by pitching your story ideas to the media and posting unique and relevant blog posts. As always, the more you’re in front of your constituents and your community, the better. Putting even more focus on fundraising now will go a long way in preventing a slowdown in contributions later.
When a sports team ends its season, they get an off-season; time to recover, and a chance to reflect on the past year before starting again. But do you think those athletes are propped up on a beach with a cold one in hand the entire time? They’re using that time to hone their craft and improve themselves, they’re in the gym and the film room, doing whatever it takes to be better than the competition. And don’t kid yourself, you have several worthy competitors of your own in your community for a donor or volunteer to consider working with. There’s no offseason for nonprofit professionals. We have to reflect on past efforts and plan for the future while continually putting our best foot forward each and every day.
About the Authors: Kayla Matthews and Randy Hawthorne. As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
Originally published 12.28.15—Updated 11.17.22