Episode #038: New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Nonprofits

Welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause, membership, or movement, I made this podcast just for you.   

Well, hello there! Welcome to the Volunteer Nation. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and today we’re going to talk about New Year’s resolution ideas. Now we’re going to focus on those ideas for nonprofits, not your personal New Year’s resolution ideas.  

I just thought I’d come with some ideas about how nonprofits can strengthen their community engagement and their volunteer engagement. So I’ve got some ideas for you that I want to share.  

You know, we’re working on our company’s strategic plan for 2023, and our focus for this coming year is all about optimizing all of our systems. I have an awesome team. We have a fantastic suite of products and services, operating procedures that we built out last year to keep everything running smoothly. 

But there are still places we can do better. So this year is all about filling the gaps, looking at our data and perfecting everything we do. So I will be asking my team throughout the year, how can we do this better?  

So in this episode, I’m asking you, what can you do better, especially when it comes to engaging the community in your work? And I’m going to offer some New Year’s resolution ideas you might want to consider that can help your organization remain resilient and thrive even in uncertain times. 

And I feel like we’re still on a little bit of shaky ground, and so we’ve gotta have a good plan in place. So, you may already have a strategic plan in place. You know, a couple of weeks ago we wrapped up our VisionWeek experience where we helped all of our participants work through building out their strategic plan. 

So shout out to our VisionWeekers. So happy you could join us for that event. It was a lot of fun. But you may not have had opportunity and you may not yet have a strategic plan in place, so whether you do or don’t, doesn’t matter.  

It’s still a good idea to start to think about what are going to be your top goals, what’s going to be your focus for 2023, and our New Year’s resolution Ideas can help you get a jump on that. So let’s talk about these.  

I have about six to share with you today, and maybe one of these might just resonate. Might just make sense in your organization. So let’s start with the most obvious, in my mind anyway. Expand the ways you are engaging your local community in your work. I think this is a fantastic New Year’s resolution. 

By expanding the people in your orbit, you gain strength in ambassadors, donors, volunteers, advisors, and you build community capital. So the orgs that do this well are much stronger for it. So, rather than working in a silo, working in your own, not engaging with the community, you might do better to really think about expanding your work into the community. 

Not just to attract patrons or clients or customers, et cetera, but also to think of new ways the community can support you because people do really care, and the community is a key stakeholder in every nonprofit’s work. So that, I think, is a fantastic item to add to your New Year’s resolution ideas list. 

Okay, so let’s talk about another item on our New Year’s resolution ideas list. Invest in leveling up your team’s skills and confidence. You know, this includes both your paid and unpaid workers. We really gotta think about how you are leveling up your talent across your organization.  

Your organization will be more effective the more effective each individual within your organization is. You’ll be better positioned to attract and keep valued talent in a competitive marketplace as well. You know, consider how much you lose due to staff turnover.  

The actual cost of staff and volunteer turnover can be extensive and significant for organizations. So when you think about budgeting for professional development, skill building, training, you want to think of that as an investment towards reducing turnover and reducing the cost of turnover.  

You know, there are real hard costs to turnover. The cost of advertising, the time it takes to interview and find new people. Advertising, you name it. It costs money and time. So if you can invest in your talent pool, the people that already support your organization, whether they are paid or unpaid, you are reducing the cost of turnover by doing that because you’re increasing people’s satisfaction and skills and it’s a good strategy for ROI.  

The other thing, as I mentioned initially, is you are boosting the individual skills of each person. And when you can do that combined, your organization becomes more effective. So it’s not a nice-to-have. Training and support and development and coaching is not a nice-to-have. It’s absolutely essential for any organization that wants to grow and scale.  

It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Now we are an organization that provides capacity building, training, coaching courses, community, et cetera, and most of our offerings are very inexpensive. You can also partner with other organizations in your community, provide in-service training, stretch assignments. 

You can provide stretch assignments to your teams, both paid and unpaid. You can do cross training between departments. So there’s a lot of ways to do this in inexpensive way. So you start with the budget you have and see what you can come up with, but then work from where you’re at.  

Just start where you’re at. But it’s important that, I believe that this is New Year’s resolution to keep in 2023 is investing in, in leveling up your team’s skills and confide.  

Third on my list of New Year’s resolution ideas is building out a set of key performance metrics or KPIs to track every key activity throughout the org, including community engagement. Often our programs have specific KPIs, but we have very few related to volunteer and community engagement.  

Sometimes all it is is how many volunteers do we have? How many hours are they contributing, and what’s the economic value per hour of those volunteers on an aggregate? Well, that’s not really helping you make change and improvements in your organization. 

So don’t wait for your funders to ask for your volunteer metrics. Rather, develop a set that will help you get a handle on what’s working and where you want to double down your energies. Volunteer hours are not enough to understand what’s happening except , you know, if you track them on a monthly basis, then maybe you’re seeing when they go up and down and you might be able to correlate some type of management intervention that has boosted volunteer hours, but that’s about it.  

It’s not really giving you all the information you need, so I think it’s a good idea, a great New Year’s resolution idea, to build out a set of KPIs for volunteering community engagement.  

Now, if you’re a Volunteer Pro listening, a VolunteerPro member listening to this webinar, or if you plan to join VolunteerPro, we’re going to be tracking our, we’re going to be offering training on how to track monthly volunteer metrics inside our VolunteerPro community. 

In February, we’ll be training on that. So if you are interested in getting more in-depth training on this, definitely join our community. And if you’re a community member, see us in February. We’re going to have a lot of fun there.  

Also, check out episode 36 of the Volunteer Nation where I call out five non-profit KPIs our volunteer programs should be tracking. That will also give you a little taste of our thinking around this.  

So I’ve just shared three New Year’s resolution ideas for nonprofits. We’re going to take a quick break and when I come back I’m going to share three more. So let’s pause for a quick break from my top New Year’s resolution ideas for nonprofits, particularly when it comes to strengthening your community engagement. Stay tuned. I will be back with my final three after the break.  

If you enjoy this week’s episode of Volunteer Nation, we invite you to check out the VolunteerPro Premium Membership. This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting, engaging, and supporting dedicated high impact volunteer talent for your good cause. 

VolunteerPro Premium Membership helps you build or renovate an effective what’s-working-now volunteer program with less stress and more joy, so that you can ditch the overwhelm and confidently carry your vision forward.  

It is the only implementation of its kind that helps your organization build maturity across five phases of our proprietary system, the Volunteer Strategy Success Path™. If you’re interested in learning more, visit volpro.net/join. 

Okay, we’re back with my rundown of my top New Year’s resolution ideas for nonprofits. Let’s get into number four. Plan to engage volunteers at all levels of your organization. We’re not just engaging volunteers in direct service, or we’re not just engaging volunteers for our events, or we’re not just engaging volunteers for our fundraising efforts.  

From governing boards to advisory groups, to committees, to skilled volunteers, to traditional volunteers, to event volunteers, to advocates and champions, there are a myriad of ways the community can get involved to help you move your mission forward. 

In 2023, it is the time to think about expanding the way the community can support you. You know, there are places where volunteers should absolutely be involved. This is called walkin’ the talk. So you need to have volunteers – if you’re going to involve volunteers, walk the talk by involving volunteers at the executive level, in the executive director’s office.  

Aside from your governing, are there other ways that volunteers can help your executive? I know people think, well, our executive doesn’t have time for volunteers. Well, your executive could actually get more done with volunteers. Think about the kinds of skilled volunteers an executive might utilize, and then make sure you’re including volunteers inside volunteer services.  

Maybe you’re a volunteer manager, department of one. Maybe you don’t even have a department. Maybe you wear many hats. All the more reason to get volunteers involved in all of the activities that your organization carries out to engage people in service.  

Why not get volunteers? Volunteers know more than anybody how well you’re doing and how to make improvements. So it’s important. When you think about planning to engage volunteers at all levels of your organization, those are two areas that don’t happen very often., so I’m calling those two out. Your volunteers helping your executive director or your CEO, and volunteers helping out inside volunteer services.  

Also think about every item on your strategic plan for 2023, and ask for your organization’s strategic plan. Ask the question, how can community volunteers strengthen this particular element in our strategic plan, this particular goal or objective? Ask every single time, and you’ll be surprised what you come up with.  

All right. Let’s talk about my fifth New year’s resolution idea for nonprofits. So restore the appetite for supporting nonprofits through partnership led campaigns. Okay, what do I mean by that?  

You know, National Volunteer Week is coming up April 16th through 22nd in 2023, for Canada and the US. In your country, take a look and see when you know, Good Deeds Day or other types of special weeks, Giving Tuesday which will be at the end of the year, when you can celebrate philanthropy and volunteerism as a part of philanthropy.  

It’s a great time to raise awareness of the power and potential of volunteers as philanthropists in your community. So when I say volunteers as philanthropists, I’m valuing their time and talent as much as I would value a financial contribution.  

It takes more effort for people to contribute their time and talent than it does to write a check. So we need to value these contributions. So think about how you can form a coalition in your community to champion volunteerism. During National Volunteer Week is a perfect time, because it’s a great time to get press coverage.  

You can share the load amongst your organizations and you can make a bigger splash when you’re in coalition with other organizations, with the same messaging, the same branding, and you’re really making an impact. 

So I like to think about, how are we going to build back the power and excitement around volunteerism in our communities? It’s hard to do one individual organization at a time. It’s much easier to do when you have a coalition working together. So, check that out.  

Also, for more inspiration, check out episode 32 of The Volunteer Nation, how to Utilize Volunteers for Giving Tuesday with my friend Julia Campbell. It’s absolutely fantastic episode. She’s got great practical ideas that you could translate into using with a coalition as well.  

So that’s fantastic ideas, and I hope you’ll think about not only your organization’s role in engaging volunteers for your needs, but what is your role in promoting volunteerism in general in the community? You need to do that as well because that can boost the appetite, and in the end it can benefit you as well. But it takes a coalition to make it happen.  

All right. One other, the sixth of, and I actually have a bonus New Year’s resolution as well, but I’m going to talk about number six, focus on wellness of both employees and volunteers. So burnout is a threat right now. People have been struggling.  

Especially, you know, things are changing. People are building back from the pandemic, but people are still getting covid and people are getting sick in other ways and people are feeling exhausted and all of that. So we’ve got to start to be very proactive if we haven’t already in reducing burnout. 

We need to be, make sure we’re looking out for and preventing feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion. We need to figure out if anybody is feeling increased mental distance from their job. If they’re feeling negative or cynical about their job, and when I say their job, it could be paid or unpaid, employee or volunteer.  

And are they feeling like they have reduced professional efficacy? Are they feeling less productive? And so we want to be checking to make sure where we’re at. First of all, assessing where we’re at, finding out if there are people who need support, and also proactively planning to prevent burnout.  

I think this is essential as a nonprofit tactic, or strategy really, in 2023. For ideas on preventing burnout, check out episode 35 of Volunteer Nation where I talk about six ways to prevent burnout in 2023. That’ll help you get started thinking about what your overall strategy should be.  

All right. Those were six of my New Year’s resolution ideas. I want to add one more bonus. This one’s close to my heart. I think it’s really important. Upgrade your tech. Upgrade your tech stack, your technology needs an upgrade, guaranteed.  

Most organizations – in our Volunteer Management Progress Report, we have been asking. It’s our global survey. We’ve been asking about people’s self-assessment of their digital maturity when it comes to volunteerism. 

And gang, it’s not really where it needs to be. And if we want to attract today’s volunteers, we’ve gotta use today’s tools. So not having software that builds relationships while you sleep, for example email service providers and email software systems that you can preload drip campaigns and autoresponder campaigns. 

That’s really important to building those relationships with your entire, both donor and volunteer base. We also need databases that track donors and volunteers and that talk together. We need to know which volunteers are donors and which donors are volunteers. And we need to communicate and coordinate our communications, because we have two departments often talking to that same person and they’re not always aligned very well. 

So we want to make sure we’re doing that, and that we understand the value of our supporters. We also want to bring on hardware, sometimes, that actually works. That can save time, create efficiencies, and get more impact.  

Do our laptops work? Do our projectors work? Are the tools that our volunteers are using in their outreach, is that working or that our team are using? So where are the areas of tech that are actually slowing people down and making them less effective, creating a space where they can’t get as much done? 

A perfect example is using a spreadsheet to manage volunteers, rather than a volunteer management software system. When you think about it, the time and energy spent, that the volunteer manager or volunteer coordinator has to spend typing in data, versus having volunteers manage their own data, it’s just like too much that they spend time in front of the computer when they should be spending time out in your organization. 

You know, greeting volunteers, training, building relationships, developing better strategies for volunteers, so they’re spending their time and energy on the wrong thing. So it’s not going to help you grow. So think about how tech, not only, “Wow, we just need better tech because we need to grow as an organization and reach more volunteers,” but also how can tech make your team more effective and free up their time so they can work on the things that really matter, right? 

So that’s my bonus New Year’s resolution idea for you. So I hope you enjoy these New Year’s resolution ideas for your nonprofit. I hope they offered you some fresh perspectives that can help your organization make a bigger impact and get more support with better systems.  

So I really hope this has helped you kind of think, and inspire you to think differently about how you can do things better in 2023. We all can improve in different ways. We have to. Your work is so important and so you need to be able to achieve it at your top level.  

So think about where you can improve. So that’s it. That’s our show for this week. Happy New Year to everybody. We’re saying goodbye to 2022. We’re saying hello to 2023. It’s a great time of renewal. 

And if you found this episode inspiring, I hope you’ll share it with a colleague. And don’t forget to rate and review; that helps us reach more people. So thank you for joining us for this episode of The Volunteer Nation. I will see you next time, same time, same place for another episode. See you then. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review so we can reach people like you who want to improve the impact of their good cause.  

For more tips and notes from the show, check us out at TobiJohnson.com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of Volunteer Nation.