At GHJ, we believe every day is a chance to #BeMore. Not do more. Not work more. Instead, we encourage one another to be the best we can be for one another – and our clients.
In this era where technology has made life move faster than ever, we all need efficiency more than ever. What if I told you there are five ways to achieve more by doing less? We are all inundated with life’s many demands, and in the nonprofit world, it sometimes requires even more creativity to get powerful results with precious resources. That is where the 80/20 Rule comes in.
Also known as The Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. For example, proper use of 20 percent of your most efficient resources will create 80 percent of the outcomes you desire. That comes down to focus. Pick what you want to achieve, and make your resources count.
Here are five secret weapons you should consider.
Secret Weapon #1: Focus on your key message
A clear, impactful message helps your organization in everything you do — attracting volunteers, motivating staff, recruiting Board members and, of course, fundraising.
For any organization, building a reputation and enjoying sustained growth is essentially about focus. For nonprofits, it is essential to translate the mission into a message. How can you develop a strong, core message that can be repeated by everyone associated with your organization? How do you make sure your message has heart, has meaning and is compelling?
There are three clear areas we suggest for your focus — what, how, who:
- Message — What your organization does and who is helped by the mission
- Goals — How you will turn the message into a clear communication
- Communicating the messages and goals — Who you will tell, and how often
Put your mission to work for you, and let the message do the heavy lifting. With a great message, you are halfway to meeting your goals.
Secret Weapon #2: Don’t boil the ocean
We cannot “do it all” or be everything to everyone. Ask yourself: are we focused on our mission, or have we noticed mission creep into areas we cannot currently sustain? Here is where focus comes in again. Sometimes we have to eliminate activities or programs – even those we may love – to ensure the sustainability of the overall mission. Do the tough work and regularly review and analyze the ROI of each to ensure you are on track.
At GHJ, we have a five-year Vision Plan and generate very specific goals and actions to achieve them. We have monthly “speed session” check-ins on each of our priority goals, and twice a year, we look very closely at our progress and challenge ourselves in areas that need to change, stay the same or be eliminated. It is a rigorous process, but the 80/20 Rule applies. The hard work we put into bi-annual sessions makes our lives easier throughout the year because it allows us to focus on specific priorities, and achieve better outcomes with greater efficiency.
Secret Weapon #3: Expand your army of volunteers
Spread the wealth. It sounds obvious, but having many people do a small amount beats a few people doing a lot. It might require extra coordination upfront, but in the end it is worth it — you have created a more sustainable organization and your staff will have less burnout and frustration.
Everyone is busy. Even if they like you and your mission, why exactly should they consider volunteering their time? Do not assume just giving back is a selling point. Why your organization specifically and not another? Communicating the benefits of volunteering provides prospective volunteers with powerful motivation to enthusiastically support you.
Finding the right message to motivate your volunteers is important, but following up and actually meeting their need is even more critical. Make sure they get what they came for, and you will have a dedicated and satisfied volunteer. How do you find out? Ask them.
Secret Weapon #4: Give your volunteers a “promotion”
Not everyone is a “worker bee” type of volunteer. Many have specific skills to offer, or they may be able to provide services for which you would otherwise need to pay big bucks. From accountants to lawyers, writers to plumbers, it is important to understand your potential volunteers and how they want to be leveraged in the best possible way.
Innovation is a buzzword we hear often. Every organization knows they need to innovate to stay vibrant and relevant. But who has time for those new projects that come from all those great new ideas?
When your staff is overloaded and cannot take on more projects, identify those talented volunteers who can share their interests and knowledge and empower them to lead the group. This is a win-win, as volunteers typically crave more meaningful involvement and impact, and your staff likely needs additional smart team members.
The bottom line is to know your volunteers and how they are aligned with your mission. Honor their skills and desires for the type of contribution they can make, and go for it.
Secret Weapon #5: Celebrate your wins
One of the best ways to generate energy and sustain growth is to reward good work. Burnout of staff, volunteers and – yes – even donors, is a very real thing. It is well known that the cost of acquiring any of the three of those important resources is far higher than retaining the valuable people you have.
A great way to remind everyone of the mission is to communicate successful outcomes your nonprofit has achieved and demonstrate appreciation.
- Thank you to staff = support retention of your most important talent; showing appreciation is surprisingly overlooked by many organizations, and does wonders for morale.
- Thank you to volunteers = reinvigorates their purpose and possibly attracts more great volunteers. You can hold a thank you party and have each volunteer bring a friend to join the celebration.
- Thank you to donors = puts the spotlight on the good work they have made happen. List your successes, tie them to your mission and reinforce the value of donating to your important organization.
When we move fast in today’s world, slowing down long enough to say “thank you” is often forgotten. Make time to regularly point to the progress of the mission, acknowledge the role of staff, volunteers and donors, and let them see their part in making a difference. The chances are very good that your staff, volunteers and donors signed on with you to do good work. And to #BeMore. Remind them that they made the right choice.