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10 New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofit Professionals


By Meredith Kavanagh

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The start of a new year is the perfect time to assess your nonprofit’s recent performance and set goals in the form of New Year’s resolutions. Setting milestones and expectations for your nonprofit can help keep your team on track and take your fundraising to new levels of success. To help your team make the most out of the “new year new me” energy going into 2020, we came up with 10 New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit professionals.

New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofits

1. Use a feed reader to avoid social media during the workday.

It may sound old school, but creating an RSS feed is a time-saving way to make sure you don’t miss content from your favorite nonprofit blogs. Many people rely on their social media feeds to stay on top of the news, but all it takes is one cute puppy video to distract you from industry news and send you down a rabbit hole of entertaining, but irrelevant, content.

Instead of working your way through a number of sites to get the latest news, you can go to your inbox or RSS feed where all the new posts are compiled in one place. With a number of feed reader apps available, you have a ton of options on how you want to consume your content. Feedly, Feed Reader, and Flipboard are three apps with desktop and mobile options for creating a customized and focused news feed you can peruse with no guilt.

2. Go above and beyond to thank donors.

Most donor thank yous are sent via email or direct mail. Donors expect a thank you note, but imagine their delight when they receive a personal phone call from your organization. Set aside just one hour every month allows you to personally reach out and strengthen your relationships with donors. You can call big donors, first-new donors, or a random selection. No matter who you call, they will appreciate it.

If you can’t swing the resources to make personalized phone calls each month, commit to other ways to double down on donor stewardship this year. Stay away from mass thank you emails and instead create content that makes your donors feel like a part of your team. Treating your supporters like people instead of transactions is a crucial step in building lasting relationships.

3. Network with local nonprofits in your cause sector.

If you want to improve as a professional in any industry, you should always be learning. A great way to do this is to connect with individuals in your field or who have similar goals. In fact, in our recent report, World-Changing Work: The Modern Nonprofit Professional’s Experience, we found that 74% of nonprofit professionals look to other nonprofit organizations for inspiration or to get ideas on how to improve their organization.

Reach out to a local nonprofit to see if anyone is interested in connecting and make sure they know that this is simply an open invitation to share experiences and knowledge. If you have a hard time making the first move, look into industry conferences which make it easier to introduce yourself as you’re already in a networking-friendly setting.

4. Aim for a 100% response rate on social media.

Nonprofits spend a lot of time and energy trying to boost engagement on social media. There are best practices for each platform (read more below) but one of the simplest and most effective ways to leverage social media is to respond to every post, comment, and message you are mentioned in. This shows you are listening to your community and want to foster participation and conversation.

For more social media tips, check out the following posts:

5. Set aside 10 minutes for a walk, stretch, or workout.

Go outside, do some pushups, take a walk around the parking lot, just do something to get your body moving. We all know we should get regular exercise, but many days we don’t have time for a full-blown workout and that’s ok. A recent neurological study suggests that just 10 minutes of mild exercise can have an immediate impact on how certain areas of the brain communicate with one another. Getting fresh air, vitamin D, and natural light have also been shown to relieve stress—something most nonprofit professionals could use.

Tap into the physical and cognitive benefits of a daily 10-minute walk, or more if you can manage, to improve your productivity, decrease stress levels, and stay motivated when you’re back at your desk.

6. Read four books relevant to your work.

Another great step to take if you want to become more knowledgeable about fundraising and the nonprofit space is to make a habit of reading books on the subject. Blogs can keep you up to date on trends, best practices, or the latest news, but books on social impact can give you new perspective and inspiration. Check out a few of our favorites here:

7. Meet with your cross-departmental counterparts regularly.

When you wear many hats at work it can be easy to put your nose to the grindstone and lose track of what your coworkers are working on. You may, however, be missing out on some great ideas and people willing to help. Choose one (or more) departments and schedule regular check-ins. This will help both sides plan for the future and support each other.

8. Introduce yourself to board members you don’t know.

When was the last time you spoke to a board member outside of a full board meeting? Have you ever spoken to them outside a formal meeting? If not, make a point to introduce yourself to them.

You don’t have to invite every board member to your house, but a few choice meetings can open you up to new opportunities. Ask a board member to coffee and ask for their ideas and thoughts on fundraising events, marketing, or whatever their personal specialty may be. They may have some valuable contacts, tips, and you might inspire them to create a peer-to-peer campaign or get involved with your team more often.

9. Volunteer for your organization at least once.

Despite what stereotypes may indicate, raising money isn’t always a heart-warming job. You deal with dollars and cents, donors and sponsors, and often feel a ton of pressure since there is so much depending on your performance. Volunteering with one of your own programs can remind you why you do what you do. You can even ask coworkers in other administrative positions if they want to join you in some hands-on experience.

10. Set work limits.

Long hours and high pressure give the nonprofit sector a high turnover rate. If you’re not keeping an eye on your own needs, you could easily burn out.

To help yourself maintain balance, set some guidelines such as “no work email after 7 p.m.” or “no work on Sundays.” You may not always stick to your plan, but setting some ground rules can help you get into the habit and remember there many times a message or question can wait until tomorrow.


We hope we’ve given you some ideas for becoming a well-balanced, invested, and energized nonprofit professional in the upcoming year. Have you made a resolution yet? Share it with us in the comments!

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