It can seem impossible to stay on top of your workload. Especially working in the nonprofit sector, where you’re apt to wear multiple hats and may feel pulled in various directions. How do you ever find the time to just get stuff done?
Given your competing priorities – and the fact that you’re working to make social change! – the last thing you want to do is waste your work hours spinning your wheels or thinking in circles.
We recently presented at LIVE2017, the annual conference of the Professional Association of Volunteer Leaders – Ontario. In our session, we spoke with some very busy leaders of volunteers about the many priorities they’re juggling.
The truth is, staying organized, productive, and focused can seem out of grasp, but there are some simple tips you can follow to free up your time at work and stay on task. Here are five strategies we shared in our session that can help tidy up anyone’s to-do list:
1. Automate and schedule repetitive emails
Do you find yourself caught up in stewardship and touchpoint activities that are repetitive? Try email automation! Chances are that your organization is already using a mass email system like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor for marketing activities, but have you harnessed the power of these systems for repetitive communications? Some creative uses of email automation include: application or intake follow-up, volunteer or staff training emails, and milestones like donor anniversaries or volunteer birthdays.
2. Harness the power of your database
Along the same lines, some databases can set up reminders or automated emails to help you keep track of client, donor, volunteer, and staff milestones and touchpoints… so you don’t need to remember yourself! You may also be able to use your database for tasks like volunteer scheduling, allowing your volunteers to sign up for shifts based on their own availability and your needs. No more back-and-forth emails for scheduling!
3. Chunk your work
One way to ensure your attention is constantly being pulled in multiple directions is to chunk your work. This is especially helpful if you have a role that’s split between very distinct functions. Block your time into tasks, allowing yourself the time to complete a task before turning your attention to something else. One way to maintain this mental division is to have separate inboxes for your different roles. (E.g. email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Repurpose strategies and communications
Is there anything you’re doing for one stakeholder group that can be repurposed for other groups? For example, you could write one monthly newsletter that’s then tweaked and personalized to suit clients, donors, and volunteers, rather than producing three distinct newsletters.
5. Answering FAQs
If you have an external-facing role, chances are you receive some of the same questions from the public over and over again. There are lots of ways to make responding to these FAQs quick and easy. For example:
- An email autoresponder and pre-recorded voicemail message with responses to anticipated questions
- Utilizing Quick Parts in Microsoft Outlook to create email templates
- A blog post or webpage addressing some of the common questions
Co-Founder, Charity Savant
Sasha Elford is a volunteer manager, fundraiser, and communications professional who has many years of experience working with nonprofits, from the local to the national. As the brains behind Karma Careers, Sasha’s passion is developing and engaging human capital – volunteers and new talent – in the nonprofit sector.