Self-Care for Workaholics

First off – three things about me.

  1. I am queen of the side hustle.

    For as long as I can remember, I have been the first to snatch up odd jobs, temporary gigs, and random opportunities to make some extra cheddar. Always legal endeavors, I promise. And spending most of my 20’s broke as a joke didn’t help when it came to making me a habitual worker bee, worrying about how I was going to get by if I wasn’t working 24/7. There’s a little demon inside of me that is always telling me to get to work.

  2. I am a proud worker bee.

    I actually like to work. It’s fulfilling to me, it’s exciting, and I have always been better at work than I was at school. Standardized tests, ugh. Enjoying my work means that I spend a lot of time on it… generally speaking, I work every day, even if it’s just for an hour. You might be thinking “oof, that sounds unhealthy.” You’re right. But as they say, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

  3. I’m a freelancer.

    My fellow freelancers can tell you – there’s no such thing as a day off. Flexible schedules and working from anywhere you like are awesome perks, to be sure, but having an often erratic workload and a variety of contracts can sometimes mean that you’re just going to need to do the work when it comes in, and that can stick you with an 8 – day workweek.

The combination of enjoying work, and lots of it, has put me in a position where sometimes it’s difficult to come up for air and take a break. But it’s really important to do that, and so today I’d like to share what works for me, so that you, my fellow crazy workhorse person, can also start building a more balanced, enjoyable work/life dynamic.

It’ll be great, I promise.

What does a break look like to you?

Someone asked me this once, my jaw practically hit the floor, and I was really upset to discover that I had no answer for that question. I’d been so busy grinding that I had lost sight of what relaxation even meant to me. The beauty of this question is that you get to answer it yourself. Do you like hiking? Appreciating the artful stylings of Keyboard Cat? It doesn’t really matter. Now you have a place to start.

Use your powers for good.

If you’re hyper-organized and great with time management, you’re 75% of the way to success when it comes to sticking some me-time into your day. Schedule a break for yourself! “11:00 a.m. Hula Hoop Session” or “Lunchtime Nap”. Try it. Then hold yourself to it. You’re a disciplined person, you can do it.

Just say NO.

It took me a little too long to learn the power of a well-placed “no”, but boy howdy did it make a big impact when I finally did. As it turns out, declining offers for gigs that aren’t going to lead to more and better work down the line, social engagements that are more of a hassle than a good time, and requests for help from people that can probably take care of themselves, are all great ways to lighten your load and help you focus more on you.

Bottom line – You are your biggest, most important asset.

I know this is not the first time you have heard this, and it won’t be the last. Don’t allow yourself to burn out. Make time for things you love, say no to things you don’t (when possible), and thank your heart, mind, and body for making it possible to work in the first place. Take good care of yourself, my friend.

Want to talk more about treating yourself better? Hit me up on Twitter.

Events Made Easy Peasy

I have planned probably 150+ events in my day… And counting. My list of 5 event management essentials for a successful project might not have lots in common with others, but these points are pretty helpful to me, so I want to share them with the world.

Great event management is all about attitude.

Once you’re confident in yourself and your ability to roll with punches, you’ll be able to implement fantastic events whenever. And – once you learn to harness your inner control freak, you’ll be able to upgrade from Micro Manager to Events Expert.

Plan B

You need contingency plans for the big stuff at your event. What about rain? What if the food for the staff doesn’t show? What if you puke? Ok, you’re not going to puke. But for the pieces of the event that absolutely must work out, you’ll need to consider the backup. A good Plan B is realistic and utilizes resources that will be readily available to you at the event. So, as an example, if your food doesn’t arrive – have petty cash on hand, and send someone to the store for granola bars.

Expect the Unexpected

If you are sure of the fact that something will go differently than you expect, you can prepare yourself for the emotional strain of a sudden change of plans. For me, this falls under a different category than contingency planning, because as the event manager, you have to be ready to keep your emotions in check, pivot, and re-prioritize quickly. I love this post because it’s full of practical strategies for staying cool and calm under pressure.

Too Many Checklists

Over-preparation is a good thing. Many great events run on several series of detailed checklists, and I encourage you to have before, during, and post-event checklists and plans. Here’s a great example of one from Cornell (ever heard of it?

Make sure you let your team in on this stuff, too – more brains holding onto this information is better.  

Duct Tape

You know how the saying goes: “If you can’t duck it, F*** it!” – Seriously though. Tape. It comes in handy, just trust me on this one.

Overshare

Guess what? Your team can’t read your mind. I know, today of all days, it’d be a big help. If you have a clear picture in your head of how the event ought to go, that is great – now share that with the rest of the class. Your team wants a schedule, a list of other staff and their contact information, and a clear description of what they need to do throughout the day – and who’s doing the other stuff.

Psst…Did you know there’s only one of you? I know, another big bummer. By preparing your team in advance and giving them clear directions, they will be able to execute and shine on their own, without coming to you every 3 minutes with another question.

Now go get ’em, Tiger!

You’re on your way to event management success. Want to talk some more about this topic? Shoot me a message on Twitter!

Nonprofit Board Service Part 3: What Type?

All boards of directors govern, or guide, the work of a given nonprofit organization. This means that the members of the board are expected to weigh in on the big decisions that steer the organization. Most boards also have expectations related to fundraising and time commitments, too. Make sure you understand the role before you sign on.

A helpful question to ask is: “what is the focus of your board right now?”

There are usually two kinds of boards: working boards, and fundraising boards. This simply means that different organizations will want to emphasize different types of work from their board members. The goals, objectives, and deliverables described in your strategic plan will help you to determine what kind of board you ought to have. Don’t have a strategic plan? You likely need one – check out this post from the National Council of Nonprofits on the topic. In the meantime, read on.

Fundraising boards consist of members who are able to help the organization raise money. These people usually have a lot of money themselves, or are connected to other people, companies, and organizations that have access to funding. If your organization is no longer in its infancy and has little groundwork or capacity building work to do, a fundraising board might be a smart type of people to pursue. When it comes to getting your current roster of board members to feel confident about raising money, there’s a lot you can do. I like this post from Nonprofit Hub about getting your board up to speed and excited about fundraising.

A working board has members who do the work of the organization. These people staff events, write grants, and get their hands a bit dirtier with the nitty-gritty and day to day of the organization. They might not be able to raise the big bucks, but they volunteer a lot of their time, and add a lot of value when it comes to expanding the organization’s reach, networks, and relationships. Additionally, these boards might have people whose skill sets or professions match current needs and goals of the organization. So, if you’re planning a big fundraiser, and you have a board member who is a wedding planner, you might put this person to work planning your annual event. You can usually find working boards at smaller organizations where a little extra “people power” is often needed. This post from Nonprofit Know-How digs a little deeper into this topic.

Neither of these types is better than the other, but each type meets different goals.

And, of course, the makeup of your board can be (and likely is) a combination of the two. However, it does help to know what is most important to the organization when you’re recruiting new members or thinking about getting involved.
Want to chat more about board service? Drop me a line on Twitter!

Nonprofit Board Service Part 2: During the Meeting

Ever been to a board meeting before? If not, that is ok! Everyone has to start somewhere. Just so you’re ready, here’s a rundown of what to expect (more or less) in a nonprofit board meeting, and some suggestions for helping things run smoothly.

Most board meetings have a similar progression and agenda.

It’s helpful to set up an agenda your organization can use on a regular basis and stick to it, so that members can submit items that they would like to discuss, and it’s predictable where and when within the agenda you can address each issue.

The secretary is responsible for sending out minutes and the upcoming agenda in advance of upcoming meetings. When this ought to happen is up to your organization, but I’ll take a guess and say that most people would prefer this information a week in advance instead of a day ahead.

The executive committee is responsible for setting the agenda, and so any members of the board who would like to ensure that additional items be included for discussion ought to communicate with the folks responsible for drafting the agenda. Check out my last post for more information about who does what on the board.

Generally speaking, this is how a nonprofit board meeting progresses:

  1. President calls the meeting to order.
  2. President reviews previous meeting notes, and calls on the board to approve them.
    1. Side Note: Board approvals usually require that someone make what’s called a “motion”. This is a suggestion that everyone present agree to move forward with that given decision. So, in this case, the president might ask, “Motion to approve the minutes from last month’s meeting?” and then two additional board members will need to act. One will say something like “I move that we approve the notes from our last meeting” and then another, different member will say “I second” which means that they agree, and the group can move on to the next item on the agenda.
  3. President leads discussions according to the order specified in the agenda.
    1. Side Note: Pauses may be necessary to take votes or debate issues. The president and secretary will need to keep an eye on timing in order to ensure that all agenda items can be addressed in the time allotted. If you run out of time for an item, you can always come back to it later in the meeting if time allows.
  4. If you need to take a vote, a member of the board will need to “motion” that the group take a vote on the issue. Once a board member motions for a vote, someone will need to Second their motion in order to formally spur a vote.  In order for a binding decision to be made, you will need what’s called a quorum, or a majority (or super-majority) of total board members (including those not present at the meeting). It probably goes without saying, but the board should not motion for a vote or take a vote if there are not enough members of the board present at that meeting to constitute a quorum. The vote will need to be postponed or taken another way. There are lots of online polling tools available for free. I happen to like Doodle for scheduling, and Survey Monkey for other types of questions. In most cases, members of the organization’s staff are not allowed to vote.

At the end of the meeting, the president calls the meeting to a close, and the secretary lets everyone know when the next meeting will be. Afterward, the secretary also promptly distributes the meeting notes/minutes to all the board members, and follows up to remind everyone about the scheduling for the next meeting.

At a time agreed upon by the board (decide once, and then keep things consistent), the secretary will then remind board members of upcoming meetings and provide them with the agenda for the next meeting so that everyone knows what topics will be discussed.

Established rules and agendas take a lot of stress out of meeting with your board and allow you to get things done and make decisions within a set amount of time.

Role descriptions help your volunteers understand what their responsibilities are, so that you can better distribute tasks and work efficiently towards meeting your organization’s goals.

Have questions about the process of a board meeting? Ping me on Twitter!

Nonprofit Board Service Part 1: Roles and Responsibilities

I get a lot of questions about what it’s like to serve on a nonprofit board, who does what on the board, and what happens during meetings. This post will be the first in a series on the topic of nonprofit board service. I hope that once you know more about the ins and outs, you’ll consider volunteering and contributing to an organization whose work resonates with you personally. Serving on the board of a nonprofit an honor that you will take seriously and commit energy to, and in light of that, you’ll want to do things right – and that starts with understanding your role, and the role of the others you’re serving with.

Let’s start with who does what.

Executive Team

Some matters require extra attention from the executive team. The Executive members of a nonprofit board are generally the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and any committee chairs. An executive session is a great way to talk privately and set up tactical messaging and consistent communications on the part of the board leadership. When and why to old an executive session is up to you and your organization. This document from Board Source provides an excellent summary of when, how, and why to utilize executive sessions.

President 

The president is the primary executive officer of a nonprofit and is responsible for representing the organization publicly, coordinating with executive staff, running Board meetings and keeping the organization on track. This is a tough job, and should be assigned to someone with leadership ability as well as a passion for the organization. In meetings, the president calls the meeting to order, calls votes when needed, and generally makes sure that proceedings follow bylaws and rules of procedure. It’s the president’s job to speak on behalf of the board when it comes to external communications and communications with staff on sensitive issues. I like this post from Nathan Garber and Associates on the president’s role.

Secretary

The secretary’s role is to manage the schedule of the meeting, take minutes/notes, and then provide information to board members after the meeting and before each meeting about deliverables, assignments, and more. They’re the recordkeeper of authority and ensure that all other board members have access to and are familiar with the bylaws. They are truly the primary organizers and task trackers of the group. It’s important that this person be a stickler for the rules, and not afraid to delegate tasks and responsibilities to other board members. For more detail about the secretary role, check out this excellent outline from Nathan Garber and Associates.

Treasurer

The treasurer keeps track of financial matters of the organization and works closely with the executive director to ensure that the organization is able to stay on budget, present a sound financial image to the public and to donors, pay staff and meet financial expectations and demands. This individual monitors bank accounts and financial transactions of the organization. More information about the roles of a nonprofit treasurer can be found on Nonprofit Law Blog.

Committee Chairs

In many boards, there are a few committees that help the organization address specific goals or projects. During board meetings, it’s important that the entire governing body be kept up to date on current events and progress. Committee chairs will need to provide updates of new information during meetings, even if there isn’t much of note. These committees often meet in between regularly scheduled meetings in order to address their projects and deliverables. An example of a common committee is a development committee, whose main focus is fundraising, either through events or grant applications.

Other Members

When it’s time to build out a board or bring on new members, it’s important to consider whether your membership is comprised of folks who are helping your organization achieve its goals. I love this document from the Association of Fundraising Professionals on Building an Effective Board of Directors. If you’re still wondering what board members do versus. what staff members do, I think this article from the Free Management Library provides a great summary of division of labor.

Organization Staff

If the organization has staff, they will need to provide an update of what has happened or what work has been done since the last time that the group met. This helps everyone stay up to date and make decisions based on the most current information. Which staff provide updates, beyond the executive-level staff, is up to the discretion of the board and the organization’s leadership.

Shoot me a message on Twitter with any questions you have about board service! If you’re not ready for board service, but still want to give back, check out my post on volunteering.

Time to Get Social!

For small organizations and non-profits, social media is an important way to ensure that your voice is heard above the massive amounts of content found on the internet every day. Here are some ideas to help you get going on your social media presence and start reaching your target audiences.

Who are they?

Determining who you are hoping to reach and inspire is the first important step to creating and distributing effective social media content. This information will help you to create the right message for the right platform. Determining your target group should include factors like age range, location, interests, professional area – anything pertaining to your area of focus.

Where do they go for content?

Figure out where your chosen audience goes to get social, and focus your resources on that platform. For example, If you know that you’re hoping to recruit college students to help out on some upcoming volunteer event, find out what social media platforms they are using. Pew Internet put together this great post about demographic breakdowns for a ton of popular social media sites.

What do they care about?

Small organizations and non-profits need to keep up-to-date on the issues that impact and motivate our audiences. Creating informative, instructional content that speaks to current events and the needs of your audience is called Content Marketing. Check out the Wikipedia article on the topic for more information.

Location-based news is a particularly great starting point for a Tweet, Facebook post, etc. Remember that your audience cares about the issues more than they care about your organization – so when you write about a cause you care about, focus on providing information about how you offer a solution to the problem your audience would like to solve.

For example, if your company makes great ice cream, instead of writing about how your product is made and why it’s the best, you would write a post about some local restaurants that carry it, so that your target group knows where to get their fix. You can still provide more details about your product on your website.

What type of message to use?

Today’s social media platforms all provide a range of ways to maximize your content. Videos, pictures, GIFs, Emojis… the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating exciting content. Familiarize yourself with the benefits and disadvantages of each, and select a few that work for your organization and that fit to your target group. For instance, if you want to target 30-50 year olds, a picture will probably work better than GIFs or Emojis. I like this post from Impact Branding and Design that breaks down several popular sites.

The world of social media engagement and outreach is always growing and changing, and this post only scratches the surface of what’s available (for free!) to your organization. It’s important to remember that effective social media is updated frequently.

Focus only on the platforms that your audiences like and use, and save your team the effort of creating content for sites that aren’t going to be useful.

Good luck! If you want to chat about all things social, give me a shout on Twitter.

Volunteer Service for Beginners

 

Just do it!

Do you have an issue that’s close to your heart? If you have some free time, and would rather spend it giving back and making a difference than binge-watching your whole life away, consider volunteering and Board Service. Remember this quote by the ultimate do-er, Mahatma Gandhi:

“Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy.”

Folks of all ages have a lot to offer, no matter what you’re good at: accounting, event planning, fundraising, HR, there’s a spot for you out there, at a great organization where your service will be valued and appreciated. I love this article on what makes a great board member from The National Council of Nonprofits. Remember, the most important thing is to be grateful and enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve a cause that you really care about.

Ready to serve?

Here are some fantastic resources that can help steer you towards worthy organizations that are looking for volunteers, Board and Advisory Board members:

If you understand how organizations search for help, it makes it easier for you to find them, too. Linkedin is a perfect place to make the connection between your skills, hobbies, professional interests, and the needs of organizations in your area.

Your state’s association of nonprofits will have more information about which local organizations are currently searching to fill gaps in their board lineup.

Volunteer Match is a great source for a variety of opportunities and ways to help out, both short and long term.

Idealist is another spot to check out if you’re looking for local organizations that need help. Sometimes it’s a good idea to volunteer for an organization for a bit before you ask about board membership. That way, you can meet key players and get a better sense of how the organization operates, and figure out how you might be of most help to them.

The Rules

Not all volunteers are created equal. To be the best, follow these 3 simple rules:

It’s not about you.

When you volunteer, ask what the organization needs, rather than thinking first of how the experience will benefit you or your resume.

Show up!

If you sign up, be on time, consistent, and present. There’s work to be done, and organizations that are asking for help need active, energetic helpers.

Have respect.

This is a free time activity for you, but it’s someone else’s career. Respect employees’ time and effort, and defer to their expertise.

Wanna chat about nonprofit board service? Reach out to me on Twitter!