While many people look forward to the opportunity to start the new year with a clean slate, nonprofit professionals should make sure that they take sufficient time to reflect on what worked—and what did not—over the past year. To that end, I present my top 10 nonprofit resolutions for 2017. Best wishes for a productive year. Make the ask and go get that win.
1. Break bad habits. The savvy nonprofit professional learns from experience. Your time and energies are valuable, and you should take steps designed to avoid squandering resources where opportunities do not exist. Do not repeat missteps from years past simply because you have always done things that way. You should go with what works and refine—or toss, if and where appropriate—what does not work.
2. Identify weakness. Each of us should use the new year as an opportunity to identify and improve upon at least one specific weakness. Are your pitch skills substandard? Practice your pitch with friends and family. Is your command of your organization’s financials lacking? Commit them to memory. Taking the time to develop and redevelop yourself is a key component to success. Make it a priority this new year.
3. Organize. As the old adage says, failure to plan is planning to fail. We should periodically review the status of ongoing commitments and plot strategies designed to resolve them successfully. If nothing else, take the time over the next few weeks to organize your contacts, your files and your calendar. Effective organization will enable you to make the most of your time and efforts, and will put you in the best possible position to capitalize on available and emerging opportunities.
4. Get prepared. Generally attributed to Seneca, the Roman philosopher, the quote “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” remains just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. As a nonprofit professional, you will often find yourself competing against numerous priorities at odds with your goals and objectives. Take the time to position yourself strategically, to be at the right place at the right time, armed with the right information and the right message. Know your organization and your cause.
5. Review your mission statement. Human beings are creatures of habit, and many of us often find ourselves lulled into the comfort of dealing with the routine of day-in and day-out tasks. As a component of being prepared, savvy nonprofit professionals will use the new year as an opportunity to review their organization’s mission statement and to consider its implications, asking themselves why the organization’s mission is important and how they can add value.
6. Reconnect with volunteers and donors. The new year offers an unparalleled opportunity to revisit and strengthen relationships with past volunteers and donors. Do not squander it—use this opportunity to pick up the telephone and send emails to those who have supported your cause and efforts in years past. Make it a priority to reconnect.
7. Evaluate your goals and objectives. While many of us are used to setting goals and objectives in regard to our upcoming year, too often we fail to take the time necessary to objectively evaluate those goals and objectives in light of past performance and available resources, setting the bar either too low or too high. Setting goals and objectives too low is tantamount to taking a dip in the kiddie pool, while setting goals too high might lead to drowning. Ideally, you want to tread water—furiously.
8. Identify your wins. Visualization is often a critical tool to success. Use an afternoon over the next week to identify the specific wins you want and to establish a roadmap to victory. Be concrete—spend time thinking about each of your wins in detail, and write down the steps you believe are necessary to realize them. “We will open the book. Its pages are blank,” English poet Edith Lovejoy Pierce said of the New Year. “We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
9. Walk, don’t run. In today’s fast-paced world, the pressure on nonprofit professionals to chalk up wins—yesterday—is enormous. Avoid falling victim to this pressure. The forward-thinking nonprofit professional understands that he or she wants to build lasting relationships with volunteers and donors, a circumstance that generally requires significant investment. All the time in the world exists to do things the right way. So take your time.
10. Be interesting and amazing. Many of us do not give ourselves sufficient credit for who we are and what we do. As nonprofit professionals, we come from all walks of life, with wide and varied interests and talents—we are blacksmiths and builders, artists and inventors, architects and explorers. Your story and strengths are what make you an asset to your volunteers, your donors, your organization and its mission, and you should use the upcoming new year as an opportunity to be both interesting and amazing—in short, to be yourself.
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.