End of Year Checklist: How to Prepare Your Nonprofit Organization for 2021
2020 has been an undeniably difficult year. Although many nonprofits are still dealing with the challenges it’s brought, from increased pressure on their services to difficulties created by remote work, the new year is quickly approaching—and with it comes new opportunities for your organization.
As you reflect on everything you’ve overcome this year, don’t forget to prepare for the months ahead. To set your team up for success in 2021, here’s a quick checklist to help you evaluate what you still need to do before 2020 draws to a close.
1. Have you taken steps to keep employees engaged from home?
The COVID-19 vaccine has finally arrived, but with experts estimating that most people won’t be vaccinated for several more months, remote work won’t be going away just yet. As we near a full year of social distancing, nonprofit leaders will have to find new ways to keep employees engaged from home if they want to boost productivity and reduce turnover.
One strategy that can help is giving your staff more control over their schedules by scaling back video calls or switching to asynchronous meetings when possible. This not only provides them with more autonomy over their day, which can increase motivation and output, but also makes it easier for them to juggle work and family priorities during a challenging time when many people are stuck at home.
If you haven’t checked in with your team in a while, now is also a great time to do so. How are they feeling? What do they need to be successful? The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people even during normal years, so taking a pulse check can help you identify anyone who may need a little extra help.
2. Are you fulfilling your commitments to diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB)?
Like many companies and nonprofits alike, you may have made commitments earlier this year to improve diversity at your organization and promote inclusivity and belonging. As the year draws to a close, it’s time to assess your progress so far and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done.
Accountability is essential to building trust. Taking steps to follow up on your commitments shows your employees, donors, and the communities you serve that your organization is dedicated to walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
While looking at your workforce demographics is important, you have to go beyond these numbers alone to ensure you’re creating a truly inclusive organization where people from all backgrounds can thrive. What is the career trajectory like for underrepresented employees? Are they advancing at the same rates as their peers? What are your retention rates like across demographics? By keeping track of these metrics, you can identify areas for improvement, helping you live up to your commitments and better support your people in the coming year.
3. Have you recently assessed your digital strategy?
With in-person fundraising opportunities likely off the table for the foreseeable future, your nonprofit needs a solid digital strategy now more than ever.
This will look different for every organization, depending on your resources and priorities, but some steps you might want to take include evaluating whether your website is quick to load, optimized for SEO, and as fresh and informative as possible. With the budget you might usually have earmarked for traditional fundraising strategies, you could also invest more heavily in social media marketing in 2021 to get the word out about your mission. Many social media platforms (including LinkedIn) offer discounts for qualifying nonprofit organizations to help them make the most of their budget, so if you haven’t’ explored what’s available to you yet, you can add that to your list of New Year’s resolutions.
4. Do you have a donor retention plan in place?
Retaining existing donors is a top priority for nonprofits every year, but in light of the financial pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic, having a solid donor retention plan will be critical in 2021.
If you’re hesitant to ask prior donors for more money at a time when they may be facing hardships of their own, why not let them know about other ways that they can support your organization—like donating resources or volunteering their time? Volunteering opportunities provide a firsthand look at the wonderful work your organization accomplishes, making people more likely to support you financially in the future. And while volunteering in person may not be possible just yet, there are a number of ways donors can help from home, like phone banking or speaking at a virtual event you’re hosting.
5. Are your cybersecurity measures sufficient?
The topic of cybersecurity can be overwhelming, especially for small organizations that lack the resources to hire an in-house IT team. A study conducted by Microsoft found that 60% of nonprofits don’t have or are unaware of an organization-wide cybersecurity policy, and 74% don’t use multifactor authentication for email or business accounts. Combine this with the security risks of working from home on personal devices, and you’ll quickly realize how vulnerable your information—and your donors’—is to attack.
To strengthen your security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends taking steps to identify your risks and implement preventative measures. This might include controlling employee access to sensitive information, educating staff about potential threats, regularly backing up your data, and routinely updating your software. As we continue to work remotely, organizations should also consider using virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow employees to safely access network resources from home.
Looking back and looking forward
As we approach the end of this difficult year, you should be immensely proud of everything your team has accomplished. It’s hard to predict what 2021 will bring, but by taking these steps, your organization should be in a strong position to overcome hurdles and continue supporting the communities you serve.
If you need help achieving your hiring, marketing, fundraising, or learning and development goals for 2021, we’re here. Reach out to us today and one of our Nonprofit Specialists will be happy to help.