Time to Get Away and Recharge

President Obama and family have decamped to Martha’s Vineyard for the remainder of August where it is reported he hopes to get some much needed rest and take time to re-evaluate his strategies for dealing with the various crises that await him. I like the idea that he recognizes the value of “down-time” and how important it is to step away from the day-to-day to be able to look at things from a fresh vantage point. While most of us will not be so lucky to end our summer on Martha’s Vineyard, many of us will get away to relax and to ponder the upcoming issues and challenges that await our return.

For those of us who work in the nonprofit marketing and communications field, the challenges we face [alongside our peers] this autumn are already being described as very difficult and not likely to ease up any time soon. This autumn most nonprofits have fewer people to accomplish the task at hand, are feeling greater pressure than ever to raise funds and find more supporters, and on top of this, to tackle the myriad new digital ways to create new streams of income.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed, give yourself a break and follow the President’s lead. Clear your head. Enjoy the sweet end of summer. And organize a game plan that will allow you to find a reasonable way through all the long, tough days ahead.

Here is a game plan you can try out.

  1. Step back and ask yourself with some honesty, what you believe will most help you be effective at your job. If you believe that you most need to reorganize your now smaller team and redefine their roles and responsibilities, then plot out the plan now. If, on the other hand, you believe that the most important thing you need to do your job well is get more one-on-one time with your CEO and/or chairperson, develop your argument for getting that change done while you are free to come up with a smart, cohesive, and benefits-driven rationale. Whatever you come up with, write it down in all its specificity and develop a way to get what you need.
  2. Once you have identified what you need in order to perform and have laid out a game plan for getting it, now ask yourself: “What am I doing that is not producing valued results?” If you examine your work role and how you spend your time, I am sure you will find things that you do [well or not so well] that have little real impact. Ask yourself what benefit such activity produces in support of organizational goals; organizational mission and priorities; your professional worth and growth; staff morale. This exercise will help you see where this work fits in the larger scheme of things and should make it easier to stop doing it.
  3. Now, develop a list of things you have long believed would be of value to your organization, have not yet been tried and that belong to your area of responsibility. Keep the list short and focused on only those that will advance your organization’s priorities within a defined time period. [In this difficult environment, it’s a good time to try new things, but it also makes sense to try to see results within the not too distant future.] Build a case for doing these new things that makes it easy for your boss to say “yes”.
  4. Find three ways to save money within your area of responsibility; find three ways to create new revenue. Maybe you can’t rehire lost staff. But you might be able to get funds for an outside expert to retrain your staff to perform better and help drive revenue.
  5. Finally, take a nap. Then review your game plan. Modify once. No more. Now go play ball with your kids, take your mother out for dinner, walk the dog, watch the sunset with your special someone.

Happy end of summer.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.