Why Your Organization Should Be in Back to School Mode

by Nanette Fridman

The air is changing, and it is becoming dark earlier here in the Northeast. The stores have been in back-to-school mode for months. Yesterday I noticed that the Halloween candy is on sale at the supermarket.

While it is true that many employees and volunteers will be on vacation until after Labor Day, for those of you in the office, it’s time for you too to switch into “back-to-school” mode.

In order to hit the Fall running, here are some tips for the coming weeks:

  1. Introduce new people and new roles: If you have done summer hiring or people have moved into new positions, it is a good idea to let the board of directors, staff, volunteers, members and users of your services/programs know. Have press releases been sent out announcing new leadership, and if appropriate, have meet-and-greets been held? Nametags for events and name plaques for meetings are always a good idea.
  2. Determine/review strategic direction and plans: If you are working under an operative strategic plan, have you assessed your organization’s performance against the plan recently? If so, what are the next steps? Does everyone on the team know your strategic direction? Think of your strategic direction as the thematic unit for the quarter or semester. Everything you do should answer the question, how does this further our mission and direction?
  3. Set organizational goals and priorities for the semester (or quarter): What are the goals and priorities for your organization overall and for each department, working group and committee? There are no A, B, C’s in nonprofit management only dollars, services and programs. How will you measure your success during this period?
  4. Have individual meetings with employees to define responsibilities, set personal goals and professional trajectories: Your employees may be out of school but everyone needs an advisor or mentor. Take the time to meet individually with your staff and listen to their thoughts about their roles and where they see themselves going. Since people who work in nonprofits earn less than their for-profit counterparts, it is essential that they feel valued and a sense of professional development. Your people are your biggest resource.
  5. Devote time to team building: As anyone who has worked in small to medium nonprofits knows, regardless of your job title and description, everyone needs to pitch in. Success requires team work. Teams aren’t built overnight. Take some time at the start of the school year cycle for some team building either at the office or on a retreat.
  6. Invest in new systems: Just like students need to do back-to-school shopping for clothes, notebooks and organizers, the organization needs to assess its back-to-school supplies and systems. Think of September as a fresh start and an opportunity to adopt new ways to be efficient and organized.

The calendar provides natural rhythms that regulate our lives. Take advantage of this restart to launch a great year for your organization.

Nanette Fridman is the President of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm for mission driven organizations. She can be reached at fridmanstrategies@gmail.com or @NanetteFridman.