Have you ever had an experience that leaves you wondering if that really just happened?
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Italy and had a moment like this when I was preparing to head home. The trip itself was perfect; a great balance of exploring, skiing, and of course, all the food and delicious beverages I could consume! Travel has always provided me with adventure, an introduction to new things, and opportunities to push my comfort zone. I’ve never taken a trip where I didn’t learn something and boy did I learn some things on this one. To say this trip was an adventure is an understatement. Travel delays stopped my plans in their tracks on the return home and I soon found myself arranging to extend my stay. I immediately went from what felt like a perfectly planned and well-executed trip to navigating a whole lot of uncertainty.
My eleven-hour flight back to the states provided lots of time for reflection. As I prepared for my return to work, I recognized my recent experiences and lessons learned could not only be applied to my work but also to my nonprofit community. It’s funny how getting thrown a curveball can provide valuable perspective.
My travel delays inspired 4 work hacks that proved to be valuable to me and I hope they are for you too!
1. Always plan for the unexpected. I didn’t schedule clients the week after I was supposed to return home just in case something did happen. This has become a habit for me when I travel internationally and I don’t typically need the extra week. However, this time I did and I’m so grateful I had it. Plan for unexpected events. Give yourself adequate time to complete a project and manage expectations along the way. This will ensure you can stay focused on the task at hand and continue to move forward when plans are disrupted. Think about the tasks that are most important to your job. Block enough time on your calendar so that if something unexpected happens these tasks can still be completed.
2. Communicate with your team. Unexpected events require ongoing communication. In my case, brainstorming strategy and next steps with my husband was helpful. We each had our own ideas and concerns that came together to create our plan. In the nonprofit sector, we are surrounded by supporters (board of directors, staff, partners) who want to help. Communicate your needs openly and honestly. Share relevant info, listen, and be prepared to make informed decisions.
3. Budget with uncertainty in mind. Things ALWAYS come up, right? We forecast based on realistic expectations and then something happens that disrupts our beautiful budget. It can be an awful feeling. Focus on building a cash reserve and budget funds to support this. Track your indirect and direct program costs to have an accurate picture of what you are spending and be sure that is represented in your budget. When you proactively budget with uncertainty in mind, you are recognizing the unexpected can happen and are better prepared to handle it.
4. Don’t fear change. Don’t be fearful of the changes that happen after you’ve planned and prepared. I know that is easier said than done, especially with all the uncertainty we have dealt with over the past few years. However, nonprofits that have been successful during this time have a few things in common. They are meeting changes with flexibility, innovation, and creativity. Recognize you have taken the steps to manage and control outcomes to the best of your ability. Trust your planning.
I hope my lessons learned can be valuable to you too! Ensuring your nonprofit is resilient in times of change is no small task but can be accomplished through planning and preparation. If you would like to talk specifics about your organization, reach out. I would welcome the opportunity to listen and offer support to move your important work forward.
For more tips on planning and tools to help your organizations, check out this blog post https://inciteconsultinggroup.com/2021/07/02/structure/.