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January 20, 2022
Making a Fresh Start in the New Year
Eric Cormier
Eric Cormier
One of the most helpful ways to ensure that the new year is happier for your nonprofit is to take time to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and challenges #147; and proactively identify steps for achieving and perhaps surpassing goals.

Below are some suggestions that nonprofits can implement to set the course for the coming year:

Make an Assessment

Each year has its highs and lows. Take a careful look at all aspects of the organization and review the business plan. Was it a difficult year? If so, was this due to internal issues within the organization, or did external influences, such as the economy or new legislation, have an effect on operations. It is important to be objective when assessing what did not work #147; not in an accusatory manner, but in the spirit of improvement. Also, look at the year’s bright spots and build on successes, no matter how small.

Set Realistic Goals

It is essential to determine what the organization needs to achieve growth, prioritizing key initiatives that are critical for short- and long-term success. Think positively about the coming year, but recognize that setting overly ambitious goals that may be difficult to achieve is not beneficial. Instead, set small realistic goals each quarter that are more likely to be reached and track progress on a regular basis. This will help both management and the staff to remain focused and motivated.

Open Communications Channels

Many organizations’ problems stem from miscommunication. In January, the executive director and board should share their vision, communicate the organization’s goals (even if the goals are the same as the previous year), and acknowledge the vital role employees play in the organization’s success.

Update HR Policies

Management should annually ensure that human resources guidelines are up to date, communicate them to employees and make sure everyone is on the same page. The employee handbook should be reviewed and revised if information has changed. In this digital age, it is easy to refresh an online handbook. Be certain that employees are aware of any changes so they can operate in accordance with company regulations.

Evaluate the Organization’s Human Capital

Despite its importance, relatively few executive directors or boards seem to give disciplined thought to how their employees can add value and provide a better return on investment. Does the organization have the right people in place? Are all positions filled? Do employees know what is expected of them, and are they being well directed? The hiring process may need to be tweaked, and job descriptions may need to more accurately reflect the necessary competencies for each position.

Also, consider whether or not the organization is providing effective feedback to employees on a regular basis. Employees should be recognized for a job well done; employees who may not be working as effectively should be informed as to what they need to do to improve their job performance. Of course, this communication should be ongoing throughout the year.

Invest in Professional Development

As an organization evolves, the employees should also develop and grow. Consider training programs that would aid employees in their professional development. Also, be sure to include mandatory training related to safety, anti-harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Involve Employees in the Planning Process

An organization’s employees are on the front line every day, speaking to donors, ensuring quality services and keeping operations running smoothly. Tap their expertise and encourage them to share their ideas for improving the organization. Not only can this help generate new ideas, but it can also add to employee development and increased motivation.

Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, —it will be happier’...” Although it is exciting to imagine all the possibilities for one’s nonprofit organization in the upcoming year, making Tennyson’s poetic vision come true requires that management set a clear direction rather than leave success to the whims of chance.

Eric Cormier is a human resources specialist in the Boston office of Insperity, a national provider of human resources and business performance solutions, whose clients include a variety of nonprofit organizations. Call 800-465-3800 or visit
December 2015
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