Posts Tagged ‘organisation’

What are your non-profit’s board meetings actually like? Do they run smoothly, and does your board get a lot accomplished when they gather? Does your board get easily sidetracked instead, or, perhaps worse, do things get destructive and descend into utter chaos soon after the meeting begins?

Most boards have a great deal of business that they need to discuss and take action on when they meet. With so many personalities and points of view involved, disagreements, misunderstandings and even a simple need to be heard can all cause meetings to drag on much longer than they need to.

Planning and sound design, as well as top facilitation by the chairman or another moderator, are necessary to keep things on track and running smoothly.

The following is a list of suggestions to help your NFP host more organised and efficient board meetings.

The Benefits of Using an Agenda

One way to help your board get through all of the items it needs to discuss is to prepare an outline of what events will occur during the meeting, and what topics will be addressed. This framework, or schedule of events, is typically referred to as the agenda. Ideally, you will create a formal agenda and present it to your board members well in advance of the meeting. In this way, board members can acquaint themselves with what issues they need to familiarise themselves with before they meet.

Once the meeting occurs, when discussions begin to turn lengthy, the chairperson, executive director or another facilitator can refer members back to the Agenda and its remaining items to help them stay organised and working towards a successful conclusion of the meeting.

Help Your Board Members to Prepare Well-Before the Actual Meeting

In addition to giving board members a copy of the agenda well before the meeting, they should also be provided with copies of all reports and other materials that they need to read and study. They especially need materials that relate to the items that will come up for discussion or votes at the next meeting.

By ensuring that your board members have the materials that they need to be informed before the meeting occurs, valuable time is saved that might otherwise be spent discussing information and concerns that are already covered in these materials.

Keep Detailed Minutes

Keeping a detailed record of what occurs at the meeting is an integral part of improving transparency and fulfilling the board’s responsibilities and duties. When minutes of the meeting are kept, if there is any question about what was, and was not discussed at a prior meeting, there is a record of all votes and other actions taken by the board. This can help to resolve disputes and disagreements faster, as well as help to refresh everyone’s memory so that old business that has been concluded need not be brought up again, wasting everyone’s time.

Keeping Members on Topic

Make a point to schedule time for your board members to meet and socialise at least a few minutes before the formal meeting starts so that folks can catch up with one another and not waste valuable meeting time getting reacquainted with one another.

If the meeting will be overly long, schedule breaks and place them on the agenda, and provide light refreshments and snacks to help keep energy levels, and spirits, high.

If some members have a propensity to be long-winded and prone to speech meeting, schedule time for the chair or other facilitator to meet with them before the start of the meeting. This way they will feel that their concerns are heard and they will be less likely to disrupt the actual meeting with a speech or other display.

Understand that Silence Implies Consent

Just as it’s important for the chair or other facilitator to help keep members on track and focused on the business at hand, it is also imperative that you don’t rush through items. Constructive dialogue and thoughtful discussion does have an essential place in meetings.

Facilitators should ask probing questions and encourage others to voice their opinions. If members find that they disagree with the apparent status quo of the majority of board opinion, the chair or facilitator should make it clear that these members have a duty to speak up. Otherwise they run the risk of the question being called and a vote occurring.

Before the meeting adjourns, the facilitator or chair should thank attendees for coming to the meeting. Members should use this time to agree on when the next meeting should occur, as well as create a starting list of items to be carried forward or otherwise discussed at the next meeting.


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A volunteer treasurer’s role can be both varied and challenging, and while your position can be as unique as the company you work for, all volunteer treasurer positions have one particular thing in common. It is important that you are organised and stay on top of your workload at all times.

While there are many positions where it is okay to fall behind or to have a week’s backlog of work sitting in the in-tray, a volunteer treasurer’s work can suffer if that happens on a regular basis. People look to the treasurer to be able to provide accurate information, and if there are a pile of receipts or invoices to be processed, the work will be far from accurate. As the position can be stressful, falling behind can only serve to heighten any anxiety, particularly if there are deadlines to meet.

As a volunteer treasurer, the transfer of money coming in and money going out is your responsibility. If there are any discrepancies, the blame will fall on you. You must be vigilant when it comes to the deposits and withdrawals and confirm that everything is as it should be.

Paperwork should always be filed before completion dates, and as NFPs rely on grants and are offered special dispensations by the government, everything must be done in a timely fashion. Falling behind on important deadlines can have huge repercussions.

Management will rely on your budget as a guide. If your actual budget is not accurate, then poor financial decisions may be made.

Failure to stay up to date, particularly when your tenure is at an end, will be a nightmare for the next person who takes over the volunteer treasurer office. Everything will need to be up to date to enable a smooth transition.

A volunteer treasurer plays an important part in sustaining the future of the nonprofit and ensuring it meets its goal and mission. There is no room for disorganisation anywhere in the skill list.

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fashion-person-woman-handAs more of our lives involves using digital means to accomplish our daily tasks, things get faster and easier. We can order meals, groceries, take classes, and pay the bill for it all online. However all this easy access can also open the door to unwanted hackers and scammers.

Personal habits are often the key to protecting data, and by taking a few simple steps you can make it much harder for anyone to break into your digital life or that of your Non-Profit Organisation.

Step 1: Take Passwords Seriously

Having a strong password is one of the most basic steps in protecting information, but it is frequently overlooked. Last names, birthdays, children’s names; all personal information is off limits. It is easily found online, especially if you do not have tight security on social media accounts such as Facebook.

Writing a password down is another classic but common mistake. No sticky notes on your desk or the back of the keyboard. If you must write them down, leave the note at your house as a backup.

Use a password that you can remember, maybe a phrase or reminder of a goal. Include capital letters, punctuation and numbers to make it more secure. Don’t share it with anyone, and change it regularly. A good recommendation is every 30 days.

Step 2: Disguise Your Data

Encryption is just a fancy way of saying that the data is scrambled so that it can’t be read without a key. It can be more secure to encode data in this way than to delete it because deleted files can still be pulled off the hard drive.

Setting up encryption is not hard, but it’s not something you may have thought to check. Apple and Windows both have the option to turn on auto encryption of the hard drive, or you can buy a third-party encryption program. If you do business on your phone, you can turn on encryption in the settings on most models.

Be careful what programs you use to communicate as well. Make sure your email is encrypted. Signal and Whatsapp are texting programs that automatically encrypt instant messages, while Facebook Messenger and Google’s Allo have it as an option that will need to be turned on.

Step 3: Stranger Danger

We are taught as children not to trust people we don’t know, and that is a good rule of thumb for the digital world as well. Emails from someone you don’t know are suspicious, and links or instructions that seem strange are a big red flag. Don’t click on flashy links that may take you to a site that secretly accesses your computer.

If it seems out of place or just doesn’t feel right, seek advice. It is always best to be cautious when the security of your NFP’s information is at risk.

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notes-vintage-cat-symbolsTo Do List is Not for Everyone

When looking at how to increase productivity, it should be noted there are as many good processes as there are people. Those considering changing up how they get things done might be relieved to know that despite its widespread use, the classic ‘to-do’ list is not the best way for everyone. Feeling that the list will never be done, or that one is incapable of doing it can result in negative thinking patterns that ultimately reduce productivity. If you are one of the many who finds this manner of organising your work day stressful, you may want to tweak the method, or replace it entirely.

“Positive Mental Imagery” Alternative

San Francisco State University put the ubiquitous ‘to-do list’ to the test by comparing it with a technique they called ‘mental imagery’. According to James Adonis at the Sydney Morning Herald, this is a “combination of goal-setting, relaxation techniques and positive self talk”. Apparently, well over half of the 214 participants in the study preferred the latter method after a two week trial. They reported less stress about what needed to be done, and a more encouraged mental attitude towards their many tasks. Using positive mental imagery, one participant stated they “Kept up spirits in the face of adversity.” Sounds like a success story in the making.

Making the Most of It

There are times when a to-do list can be a helpful memory jolt, and useful in planning effective time management. Being able to see what is on your plate is one way to start working through it. However, the list made up of tasks that are added when they come to mind is unlikely to be the best way to go about it. Time management experts suggest dividing the list into at least two columns: one to be done today, and one for ongoing tasks. Alternatively, creating a list of “do-not-do” items might be the ticket to success. Productivity expert Laura Stack suggests being firm about not using social media during work time, not spending time gossiping or complaining, and not procrastinating are some of the ways we can get more done.

Looking Back

Another task listing method that gets positive results is the “done” list, where tasks are written down as they are completed, offering the listee feelings of satisfaction and encouragement. This way does not help plan a day’s work in the same way a to-do list can, but could be more useful for keeping a positive mental attitude. Coupled with alternative means of organising time, the “done” list can be quite effective.

Many Roads to Success

If you are experiencing doubt about your current methods of getting things done, it is a good idea to try some different ways. There is no one way for everyone, and many people find switching things up from time to time beneficial as well. Particularly if you are dissatisfied with your to-do list, it is worthwhile experimenting with different ways.

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night-office-shirt-mailWouldn’t it be great if you could stop wasting so much of your time each day hunting for that one document that’s hiding in that stack of unfiled paperwork on your desk? Or reclaim all of those hours that you’ve lost searching for that one email out of the dozens, if not hundreds, of emails that remain unread in your Inbox? The key to being more productive and making actual progress, rather than losing your time to “busy” work, is to become physically more organised and take a systematic approach to your day.

Office organisation is about more than filing things away on your desk or within your devices. It’s about developing and putting into place a few simple systems that will help you save time and reduce your daily stress levels. The following five steps can help you to break free from the chaos and clutter in your office and get more done each day.

Take Stock of Your Situation and Identify Your Current Time Sinks

The first step in establishing order and routine to your office space is to determine what current systems are working for you, and which are not? You can do this by taking a moment to identify what parts of your day are simply wasted with inefficient routines. What takes up the majority of your time? Look for steps that you can take to make your processes more organised and efficient.

Establish Systems for Tasks that are Frequently Repeated

When you are thinking about how you spend your time during each work day, you will find that you can improve your productivity by establishing a system for each task that you repeat on a frequent basis. For example, you may find that for many of your email inquiries, you end up replying with the same or similar information most of the time. Why not save some time by creating some “canned” email responses that contain this information. That way, you just need to quickly customise a few lines when you send your reply, rather than having to type out an entirely new email each time.

Establish Systems for Time Sinks

Email is not the only area where establishing a simple system can save you time. Any aspect of your daily routine that is repetitive and takes up your time is ripe for systemisation. Just look at your specific time sinks and ask yourself what steps you can take to save time, then write those steps out into a plan, or “flowchart,” to establish your plan of how you will handle similar workflows.

For example, do your customers frequently contact your business by phone,email or in person with the same questions? Compile these questions and the answers into a helpful FAQ file that you post on your website. In the case of co-workers and associates, you can cut down on the interruptions in your work day by creating an online “Wiki” on your company’s intranet, where you and others can go to find the answer to common questions, such as what procedures should be followed for specific situations.

Group and Assign Specific Work Tasks to Specific Days and Set Aside Time in Your Calendar

Most of us have had the experience of having to scramble and make time in an already crowded daily schedule because we “forgot” to do a specific assignment. You can prevent these disruptions by grouping common work tasks together and assigning a specific day of the week to complete these related tasks, and then setting aside this time in your daily calendar.

For example, you might set aside a specific hour or two on Mondays in your daily calendar for following up with your accounts payable, and then another chunk of time on a different day for following up with clients who are late paying you, rather than trying to work these tasks in each day as they come in.

By grouping similar tasks together, and establishing a specific day that you will work on them, you eliminate having to disrupt your attention from other, equally important tasks through your workweek. You also make it less likely that these tasks will “slip through” your busy schedule and go uncompleted for long periods of time.

Create a Long Term Plan for Your Time

In addition to assigning specific days to complete specific tasks, create a long range plan, or budget, for your time. Assign projects, such as your marketing efforts, email campaigns, sales promotions and other strategic plans to different weeks and months on your annual calendar. This way, you know at a glance what you need to be working on each week so that you don’t squander away free time that you don’t really have.

By establishing a few simple systems to organise your time and your efforts, you will less stressed and become more efficient. As the days and weeks pass, the time that you’ve “reclaimed” will add up, giving you more time to focus on other areas of your work and personal life.

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Even the world’s best collaborators sometimes need some time to themselves. Alone time, whether it is at home or at work, is almost impossible to come by, unless you have your own space. These days office environments are often geared towards lots of communication between colleagues, with individual cubicles being dismantled in favour of open plan offices where everyone can be a part of the team. This is great in theory, and most people prefer the democratising and social benefits of the shared space. But what are you losing if you give up your personal space?

Having your own space makes a big difference to the way you think and feel. While nothing new is created in a vacuum, people often need time and space to themselves to come up with original ideas, or solutions to problems. Having personal space allows for deeper relaxation and greater concentration, both extremely helpful mental states for many types of work. Many tasks can be completed with greater accuracy if they are attempted without interruption or distraction.

One of the great benefits of a personal work space is the ability to decorate it to your liking. Purely individual touches, like photographs of family members, are great motivators to some workers. Others aim to improve the feng shui of the workplace by adding plants, crystals or mirrors in strategic places. These personal items can individualise sections of shared spaces, giving individuals further focus, and ultimately be a positive influence on workplace practices.

People attempting to work from home can find the home office (which is often used for a combination of activities) a tricky place to get work done. If having your own space designated solely to work is impossible, see if you can designate some particular times for that space to be for work only.

Taking the time and space to work alone when needed will mean you can come to team meetings better prepared and ready to share your personal best when collaboration is in order.

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Not everyone in non-profits, or even regular business, is particularly finance-minded. For some it comes easily, but others muddle along, stowing away copies of invoices and receipts in more or less the one spot, hoping they’ll be able to dig relevant papers out if they need them, and desperately dreading an audit. These pile-builders don’t have anything to hide, but business gets busy, and performing tasks related to their area of expertise or providing services for their clients is simply more important. Let’s face it, try as we might, none of us are good at everything!

If you are a piler, as opposed to a filer, you might be surprised to learn that there is a company built around helping people just like you. Shoeboxed is a receipt and invoice management service that can turn your organisation’s muddled stack of “important papers” into a clear, organised and accurate record of business. All you need to do is send copies of  the paperwork (either the real thing, scanned copies or email versions) and the Shoeboxed team will sort it all out, extracting the vital data, organising and readying it for you to use for your accounts and taxes. The system will save you a lot of time, while being completely secure, with real people working the numbers, to ensure total accuracy.

There is no need to fight against the grain of your true nature, or hire someone in your non-profit to take care of accounts. It is likely to be more cost-effective, and way less stressful, to hand it in to Shoeboxed. And know you are not the only one!

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