4 Tips To Wrap Up Your Nonprofit’s Year (And Prepare For The Next One)

Kat Boogaard
Kat Boogaard

Post Updated 1/3/17


And just like that, 2016 has come to a close. Whether your nonprofit saw major success or the past twelve months have been a steady stream of trials and learning experiences, you’ve got another year in the books. Congratulations!

But, before you can charge full force into the next one, you’ll want to take a little bit of time to reflect and strategize. You know by now that success doesn’t just happen on its own—you need to grab the bull by the horns and make things happen.

Entering into the next year without a plan in place and crossing your fingers that things work out just as well (or even better) this time around? Well, it’s definitely not an effective way to guarantee an impressive year for your nonprofit.

So, with the new year upon us, take some time to get yourself and your team geared up for an even better 2017. How? Well, we’ve got four tips you can put into action.

1. Celebrate Your Wins

celebrate your wins

First things first, you’ve earned at least a little bit of time to celebrate your nonprofit’s wins over the past year—both big and small. Even if this year didn’t turn out exactly as you had planned, you and your team still saw some successes. So, make sure that you adequately recognize those!

You definitely don’t want to get geared up for the upcoming year without taking any time to call out and appreciate the things that went well in 2016. If you do that? Well, it’s a surefire way to make your team feel completely undervalued and under-appreciated.

So, host a get-together or party where you can all celebrate the amazing things that happened throughout the year. Ask each of your team members to come prepared with their favorite moment or accomplishment from the past year, so that those high points can be shared with your entire organization.

Not only is this a fitting way to show your team the impact of their work and contributions, but it’s also key for identifying what worked over the past year—meaning you’ll want to play your cards right and put those same tactics and strategies into play again.

2. Identify Areas For Improvement

identify areas for improvement

Celebrating was fun—and definitely well-deserved. But, now it’s time to dive into the nitty gritty details of what didn’t go so well. I know that nobody likes to take a magnifying glass to their faults and shortcomings. However, it’s a crucial part of the process for ensuring that everything runs smoother next time.

Keep in mind that determining what aspects of your organization that could use a little more time and attention shouldn’t be a solo mission.

If you want to get a solid grasp on the whole picture, you can’t go it alone. So, make sure you involve your team in this improvement process as well. They may be in the loop on problems or issues that you had no idea even existed.

It’s also important that you make it your goal to get as much honest feedback as possible from your team members and supporters. Yes, some of it may be hard to hear. But, without this input, you won’t have any clear direction on what exactly you can do better.

Now, you’re probably left wondering how you can go about getting this valuable feedback. It’s really not as tough as it seems. Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a brainstorming session with your entire team to talk about their frustrations, pain points, and things that they think could be improved. Make it clear that there is no wrong suggestion here—you’re simply trying to get everybody’s ideas out on the table.
  • Send out a survey to your team asking for their input on specific problems or questions. For added impact, make it anonymous. People will be more willing to share their honest criticism.
  • Your team is important, but your nonprofit also needs its supporters. So, don’t forget to ask their opinions as well! You can do this by sending them a survey to participate in, or even posing a few different questions on your social media accounts.
  • Take a look at any analytics or reports from the previous year. Did a particular campaign fall majorly short of your fundraising goal? Did you see as much engagement on social media as you had planned for? Have some of your key donors completely fallen off the map? Get a grasp on these metrics—typically, numbers don’t lie.

From here, you can piece together all of this information and feedback in order to get a handle on the critical things that need to be polished and improved for the following year.

3. Set New Goals

set new goals

Once you’ve taken a look at everything that didn’t go so well over the previous year, you’re armed with the knowledge you need to set far-reaching (yet still somewhat attainable) goals.

Goal-setting is crucial for a few different reasons:

  1. It sets a hard objective and end game for you and your team, which is important for measuring success.
  2. It motivates and unites your team, as you’re all working toward a common goal.
  3. It instills a sense of accountability, as there’s a set standard in place to be measured up against.

When establishing your goals for the coming year, ensure that you take a close look at last year’s objectives to get a sense of where things might need to be altered. Were the goals you set so lofty they were simply unattainable? Or, were they met within the first quarter—meaning you weren’t thinking big enough?

Factoring in all of the information you’ve gathered to this point will help you set goals that are motivating, without being discouraging. If it helps you and your team, write your determined goals down on a large poster board and hang it somewhere prominent in your office.

It’s a constant reminder of the big picture—making any mundane daily tasks and assignments feel connected to a larger cause.

4. Develop A Strategy

develop a strategy

Now that you know exactly what you’re working towards over the next coming year, it’s time to design your plan. Having an idea of what you want to accomplish simply isn’t enough—you need to have a roadmap in place to get there.

Meet with different departments throughout your organization (or, at the very least, your leadership team) to talk over the goals you’ve outlined. Then, have an open discussion about what exactly needs to happen in order to attain those objectives.

While you may be tempted to create a plan for success all on your own, it’s smart to involve your team members in the development of your strategy. After all, they’re the ones actually in the trenches. They’ll be well-versed in all that needs to happen in order to achieve success.

If you had a remarkably successful year, you might think you should kick innovation and experimentation to the curb in the interest of doing things the exact same way once again.

However, it’s smart to try at least one new strategy or tactic in the coming year. Remember, you don’t want to stagnate—your goal is to continuously grow and improve. And, that calls for some new methods and ideas.

After you have a strategy in place, it’s also a great idea to host a large meeting where you can break it all down for your team. Yes, they likely only need to be concerned with what’s expected from them individually.

But, seeing how their role and work fits into the larger picture will create a sense of cohesiveness and camaraderie. You don’t want them to miss the forest for their own tree.

Final Thoughts

There you have it—you’ve laid the groundwork for a super successful upcoming year for your nonprofit. By recognizing the previous year’s wins, taking a look at where you could do better, setting some inspiring new goals, and putting an action plan in place to achieve them, you’ve set yourself up for an amazing 2017.

Now, all that’s left to do is pop a bottle of champagne and close out this year in style. Regardless of whether everything went as planned or some things fell through the cracks, you undoubtedly learned a lot along the way. And, that? Well, it’s worth celebrating.

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