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May 6, 2022
Posted Under: President's letter

I looked out my window today and the leaves were just at the moment before they unfurl – the moments of anticipation of summer captured on every branch and in every green blade of grass poking up from the brown ground. The backdrop of snow-covered peaks and valleys crusted to a hard sheen by the sun. Soon enough we will be in full summer mode – grabbing every hour of daylight to restock our freezers, replenish our minds, and renew our spirit so that we may be ready for another season. I am ready. Are you?

As I literally watched the leaves uncoil a little more, I wondered how this translates into our nonprofit spaces? Summer can pose interesting dilemmas in Alaska workplaces. Personally, I gave up long ago believing that there was a “slow time” in this work and settled instead for a more truthful understanding that time required to complete the work mostly differs in what the work looks like, not the amount of it. So, my list of possibilities of how we might translate the gifts of summer into our workspaces comes with an essential caveat: “pick one.” To feel burdened by doing more undoes all the good summer has to offer.

That said, there is plenty we can do to restock, replenish, and renew ourselves and our organizations this summer. Here are just a few options:

Restock: We could spend our summer ensuring our structure is balanced, stable, and abundant.

  • This could look like a healthy policy scrub to identify unintended bias while creating more welcoming workplaces as a result. I wrote about this as an important step in your diversity and inclusion journey and plenty more ways exist to offer support along the way.
  • This could look like writing or updating your fundraising plan with your lessons learned from the fall and winter; honing your communication and outreach plans so you are ready to go for a busy fall; updating your GuideStar profile so funders and donors who are looking at you online see the most up-to-date version of your organization.
  • This could look like a candid review of your budget and financial projections for those whose fiscal year starts in July and for those who are mid-year and facing new projections and opportunities. After two years of uncertainty and much educated guessing, this could be the perfect time to slow down, check-in on your assumptions, and adjust to what is coming next.

Replenish: We could spend our summer creating clear processes to recruit, engage, and provide for a graceful exit of the right people at the right time to carry our missions forward.

  • This could look like refining or defining your board succession plans. There is no such thing as a high performing board by accident. It takes purposeful work rooted in clear intentions and backed up with a clearly defined process. We have a few new tools to support this work, too –call us if you want some one-on-one support.
  • This could look like refining or defining your leadership succession plans. The best way to ensure leadership and mission continuity is not to be surprised with an unplanned departure and to be ready when the time is right for a planned one. Few organizations have a succession plan but all of us will need it one day. We have a three-part class starting soon to help you get a jump start on a plan that is appropriate for you.
  • This could look like updating your organizational staff chart and processes to reflect the realities of both a dynamic shift in your workforce, a hybrid work model, or adaptations possible because of new collaborations. All our workplaces are resetting but most of our supportive structures need to catch up to our new reality. Shining some extra daylight on the challenges might just shift your perspective to see the possibilities.
  • This could look like spending quality time with collaborative partners to continue building trust and communication for the projects that lie ahead. This one is especially important if you are considering any of the opportunities created by the federal infrastructure funding or ARPA relief funds. We will only succeed in these requests if we are working together. We move at the speed of trust, so every minute you spend replenishing this well will be retuned ten-fold for your mission, your community, and our state.

Renew: We could spend our summer sharing our appreciation in ways that not only renew our spirit but lift up others along the way.

  • This could look like sending love to your Pick.Click.Give. donors who have until August to make their final donation decisions or paying special appreciation to all your volunteers who have stuck with you through the last few years.
  • This could look like taking a day with your team to go for a walk, take a hike, picnic at a park, pick berries, go fishing, or whatever else would bring you joy outside. The gift of being together can not be underestimated after two years of isolation. Making this space might actually be the key to bringing us closer.
  • This could look like filling our hearts and our minds with new insights that blow out our assumptions and free our minds so we are open to new ideas. We can get here in many ways including a summer book or article club, or a collaborative lunch among different board and staff teams we want to work with more or who think about issues in different ways, or hiring a facilitator to help us lean in and let go, or a movie lunch date on a topic that makes us think. Really, these options are endless but the reasons are the same – releasing past ways of thinking so we can welcome the new energy we need.
  • Or really, this could all just look like a nice quiet moment or ten sitting alone or with a friend soaking in the sun.

Whatever way you choose to spend the summer, I hope it nurtures your spirit, renews your energy, and brings you so much joy. After all, you, your team, and your mission are worth it.