Guest Post: Workplace Inspiration — In the Shadows

By Jen Price

During a recent #smNPchat on Twitter (chat for those working for or with smaller nonprofit organizations), the discussion covered strategies for fundraisers during the slower summer months.

Slow summer months?  WHAT?  Summer is my busiest season, though this is somewhat by choice.  I like to focus my larger scale efforts during times when not as many organizations are asking. Yes, I miss some of the vacationers.  We more than make up for it with the exposure we get and because very few nonprofits are asking or creating awareness during the summer in our community.

During the chat I mentioned that one of the things my staff does during the summer (our busy season) is shadow “program” staff at our organization.  I work in healthcare, so all it takes is getting fundraisers in the patient care areas, experiencing a day in the life of individuals battling complex medical problems to get them refocused and re-energized.

Our most successful shadowing experience this summer was unexpected.  It came not from a patient care area, but from a staffer spending two hours with a receptionist.  Seeing the integral part the receptionist plays in the overall success of our organization inspired a new sense of focus and belief that each and every staff member, regardless of their role, makes a difference in the lives of our patients.

Getting overwhelmed by work happens far too often in the nonprofit sector.  When work only consists of tasks on a to-do list, it loses passion and energy.  We are not going to be successful fundraising if we are asking for gifts without this passion or energy. Shadowing has become the perfect rejuvenator for my team.

With all of that said, here is my recommendation: Create a shadowing program. Allow your staff to spend two hours once a week for a month each summer and winter learning about different roles in your organization.  They will return ready to embrace their work with the passion it deserves.

Jen helps nonprofits advance their impact via fundraising, collaboration, and effective board and volunteer management.  She currently manages philanthropy operations for a healthcare organization.  Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Twitter!

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3 Replies to “Guest Post: Workplace Inspiration — In the Shadows”

  1. This is a fantastic idea! Seems that it would be easiest to implement in larger direct-service organizations (such as hospitals, as in your example). May be harder to accomplish within policy organizations and decentralized organizations, but equally valuable. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Esther. I agree that it can be more challenging for smaller organizations, but that is where we can get creative. For instance, working in a policy organization, connect staff to the people working on the ground level for the policy(s) the org is currently addressing. I have also started having my staff spend time with staff from other nonprofits to learn more about the similarities and difference of our work.

  3. I like the shadow program idea! I have also participated in the following activities that served to reenergize staff and also educate them about campaign priorities.

    At both Boston Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center we scheduled brown-bag lunches with our physicians who were working on projects that would be of interest to our donors. All development staff were invited to attend. The development team also coordinated tours of specific areas of the hospital – I’ve seen high-tech imaging take place and tried my hand in the surgery simulation lab, which the med students use. By making the effort to coordinate group tours of the hospital, the staff were energized and we had a good understanding of why we were raising money.

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