The 5 A’s of Nonprofit Delegation Best PracticesMay 12, 2022
As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, as the leader of a nonprofit organization, you can do anything, but you cannot do everything.
We know, however, that’s not going to stop you from trying.
Delegating is hard. It’s one of the hardest things to do as a leader of any organization. Part of this comes from the very nature of your character - you didn’t get to where you are by passing the buck. In fact, your work ethic, passion, commitment, and never-ending pursuit of excellence is the very reason you’re the one in charge of your mission today.
But growth can only emerge from cooperation, and cooperation can only come from entrusting aspects of your goals and aspirations to the talented team you have gathered around your cause.
So I hate to tell you this, my friend, but you simply must practice delegating - not just the little tasks, but even some of the major items that your mission and message demand.
But what do you delegate? Why? How? And to whom?
In this article, we talk you through how to avoid carrying everything on your shoulders, while getting the results you want out of your team.
Audit Your Own Activities
Yes, that’s right: another audit.
I know, I know. But remember, even Abraham Lincoln said “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” And he was a pretty smart cookie.
So the first step is just that: preparation. Figuring out what, specifically, can and should be delegated, whether to internal staffers or external experts.
To begin, review what you’ve accomplished today, this week, this month. Write it down. Go through that list and start circling. Be brutally honest with yourself about the tasks that could be accomplished by others, as opposed to the things that literally only you could accomplish to satisfactory results. What, on that list - be it design work, digital marketing, event planning, etc. - could be sufficiently communicated to another person to accomplish to free up your time.
Analyze the Necessary Actions
Once you’ve arrived at the specific tasks and goals to be tackled, break them down. After all, understanding the broader “To-Do” is only half the battle. That’s the reason you’d rather handle it yourself. But by asking some key questions, you can whittle it down into simpler, more communicable actions.
These questions include (but are not limited to):
- What are the skills necessary to accomplish the given objective?
- What outcomes would indicate success? What does a green check-mark on the To-Do List look like for each item?
- Are these tasks singular one-offs or recurring challenges?
- What, in particular, are you looking for? What do YOU want?
Outline the tasks at hand in as much detail as you are able to. This will make it far easier to determine and decide upon the next step, which is to:
Ask for Assistance
The time has come. The dreaded, no-good request for help.
With the “What” established, it is time to determine the “Who?” - to whom do you entrust your nonprofit objectives, big or small, to achieve the best results?
- Who is best for each job?
- Is the task best handled by internal staffers or an external expert?
- Are there go-betweens in regards to communication - a point-person or people to whom they can send questions, comments, or concerns if they arise?
- How much involvement will you have in the oversight of their work? How much freedom do they have to make decisions and act independently?
With the preparation above, these questions are much easier to answer. The more specific you can be early on, the more ready you will be to identify the strengths and talents necessary and available to accomplish what you envision.
However, it is not enough to simply say “Here, do this.” As a nonprofit leader, you must also:
Agree, Don’t Assume
There’s no “I” in “Team,” and the only way your chosen team will feel ready and enabled to take on the challenges set before them is to work with them to arrive at a consensus.
So don’t assume your team will handle a project the way you would. Talk with those to whom you intend to delegate these tasks to reach agreement on things like:
- When is this due?
- Where will it land when it is finished?
- Where can they find the resources necessary to accomplish this?
- How should they communicate sticking points or unforeseen obstacles to you?
- How will they, and you, know when the goal is achieved?
When handing off a task, the clearer you can be about the expectations, deadlines, and details, and the more open you are to input and suggestions, the better your outcomes will be. Full-stop. By involving and engaging your chosen “delegatee(s),” the more involved and engaged they will be about a project.
You chose them for a reason. Don’t forget that their own experience and expertise may bring something to the table that even you had not considered. And this is all the more reason why, when all is said and done, you should:
Applaud the Achievements
Give credit where credit is due. It could be one-on-one. It could be through work channels or regular internal E-Comms. It could even be online, via social media and the like. But whatever you do, when a job is done efficiently, when a task is accomplished effectively, when a goal is achieved with no ifs, ands, or buts, be vocal about it.
Not only will those to whom you have delegated be appreciative, but your team and your followers will witness the best of leadership - someone who entrusted a goal to another, and was so thrilled with the results, they applauded those efforts online and off.
That way, next time you have things to delegate, people will jump at the opportunity to make a difference - for you and your nonprofit organization alike.