The end of every calendar year brings a time for reflection, and we encourage our team and our clients to use this time to review their achievements, celebrate jobs well done, and set goals for the year ahead.
This year is no different, so we want you to do all of that — and more. In a time where we have all taken on so much, we want you to dig deeper and identify one or two things you can let go of as the page turns and New Year begins. Here are the 10 things we're leaving behind in 2023:
The "paper is king" mentality. There are so many advantages to sending donors electronic gift acknowledgments, newsletters, and endowment reports — including increased cost-savings, increased timeliness (not to mention frequency and relevancy), decreased environmental impact, and increased readership. Edison Mail's "2022 State of Communications Study" highlights that 98% of the Silent Generation (aged 77 to 94) and 95% of Baby Boomers (aged 58 to 76) use email to communicate in their personal life. Donors of all ages use email daily to stay in touch with friends and loved ones — and we should, too!
Polished visual content. Highly edited, expensive video has a place in marketing, to be sure, but don't buy into the idea that all your visual content must look that way. Most people want authenticity. Being authentic and vulnerable builds trust in your organization. People want to know that there are real people behind the causes to which they contribute. Perhaps you use your iPhone to shoot a weekly short-form video of you doing walking interviews with different boots-on-the-ground workers, asking them about their week's highlights. Or maybe you post a selfie of a beneficiary with three facts about them — two personal facts and one related to your organization. It's time to let go of the idea that every video has to be highly produced. Think, instead, about how your organization can do a better job of humanizing itself.
The "either/or" mentality — especially in the special event landscape. It's no longer just in-person or virtual — it's both. It's a creative, hybrid, fluid approach to special events in the future. We were forced to pivot to virtual events in a time of crisis and were dreaming of the days of getting back to in-person formats. But we've had a year (give or take) of returning to the traditional format — and the cold hard truth is that events are not returning in ways we anticipated. Attendance numbers are down, requests for hybrid options are up, and we have to have hard conversations with our leadership teams and internal partners — events don't always serve the greater good. There will always be a time and place for events in all formats, but it's time to move away from the traditional approaches so we can serve broader audiences with varying needs and attain higher levels of return on investment. It's time to rebuild and re-envision what comes next in modern events!
The idea that all stewardship and impact reporting has to be wordy and overly designed. There's a space and place for this sort of content, but more often than not, we get stuck on the idea that everything has to look like this, and that's just not true. Sometimes switching things up can help the creator be more creative and help the donor or the person consuming the information better understand the impact they're having. We live in a world where our attention spans keep getting shorter, and we need to create content accordingly. When was the last time you read a ten-page report just for funsies? Let's rethink our content generation and reimagine how we can report to donors in unique and inspiring ways.
Any communications piece that doesn't directly show impact or have a purpose specific to donors. The constant emails, notifications, and communications have to stop. It's time to prioritize our work and realize that less is truly more. The "less" should be thoughtful, timely, and impactful to be the most relevant to our donors and volunteers. We work with an organization that has email open rates of around 70% for every piece of email communication. Why? Because when an email is sent, the person receiving the message knows it is of value and importance. Let's take a step back in 2023 and regain our focus on mission, impact, and purpose to best utilize our voice as we communicate with our donors.
Multi-tasking 24/7. Multi-tasking has become the norm or expectation of our work days. There are times when multi-tasking is necessary, but some projects and responsibilities need our undivided attention. Multi-tasking distracts our focus and, ultimately, deters us from producing our best work, and along those lines...
Constant notifications. The continuous beeps, red circles, and draws for our attention have grown too much this year. We're bringing boundaries to our attention in 2023. Set a triage to your notifications on what is vital (very few), what can be handled a few times a day, and what can be reviewed once a day. Need to carve out time for important work? Embrace the "do not disturb mode" and turn off or silence notifications, so you aren't distracted and tempted to deal with every issue that pops up. We've become so accustomed to being available on demand that this can be a hard habit to break — but this quote attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower sums it up best: "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
The idea that our calendars need to burst at the seams. We're taking some of our time back in 2023! We want to help the industry more by leaning into thought leadership, writing new books, and creating new content. To do that, we have to be more protective of our time. If we're drained from zoom and teams all day, we don't have the juice left to give to the creative work we love. If you're a leader, question your meeting requests. Is your attendance really needed, or can your team handle it independently? If you must attend, shorten the meeting time. Why schedule an entire hour if 45 minutes will do? What do you want to make more time for in 2023? Take some time back and empower others to step up and lead.
Putting ourselves last. We tend to give grace to others but not ourselves. It's time to have more compassion for you! Setting healthy boundaries, working toward collaboration, and focusing on your mental health will impact every area of your life for the better — not just your work.
The hesitancy to jump and embrace a leap of faith. Whether it's an innovative idea, a new project, or a major life decision, we tend to overanalyze all the options and angles before making a move. And sure, that knack for worst-case-scenario planning may have saved our lives a time or two, but overthinking the risks and worrying too much about what others think/ expect of us can also leave us waiting in the wings when we'd rather be center stage. One thing we've learned this year is that when we step back from the swirling "what if's" inside our heads, there's a whole community of encouragers waiting to be seen and cheering us on with outstretched arms. How miraculously joyful might our lives be if we paid a little more attention to that chorus of "Yes, You Can!" and a lot less to that fearful inner detractor saying, "no, no, no." So, we're bouncing into 2023 with a hearty appetite for taking chances, making bold moves, and dancing to the steady drumbeat of carpe diem! Who's with us?
What are you leaving behind in 2023? We'd love to hear in the comments below — and remember, our team is always here to cheer you on!