6 Practical Ways to Achieve Excellence on a Budget

Tight budgets tend to be the norm for non-profits – especially in a tough economy.  However, you still want to provide the absolute best for the community you serve and be viewed as professional to your volunteers and donors.  So how can you achieve excellence on a shoestring budget?  Here are some practical tips you can implement at little, to no cost:

1.  Call in the grammar police: Find someone who is a perfectionist when it comes to correct spelling and grammar, and then assign that individual to proofreading all of your written communications.  This includes your website, social media posts (yes, grammar still counts in social media), brochures, letters, flyers, presentation slides, etc.  Poor grammar and misspellings are perceived as a lack of professionalism.  Build your organization’s professional image and reputation by being a stickler in this area.

2.  Respect your volunteers: When you have volunteers coming in to help, make sure you’ve planned the work carefully and have all the necessary tools and supplies ready ahead of time.  Your staff should arrive at least 30 minutes before the volunteers and should be ready to immediately get them to work.  Also, when you ask for volunteers make sure you ask a few weeks before you need the help.  Don’t expect people to drop everything and show up at the last minute.  When you respect their time and have an organized workday, your volunteers will appreciate how well you planned the assignment and are more likely to volunteer again.

3.  Pay attention to the details: This may sound nitpicky, but a clean, organized office communicates an organized approach to serving your community and it provides a professional environment for your staff.  You don’t need expensive artwork on the walls or brand new furniture.  A simple décor that is well maintained shows that you’re an excellent steward of your resources.

4.  Always plan ahead: For example, if you provide childcare at an event, have attendees provide you with the number of children and their ages in the registration form so you’ll know how many childcare workers you’ll need well in advance.  Consider the safety aspect of events – make sure you have emergency procedures well developed and communicated to staff and event volunteers.

5.  Communicate, communicate, communicate:   When developing communications for volunteers, event participants, donors, etc. consider your audience.  What questions would you have if you knew nothing about your organization or the event?  What would you be concerned about?  How would you want to receive the information (email, phone, text message, handouts, etc.)?  Tailor communications to different audiences if needed to address their varying concerns.

6.  Stay tuned to current trends:  Using a 1980s design scheme for your volunteer appreciation night or not knowing what a “tweet” is are quick ways to damage credibility and look outdated.  Stay up-to-date on current trends in social media, graphics, design ideas, etc.  Ask volunteers of various ages what they think of your website, communications, videos, etc.  Take their feedback into consideration and make the necessary adjustments.  If your logo and graphics need to be updated, check with a local community college and ask if any of their graphic arts students need some experience and will work for free.  You could get a great update and the student will gain valuable experience.

Excellence is possible even when on a budget.  You have a desire to help your community and have so much to offer.  Don’t damage the credibility of your organization by striving for anything less than excellence.  You’ll attract more volunteers and donors as you demonstrate that excellence is a priority.

How does your organization strive for excellence?