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A Nonprofit Professional’s Advice to Working At Home
Author’s note: This is a reposting of an earlier article. I felt it is especially relevant now with COVID-19 making nonprofit professionals work at home.
For more than 20 years, I’ve worked “remotely” for nonprofit organizations. At first it was termed: “work at home”, which would mean anything from my newly installed workstation in the den/eating area of my 1 bedroom apartment, to one of the three coffee houses anchored at the traffic circle within a two-minute walk from my home. (In no time at all, it would become “work anyplace on earth but the organization’s office”.)
At the AIDS services organization where I was employed as their newly created web marketing person, I was afforded the opportunity to come and go as I pleased, as long as I had met my department head’s expectations. Utilizing a modified, more concentrated, work week, I worked on the organization’s web presence and printed collateral at home three days a week and would go to the office once a week for meetings and to remind my co-workers that I did indeed actually exist. I was in heaven. I no longer had to waste time in cross-city traffic, nor spend anytime whatsoever choosing the proper work attire. “Casual Friday” was every day.
Working Remotely is Good for All
Over the years, work-at-home has become less of a quirky employment perk and more of a necessity as nonprofit organizations struggle to keep talented staff from seeking employment within the private sector—where pay packages tend to be higher . Many people who work remotely do so because of family necessity or other extenuating circumstances (e.g.: having no choice because of pandemic circumstances). Or, simply, they are willing to trade more income for a more holistic working life that affords more “me time”. This is usually a win-win situation for both the organization and the employee. That is, if the employee can maintain the necessary discipline and production required to sustain the adapted work environment. It is my hope that my experience will help the reader see some of the lesser known issues and pitfalls working remotely. And since the benefits of working remotely are already well known and celebrated, I shall dwell on the troublesome part of working remotely and how to compensate for it. But first, the obvious benefits of working remotely:
- Flexibility in real-time work schedule. Your job is usually not 9-5, allowing you to complete your tasks within the gaps of a more nuanced work day.
- No commutes through traffic. This alone will save you from unproductive, stressful, hours every week.
- No more runs to the dry cleaners. Wear what you want, even if its pajamas all day long.
- All the comforts of home. Say adios to eating at Taco Bell because you can’t spare the time for a proper sit-down lunch at a restaurant. Make your own tasty lunches from your own kitchen, play the music you like to hear. Bring your dog to work!
- Working by yourself isn’t for everyone and can be a major adjustment. Not having co-workers around, for example, may limit your social life, as well as minimize your potential to learn and apply new ideas and techniques that better your work performance.
- A new set of distractions. If you are a parent with a child at home part or all the time, you will be challenged to maintain your focus on the paid job at hand.
- Self motivation/discipline. With no one looking over your shoulder, and fun day-time opportunities at your door, maintaining your strong work ethic will be challenged.
- Lack of proper tools and an ergonomic work environment. You may not have the laser printer, photo copier, software, and other office tools at hand like you do at the office. Also, the office is more likely to have set you up in a proper desk and chair that will help stave off carpal tunnel syndrome, and/or neck and back problems.
How to Maintain Your Alertness and Work Ethic Away from the Organization’s Office
Be it at your makeshift at-home office, which can be anything from a dedicated room that mirrors the office you are forgoing at the organization, or the squat table and beanbag seat clustered near the opening into your bamboo hut on a beach in Bali you are currently calling “home”, you need a proper working environment to get the job done.
Sure, working from the local coffee house or your kitchen’s counter can suffice in a pinch when the task is simple and not requiring a lot of focus and thought, but trying to conduct your business this way regularly is both unwise and unproductive. You need a place that isn’t a vortex of distraction, be it from ambient noises, to the lure of multi-tasking non-work activities into your work time. You need to respect your working environment just like you would expect co-workers to leave you alone during focus time at the office.
Disciplining Yourself Within Your New, Alternative, Work Environment
You would think that staying focused on the job you are getting paid to do would be the hardest part of working at home. That’s not always the case. In addition to maintaining self-governance, you will need to be mindful to:
- Not over working. Just because you have a brainstorm at 11PM and your office doubles as a bedroom, does not mean you should take your laptop out of sleep mode and start outlining project plans when you should be slipping into a well deserved slumber. Respect your “office hours”, be them 9-5 or 5-9. You will need to define and maintain a division between work and personal time. (Your spouse/partner will certainly appreciate it.)
- Avoid at-home distractions, and too much multi-tasking. Studies have proven, time and again, that constant multi-tasking does not achieve better results in the long run. Stay disciplined to your task at hand. Complete it, and move on to the next in your own good pace and flow. Tell the kids to hold off on any non-urgent discussions until your scheduled “break time”.
- Be hyper punctual. Just because you don’t have to punch a clock does not mean you are not obliged to maintain schedules and appointments. Don’t sleep in every morning just because you can. If you have a 10AM conference call scheduled, don’t be fumbling for your headset while testing your Skype connection at 9:59. And if it’s a video conference, be mindful of your appearance and environment: hair combed, pants on, and non-distracting backdrop.
- Keeping “office hours”. A lot of nonprofit professionals are either working part-time, as volunteers, or they are accustomed to spending a day or more working remotely. Therefore, it is important to maintain predictable office hours. You will want your supervisors, staff, or board members to feel comfortable contacting you during those times when you are working remotely. In other words, people should not feel as if they are intruding—as if they were calling you at home—when you are working at home.
Optimize your Working Environment
I’m considered a digital nomad: a person who works remotely—but on an elevated level. But maintaining a separate office space/room, with all of the proper furniture and office peripherals, is generally not afforded to me. But this does not mean that I don’t take time to create a choice work place or maintain an ergonomically comfortable working space—or that I don’t keep my tools (software) up to date. If my apartment/flat (hut) does not have a proper working space, I create it. Not only do I want a visually pleasing work space, I need it to be a healthy one.
- Ergonomics 101. If the table that you have is higher than 26in/65cm tall, then you may need to correct the height issue so that you don’t feel strain on your body—especially to your wrists.
- If you find that you are experiencing pain in your arm and neck, you might want to replace your mouse with a trackball.
- Get a good chair. Your kitchen chair is no better for your body ergonomically than the kitchen table which is too tall for long-term keyboard work. Spend a little money on a good steno or desk chair with adjustable seat height and arms. This may be the best office investment you will make.
- Take time to exercise. Stretch your hands, arms and legs often. Go for a bike ride or run when time permits (which may save you the cost of a gym membership).
- Keep your tools updated. Buy or subscribe to the software and computer applications you need. Whatever your nonprofit profession is, you need to have those tools at your ready:
- from the ubiquitous computer software, like Office 365, to Raiser’s Edge. Plus, you may need additional applications to interface well with your co-workers.
- but, you may not need to keep a laser printer, copy machine, or scanner on premises. Know where your local out-put service centers are and their hours of availability, and you should be fine.
- Maintain easy and reliable means of communications. You should have email, telephone (just keeping a mobile phone is fine these says), Skype (or “Skype to Phone”) account, Messenger and a conference call service.
- You don’t need to work alone, all the time. If you have neighbors or local associates that are also working remotely, you may wish to organize shared working space and/or days to create a balance between work-at-home and a traditional office environment. For digital nomads, there are “co-shared offices” and other similar shared working spaces that take working remotely to a whole new level.
- Be responsible. Not just reliable—that’s a given. But, keep a back-up of your files and equipment. Remember, you need to keep back-ups of your work files for safe keeping. This can be done using a good cloud service, or via a backup drive. But also, you will want to have a backup computer in case your primary one is in need of repair.
Working remotely is a great way to live. I know that I can’t imagine ever working any other way. It simply takes a little more self-discipline than you may normally be used to, and you will have to be able to take care of “office emergencies” since you are not likely to have an IT person at your beck and call. Be sure to take enough time for yourself, but make sure that you are doing your job as expected, or better!—just as if you were down the hall from your co-workers.
Richard Hamel is the founder of Dot Org Web Works and the co-author of The Nu Nomad: Location Independent Living.
This is a list of website hosting companies providing their hosting regular services free to U.S. nonprofit orgainzations.
From free stock images that will blow your mind, to no-fee video editing app. Here’s the 2019 list of free website tools for nonprofits.
Nonprofit Branding through Keyword Strategy for Your Nonprofit Website
I want to show you a quick and easy way to narrow down your branding options for your nonprofit website. From that, you will then have a better handle on which keywords to employ and emphasis within a given page in your website. This way people will actually find you and the specific services or opportunities you offer when they search Google.
If your first question is “Why does my organization and website need a brand?” then you should read: The Value of Corporate Branding for Nonprofits. (It’s the difference between people supporting the Girl Scouts, and not supporting nature kids.)
For example. Let’s say that you are running a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless. For you to create your brand, or how one would differentiate your organization from another homeless services organization, you will need to create a mission statement and brand identity. These are usually derived from:
- area or region of services (e.g.: Southern California, Portland, New York, Texas)
- what differentiates your services from your competition? (example: We provide emergency services for homeless women and children.)
- how do you offer superior value to your clients (example: We offer free legal advice to the homeless.)
- what three words comes to mind when you think of your organization’s brand or mission? (e.g.: secure, caring, non-judgmental)
- how would you like to see your organization perceived (examples: Well respected, edgy, brutally honest, spiritual.)
Once you have a grasp on your brand identity, you then need to have your website not only reflect that identity, but have Google understand your services and brand so that they (via a complex algorithm) may list you accordingly via probable search keywords.
Usually the most difficult part of SEO is trying to gauge what is, not only the most intuitive keyword phrase to use, but which keywords that are actually searched in Google and other search engines.
Using some of the above information, let’s assume that your nonprofit organization provides free legal services to homeless women and families in Los Angeles.
So, if you were to search “homeless services” (and you were online in the greater Los Angeles area when doing so) there would be about 151 million results (pages that would somehow relate to those keywords). But for actual people Googling homeless services, that would result in a search volume of about 150,000 searches per month.* That is an impressive amount of searches per month, but most of those search inquiries would have little to do with your organization’s core services and brand. (The net casted was too wide of a search.)
However, if you were to search “legal services for homeless”, you would see 70 million results, but with 0 per month search volume for that keyword phrase. So even though it’s a very intuitive keyword phrase, one that reflects your brand, it unfortunately isn’t being Googled: people are not entering that specific keyword phrase.
However, with your Keywords Everywhere tool, you will see some recommended keyword phrases that are showing a monthly volume that may directly relate to your services and brand. Such as:
- legal aid services – (with 2,900/mn search volume)
- legal clinic for the homeless – (with 30/mn search volume)
So, of these two recommendations, which would be the best for you?
If you selected the first, because it had a much higher search volume (at nearly 3000 per month) then you would most likely fall through the cracks of all the other web pages that are vying for that keyword phrase. Why do I believe this? Well, by how much one is willing to pay to get their web page on top of the search results using that specific keyword phrase. It has a rather high search term value.
One very good indicator of a search term value, and thereby its competition, is Google AdWords “CPC”, cost-per-click, listing. (Although this is only a reference, unless you are taking advantage of Google’s free AdWords program for nonprofits, it is still a very valuable tool for anyone trying to gauge the keyword competition value.) This CPC value is conveniently listed next to the search volume within your Keywords Everywhere tool results. This shows that others are bidding to be placed on the top results as much as $4.56 per click—which may translate to your listing showing at past page 5 of Google Search results or further. (Since few people will bother to go past the second page of results, your listing is essentially nonexistent.) But if you go with the second keyword phrase, you will see that the CPC for legal clinic for the homeless is $0.00. So, this just may work out for you. No one is bidding on the search term, which means that if you apply the correct SEO terms and branding to your web page, you have a good shot at placing on page 1 of Google Search results. Sure, 30 is less than 2900, but getting half of 30 is better than none of 2900.
There are other ways to see if others are competing with your intended keyword phrase, such as searching your keywords within quotes, i.e.: “legal clinic for the homeless” and searching for pages using this phrase as their page title, i.e.: intitle: “legal clinic for the homeless”
From there, it is just a matter of applying basic SEO (search engine optimization) practices.
How Can We Help You With Your SEO and Keywords?
Creating an effective charity website requires a skill-set like any other profession. This is what we do, and we would love making a difference with you. With your intrinsic knowledge of your nonprofit organization, and our experience at website development for charity organizations, together we could build that website that you’ve envisioned—affordably and within a proper timeline. Let’s talk!
* To identify actual monthly search volume on a keyword phrase entered in Google Search, you will need to use the Keywords Everywhere tool that works in your browser.
For a limited time only, Dot Org Web Works will provide your qualifying nonprofit organization with three months of our Quick Fix website maintenance/upkeep plan when you select DOWW to make-over your current website, or develop your first website!*
Turn Unused Reward Miles Points into Donations
Giving Tuesday 2018 (#GivingTuesday) just came out with a new guide: “How to Donate Unused reward Miles Points!” This guide outlines the donation process while including the airline miles charities accept to help readers consider where their miles can be used to change someone’s life.
Nearly one-third of credit card users will fail to use their rewards miles, and those who do may not even realize their unused miles are needed as charitable donations. For example, the Make-A-Wish foundation will need 2.8 billion airline miles this year to grant the travel wishes of every terminally ill child.
#GivingTuesday groups charities into sections, such as military, youth and environmental, and provide which airline miles they accept to help readers consider where they can donate their unused miles.
Google Has Marked All HTTP websites as “not secure” in their Chrome Browsers this Month
According to Google, staring in July 2018, in their next browser release (Chrome 68), a website that is not secure–does not have an SSL certificate integrated into it (thus producing the prefix “HTTPS” instead of the usual “HTTP”), will get a “not secure” message at the lead of the URL. In other words, they will be warning your website visitors that your website is not secure. That is, if you have not already taken the corrective measures.
The obvious main 2 questions on website owners’ mind are: “What’s HTTPS”? And, “My site does not collect user information or conducts financial transactions. Why should I care?”
HTTPS simply tells the user that your website is secured via an encryption that protects the channel between your website and their browser. It assures them that a middle entity can’t tamper with the traffic or spy on your activity. As The Verge interprets this: “Without that encryption, someone with access to your router or ISP could intercept information sent to websites or inject malware into otherwise legitimate pages.”
And you should care because with recent website privacy concerns spreading across the globe like virtual black plague (think: Facebook), people are a little timid these days. And for a default notice to appear on their browser that the nonprofit website they are visiting is “not secure” may give them pause to continue—especially to the online donations page, even though the form and entered data on that page is secured via the portal’s service provider. Basically, folks are a bit jittery and they need to feel reassured.
So, what does it take to make one’s website a “secured website”?
It’s rather easy these days to add an SSL certificate to your site. You just need to purchase one from your hosting service (some plans will provide it for free) and then have your webmaster configure it to your site. You can also choose to do it yourself. Just check out this step-by-step tutorial from wpbeginner.com.
There may be no better instrument for your fundraising tool box than the delivery of a good story. More specifically, a client story/profile: one that will both captivates the human drama that is the reason for your charitable nonprofit organization’s existence, and that will also showcase the giving opportunity. And then, afterwards, the results: the “product” of one’s investment into the organization. What’s more, such stories/profiles help your SEO.
Are you ready for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Giving Tuesday 2018 (#GivingTuesday) is on November 27, 2018. So why give it any thought now when June is just around the corner?
If your organization has participated in Giving Tuesday in the past, then indeed this call to action may be a bit early. But, if you haven’t participated in the past, now may be the best time to chart your path and get a jump on the competition.
First Step: Join
The good people at Giving Tuesday have made it easy for organizations to get registered and started. Simply go to https://www.givingtuesday.org/organizations and sign-up via their online form. (Note: you must be a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to qualify for the Giving Tuesday program.)
Second Step: Set Goals and Timeline
- How much do you hope to raise?
- How will those funds be used?
- What might be the giver-experience? (E.g.: “You’ll feel proud to have helped dozen’s of hungry people have groceries in winter.”)
- The Giving Tuesday Tool Kit provides a handy timeline for you to adapt for your needs.
Third Step: Begin your Outreach
Just download GivingTuesday’s Tool Kit for ideas, messaging and media tips. Suggestions include:
- Setting creative call-to-actions for your supporters and community.
- That you promote early so that everyone who wishes to participate has adequate time to do so: on your website, your social network channels, place of worship, and even flyers for local business to pin up.
- Collaborate/network with other groups in your community.
- Send out press releases (a sample is provided).
- Email blast your supporters (a sample email is provided).
- Request a “Mayoral Proclamation” for GT.
Giving Tuesday 2018 also offers the following resources:
- How to Donate Unused Rewards Miles, Points [new!]
- 50 Day Campaign Timeline
- Social Media Kit
- Planned Giving Toolkit
- Press Release Kit
- Mayoral Proclamation Toolkit
About Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving Day (which is a U.S. holiday) as a sort of balance (or, perhaps, balm) to the manic (if not materialistic) “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” which precedes Giving Tuesday.
Right after Thanksgiving, and well before Christmas, is considered the best time of year for fundraising. It’s a small window actually, but with the power of Giving Tuesday, your donation opportunity will certainly rise. It’s just a great way of celebrating the true spirit of the Holidays: philanthropy through community.
2017 Numbers to Note:
- 150+ countries
- More than $300 million raised online
- More than 2.5 million online gifts
- $120.40 mean online gift
Learn more about Giving Tuesday by visiting: www.givingtuesday.org
Dot Org Web Works, the intelligent way to get your cause and services noticed is to use website design professionals who are also nonprofit professionals.