Why many nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity

There are many reasons why a lot of nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity. You and your nonprofit team play a critical role in our society. With that role comes a lot of responsibility and probably a lot of pressure. That’s why it’s important to have the tools that help you execute your role effectively and efficiently. But you might not have the resources to do it all or do it all without a high cost. That’s why taking a closer look at how you do your work is vital. Here are three reasons you might want to consider a more meaningful mindset around your productivity.

Disorganization doesn’t serve your nonprofit mission

Your board members are enthusiastic. Volunteers are beating down the door to help. Funding is flowing in. You’re on top of your game. 

Except that you don’t know the status of your next event because your inbox is overflowing and papers cover your desk. Board members keep asking you for updates. And you don’t know which team member has welcomed each new volunteer. 

This is disorganization. And I think we’ve all been there.

Nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity because we've all been disorganized, and this can help. A man covered in stick-notes, clearly overwhelemd.

Whether you’re an all-volunteer organization or have paid staff, disorganization is detrimental. 

Anti-hustle productivity helps you stay on the same page

Using a simple software tool like Cascadin helps you communicate clearly and stay on the same page with your team. When your team commits to using one tool, it becomes easier to manage everything together. 

It takes intentionality to make anti-hustle productivity work. Like any change to your process, there will be bumps along the way. You’ll have to work together as a team to find the best way to work together. But when you start with simple software, you won’t be spending your time learning the tool – you’ll spend your time working together on how to use it effectively to support your work. 

Nonprofit mission creep

The mission is the core of your nonprofit. Without your mission, you don’t have any direction. 

In the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day activities, and especially when your organization or community is faced with a crisis, it’s easy to lose track of your mission. The Stanford Social Innovation Review calls this ‘mission creep’ and most likely you’ve experienced some level of this in your nonprofit. 

If your mission creep is small, or temporary, it doesn’t have as great of an impact on your organization. 

But what happens when you start saying yes to more and more things? Are you asking the question: how does this serve our mission? If you’re not, you run the risk of mission creep, which can cause burnout for your team, concern from your funders, and confusion within your community. 

Nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity so you can say no, and make a bigger impact because of it

In Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks, he makes the case that because our time in this life is limited, we have to make decisions about what we can do, and let everything else go. Letting all the “could-have-beens” go will bring more meaning to the things we do say yes to. 

For me, I’ve started thinking about this as the anti-hustle mindset. The hustle tells us we have to do it all. Anti-hustle empowers us to do less so that the ‘less’ is more meaningful and impactful. 

Nonprofits can embrace this anti-hustle mindset by acknowledging that you can’t do it all even though you want to. You care about your constituents and stakeholders and the community and society. Saying no to things doesn’t mean you don’t care about those things. 

Saying no means you can do better at the things that meet your mission. Using a tool like Cascadin keeps everything you’re doing front and center. You and your team can discuss programs and events critically and evaluate whether they will forward your mission or derail you from it. 

That being said, I appreciate that sometimes, there are bigger factors at play. You and your team should make decisions that make sense for you, even if that means a little mission creep.

Burnout in nonprofits

Burnout is a big problem in the nonprofit sector. It’s been a problem for a long time. In 2016, the Atlantic published a piece titled The Plight of the Overworked Nonprofit Employee. It describes pushback from nonprofits about a change to the overtime laws put into place during the final days of the Obama Administration, which put pressure on already tight budgets in the nonprofit sector. 

Often, when nonprofits experience a tighter budget, the first thing to go is the people, with an expectation that you can do more with less

I call bullsh*t.

No matter who you are or what you do, when you try to do more with less you will find yourself on a path to burnout. 

That’s why anti-hustle productivity is all about doing less, better.

Just like avoiding mission creep, avoiding burnout is about setting boundaries and being intentional about the work you do. It’s learning that by doing less, and by being focused on your mission, you will make a greater impact. 

I’m cheering on the nonprofit organizations (and for-profit companies) that are experimenting with this mindset. A great example is the Montana Nonprofit Association piloting a four-day work week for their staff. As Adam Jespersen admits, they “are a work in progress” when it comes to this intentional approach to productivity and time. 

“The four-day week hypothesis acknowledges that we have “slack” in our daily operations and that our ability to do the work and create impact will fit into the container that we give it. And that we can shrink the container slightly (20% less) and still fit the same (or more) amount of work into that container IF we empower each member of the team to make the individual and collective changes necessary to be productive and to do the mission.”

Adam Jespersen, MNA Associate Director

They are working fewer hours as a team, but they are thinking critically about the work they do within the hours they’ve set. A few months into this pilot, results are positive:

“It has definitely increased employee well-being. And by every objective metric, we are maintaining or exceeding the productivity and impact that we want and need to achieve.”

Adam Jespersen, MNA Associate Director

There are many ways that some nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity, and all of them are valid. MNA’s four-day work week pilot is just one example.

Doing less, better is possible. And effective. 

Even with my work with Cascadin, I find that when I focus on fewer things, I am more effective and productive. Of course, I’m also human and sometimes fall short of my anti-hustle goals

Is this for everyone? No. 

Will all nonprofits need anti-hustle productivity? I’m biased, but I know that’s unrealistic. There are some nonprofits with immense resources, and they probably can do more and do it just as well.

But, if you’re a small team without all those resources you might feel stretched. If you feel disorganized, feel as if your mission is getting lost, or worst of all, you’re on the path to burnout, take a moment and think about what you’re doing. 

Could you do less but do it better? 

Yes, you can. 

It just takes a little more intentionality. And taking the first step.

P.S. If you’re curious about anti-hustle productivity and want to explore how it might benefit your organization, let’s chat! No obligation or commitment to Cascadin. I simply want to hear about your current needs and how I might (or might not!) be able to help.

Alyson Roberts

Co-Founder & CEO

Known for organizing the dirty dishes before cleaning them, Alyson is learning how to do less, better and helping others do the same. She loves exploring beautiful lands near and far, trying new recipes, aspiring to be the next Star Baker, growing her garden, and avoiding board games at all cost.

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