Writing resolutions

Steve Higgins’ New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofit Professionals

Making manageable and attainable New Year’s resolutions is hard. In fact, if you keep and follow your New Year’s resolution the whole year through, you are among the estimated 9% of Americans who do, and you likely have other superpowers!

With this in mind and based on my experience working alongside and learning from hundreds of organizations and sector leaders, I’ve compiled my recommended resolutions for nonprofit professionals. These are resolutions that I’ve made a habit of in my personal and professional life, and in my opinion, they are ones that (a) you can actually accomplish and (b) will truly enhance your individual performance. Consider customizing one or more of these resolutions, writing them down and taping your list to a wall by your desk for 2024. Enjoy the year, enjoy your work, and strive to be among the extraordinary 9%!

1.     Love your job

Working in the nonprofit sector is an honor and privilege. Nonprofits solve problems and capitalize on opportunities that no one else can address. Enjoying your job and profession is not always easy, but if you approach each day by authentically seeking out the positive attributes of your job, your exceptional attitude will contagiously spread to everyone you interact with and make you more effective in your work.

My recommended resolution: Take a few minutes at the end of each week to write down something you love about your job. This could include a cherished colleague, a donor or volunteer leader you are grateful for, or a recent success story that illustrates your organization’s mission at work. For you, this might look like a gratitude jar to collect weekly positive experiences to review at the end of the year. 

2.     Exercise

While this is a typical New Year’s resolution, as showcased by crowded fitness centers in early January, hear me out.

As nonprofit professionals, we have an incredible responsibility to support our important missions and those our organization serves – this responsibility can be overwhelming and quite stressful at times.

While I do not claim to resemble Hercules or Arnold Schwarzenegger, I do exercise regularly  three to five times per week. I find that my exercise routine allows me to reduce the daily stress that life and work can bring while also improving my self-confidence and mental well-being.

My recommended resolution: The biggest reason people cite that they do not exercise regularly is a lack of time. I suggest scheduling your workouts on your calendar just as you would any other appointment with a donor, colleague, etc. Do not cancel your workouts! Treat them as a sacred and important appointment, and you will see the benefits abound in your career and life. If you have staff, you can also make this part of your office culture, modeling this practice for your staff and helping ensure this time is uninterrupted for them as well. 

3.     Create healthy boundaries

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance comes down to creating healthy boundaries. At Carter, we subscribe to leaving our colleagues and partners (clients) alone during evenings and weekends. When we give ourselves and those we work with a break, we all are more likely to feel refreshed and energized during work hours.

My recommended resolutions: (1) I suggest that you attempt to turn off your phone and email during off-work hours so that you are fully “present” when spending time at home with your families. For those who live alone, it is still important to escape your work routine so that you are not a victim of time.

(2) If you are like me, you may enjoy working a few hours each weekend when things are quiet, in which case, I suggest scheduling your emails to be sent on Monday.

4.     Walk the nonprofit talk

Nonprofit professionals have an obligation to place the organization with which they work as their top priority. However, if you are not currently serving as a dedicated volunteer for any other nonprofits, I would encourage you to do so. Serving as a board member of another nonprofit whose mission you have a strong affinity toward will only make you a better nonprofit professional.

My recommended resolution: I suggest carefully engaging with a couple of organizations as a volunteer and active donor. This will give you greater purpose while also enhancing your skill set. It also allows you to model what it means to give back to your community. And it can then lead to being enlisted as a future board member. We must walk the talk as leaders in our sector.

5.     Be a mentor

We can all point to certain people in our lives who have shaped who we have become personally and professionally. I have been very blessed to have had numerous mentors in my life. My mentors still exist today. They may be family members, friends, former bosses and even those who work for me. I am certain that all of us have mentees we are unaware of. The behavior we model can go a long way to being an effective mentor.

My recommended resolution: A possible resolution could be to deliberately choose someone to mentor. Whether it is through a nonprofit organization that provides formal mentorship programs or simply taking someone from our profession under your wing as a mentee, I would encourage you to consider establishing an annual mentorship program with someone who can benefit from your experiences and expertise.

2024 provides a fresh start for each of us. Bloom where you are planted and make it a great year! Happy New Year to you all and thank you for dedicating another year to this important profession – you truly make the world a better place each and every day!

About the Author


Steve Higgins, CFRE - President & CEO

Steve Higgins, CFRE, is one of the most respected nonprofit consultants in the profession. He is a passionate, dynamic and accomplished leader who has advanced the missions of more than 200 organizations across the world, inspiring them to embrace transformational visions, guiding their work to strategically and successfully accomplish their aspirational goals, and providing them with the solutions they need to sustain their expanded impact. With nearly 30 years of combined consulting and nonprofit experience, Steve provides counsel in fundraising, governance, and organizational planning. Learn more about Steve here.

About Carter:
When it comes to transformational change, nonprofits are experts at knowing what they need to achieve but don’t always have the tools they need to get there. Carter makes the journey easier. Co-founded by Bob Carter and Steve Higgins in 2011, Carter gathered a select team of the nation’s most respected nonprofit professionals working to advance philanthropy worldwide in the areas of fundraising, governance and organizational planning. Each Carter consultant brings decades of executive-level development experience to serve as an extension of your team and help you maximize your organization’s potential and better serve your cause. For more information, visit www.carter.global.

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