Let’s Play the New Year’s Eve Game!

by Joan Garry

Let’s play The New Year’s Eve Game! It’s a very simple look back on the year. You need a way to capture a list of no more than 10 things.

It’s nearly time to light a menorah, decorate a Christmas tree, do both or neither. You’ll spend time with family or with your chosen family. You will be nearly forced to stop working because the whole world slows down in the last week or two of each year.

At some point in these next few weeks you’ll have time to reflect – to consider who you were and what you accomplished in 2019.

I know. I know. You’ll say, “I can’t believe it. Wasn’t it just Valentine’s Day?” You might utter a few sentences that start with, “If only I…..” And, of course, given the political climate, there will be some jaw dropping and eye rolling.

Perhaps you will use my favorite phrase of 2019. “I can’t even.”

That came in pretty handy every time I read the news.

But I’d like to suggest that you play The New Year’s Eve Game at some point. It’s a very simple look back on the year. You need a way to capture a list of no more than 10 things.

List the 10 biggest things you did this year that make you really really proud to be a nonprofit leader.

That’s it. Just ten things. The biggest things to you – they don’t have to be earth shattering – they can be a small thing that is actually a really big thing. Review them closely, own them. Maybe when they feel right, write an email to your staff and board with your reflections about the list and thank them for the role they played in making that list possible. Let them all know how grateful you are that their passion and determination found its way to your organization. And that their fingerprints are all over each item on the list.

That email will mean the world to them.

Speaking of lists, I have one too. It’s a list of the blog posts I wrote in 2019 that my readers – people like you – seemed to like the most.

It’s not the same kind of list but it does give me pause to reflect on how lucky I am. Over 1 million views of my posts this year supported your work. And in this very crazy and kinda ugly world, I saw thousands of nonprofit leaders – board and staff – working to create a sense of fairness and beauty in a world that often feels painfully lacking in both.  And that makes me feel lucky indeed.

So holiday reflections, a few words of advice, and a list of posts folks found most useful this year. If you missed some of them, it’s a good time to catch up. I hope they help you.

Happy Holidays from a not-so-secret admirer.


1) 10 Things That Drive Executive Directors Nuts

My take on the top ten toughest things about being an Executive Director. Some color commentary and maybe an antidote for each.

2) The Best Book I Read This Past Year

Useless meetings? I have had my share. Bet you have too. Well, over a recent break, I discovered the antidote with a hat tip from a friend and colleague.

3) 5 Reasons Your Board Would Benefit from a Give and Get Policy

Five benefits for a give and get policy. I bet you will find that at least one of them will offer you an ‘AHA’ moment.

4) 10 Common Mistakes Boards Make When Hiring a New Executive Director

Two things to keep in mind. 1) Great boards often screw up a leadership transition. 2) Mediocre boards always do.5)

5) Before You Take That Executive Director Job…

Here are 10 questions you had better ask the search committee first.

6) 5 Questions to Ask Before You Join a Board

Before you join a board, how can you know what you’re getting yourself into? Here are 5 questions you can ask before you say yes.

7) Should You Ever Cover Board Member Expenses?

What board member expenses should nonprofits pay for? What should they NEVER pay for? GREAT questions! Here’s my answer…

8) Holiday Gifts for Nonprofit Readers

Want to give a great gift to a nonprofit staff or board member? Any of these terrific books would be perfect and very leader should read these.

9) The Dirtiest Word in Nonprofits

It was somewhere around day 60 of my tenure as the Executive Director of GLAAD when I figured out the dirtiest word in nonprofits. Want a hint?

10) The 3 Deep Desires of Nonprofit Leaders

There are 3 things I believe make the top of the list for most of us. And it’s not finding a billionaire to fund your organization in perpetuity. (Note: The workshop mentioned in the post will take place again in April. Anybody who signs up for the waitlist for my Nonprofit Leadership Lab will be notified.

I hope you find something valuable in this list. This will be my last blog post this year.

Here’s to a fantastic 2020!