Carly Matthew

Last month Kivi did a webinar called “Simple Rules” for Communications Directors: How to Create Easy Routines, Speed Up Your Work, and Get More Done, Painlessly. We asked if anyone had any examples of how they make their work easier and Carly Matthew at The Crisis Center in Iowa City, Iowa had a great one! She developed a Google Form that program staff use to tell her about a variety of things from social media post suggestions to events to graphic design requests. Here is more on how she came up with it and how it works. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Carly Matthew

A year ago, when I started my new communications coordinator job, I was overwhelmed constantly.

And, unfortunately, my story isn’t at all unique.

Because of an open-door office culture, someone would walk into my office and ask for something every minute of every day. I felt I had to respond or some terrible disaster would occur, the whole nonprofit would fall apart, and it would all be my fault.

It took me months to realize that my coworkers were not out to get me. They were just interacting with me the way they had interacted with the burned-out communications person before me; assigning me what they needed when they needed it. Everyone who stopped by my office seemed to think their project was most important and belonged on the top of my to-do list. I let them reset my priorities by the hour.

Though I had loved the nonprofit and aspired to work there for years, I thought of leaving my job.

As I tried to escape this reactionary communications work culture, the Communications Request Form was born.

For the first time, the staff requesting brochures and flyers and social media posts had to think for themselves.

Via a Google Form, people needed to submit the time, place, date—any information they could—before I would even start to work on their project. Instead of drive-by requests in the hallway, I had written, recorded documentation to reference. Perhaps best of all, requestors had to think about when their project deadline really was, not just when they wanted it done (today).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I announced staff would be required to use the request form, their was audible grumbling. But I explained that one extra step would save me a lot of time and help me get the work done more quickly and efficiently, especially because there would be fewer follow-up questions and edits.

The Communications Request Form is a living document. It’s definitely not perfect. Mistakes are still made and things still fall through the cracks, because there’s still only one of me. But it’s made my work load more manageable and sustainable which makes me happier. 

The form asks requestors to answer the following questions:

  • Name of requestor
  • Project deadline
  • Type of project: Graphic design (my most common), special project, photography/videography, event marketing, website edits, press/social media, speaking engagement/tabling
  • Describe the who, what, where, when, and why
  • Do you need an edit to existing materials or new materials made from scratch?
  • Describe your project including printing requirements, URLs, budget, dates, sponsors, grants, etc.

To any other nonprofit communications professionals struggling through the workweek, I hope this form, or something like it, can help you turn the chaos into structure so you can love your job again.

Carly Matthew is the Communications Coordinator at The Crisis Center in Iowa City, Iowa—a nonprofit focused on providing food, financial, and emotional support. She creates newsletters, email campaigns, social media, graphic design, digital ads, and more for the organization. 

Do you have a tip that saves you time at work? Share in the comments or write a guest post for us like Carly did.