If you won the lottery and left your job tomorrow, could your org pick up where you left off?
If you’re thinking NOPE, then this one’s for you. Let’s get into it.
When we talk about doing mission-driven work, we hardly ever talk about documenting it. That’s cause when you’re already so busy, this can be a drag! Documentation is the grunt work of event-planning with all the thrill of watching paint dry.
Writing this post, I was skeptical this would even make for an interesting topic.
But we can’t just ignore this topic! Drudgery aside, documentation is key to making a lasting impact at work. Plus I’m in documentation purgatory right now. …so I can attest, this task is so worth your while to do early. 😇
Sure. But do I really need to document for my role?
Great question. Who among us needs to be doing this?
As a database admin, there’s no escape for me. But ultimately, you want to ask yourself that question I posed earlier: if you needed to leave work tomorrow, could someone step in & carry your work forward?
If the answer is no, what would they need in order for that to be true? That is your documentation goal.
And BTW, this isn’t just a tech thing! Every nonprofit department has something to document – be they social media credentials, a volunteer database, a gala plan, or a donor acknowledgment process.
pssst! Tech documentations can be tricky. So I created an easy checklist of all the things your tech/database documentation should include. Grab that here!
5 Reasons To Start Documenting Your Work Today
1. It’s a written testament to all you’ve accomplished.
Did you build out an entire Salesforce database with fields & objects? Or maybe you’re the star who set up all of your org’s social media profiles finally! That stuff took effort, so think of documentation as the “evidence” that it all really did happen.
2. It’s the bridge between your work and the organization.
My team may not understand how fields & objects work in Salesforce, or even where to find them. And probably best to keep it that way – at least to some extent!
But they understand spreadsheets. And they need a reference that can help them begin to understand how our database works….or at least, something they can hand off to another expert in the future. That’s why our tech documentation lives in Google Sheets.
3. It’s intellectual property that shouldn’t just live in your brain.
None of us should relish the idea of being the sole owners for our work. Whether we’re documenting a thank-you letter process or a 5-year strategic plan, those contributions belong to our orgs…even if no one asks you to document any of it.
That means it’s our ethical responsibility to package that knowledge in a way that our orgs can really own. Otherwise, we’re neglecting a major part of the job.
4. Documentation helps you recall the stuff you’re bound to forget.
Fellow Slytherins & other Harry Potter fans – do you remember the pensieve from Dumbledore’s office, where we got to relive the fun memories of Snape’s childhood?
Think of documentation as your own nonprofit pensieve: a way to not play the guessing game when someone inevitably has a question about some random, unmemorable detail.
5. Documentation can help your staff help themselves.
Materials that are instructional, or that can answer your staff’s regular questions, are the hidden goldmine with documentation. When done well, it can really save time and help streamline your org’s efforts!
p.s. This is why end-user documentation (like manuals and guides) are particularly important, especially for tech systems. Here’s a post on how to start drafting that kind of documentation today.
6. It’s a real, impressive skill.
Like I said earlier, most of us aren’t diving into documentation. Which can only mean one thing: most of us are probably terrible at it!
Be the person who’s skilled at documenting their org’s processes and building institutional knowledge. You become a true a gem for your nonprofit, and the bees knees wherever you decide to interview next.