If you won the lottery & left your job today, could your org pick up where you left off?
If your answer was a big fat NOPE, then this one’s for you.
When we talk about mission-driven work, we hardly ever talk about documenting it. And it’s no mystery why. Documentation is time-consuming. Aren’t we all busy enough?
But we can’t keep ignoring this! Documentation is key to making a lasting impact at work. It allows our projects to outlive (you know what I mean) us when we move on from our orgs.
Plus I’m in documentation purgatory right now. So I can personally 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 now, could someone step in & carry your work forward?
If the answer is no, what would they need for that to be the case? That is your documentation goal.
6 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. Documentation is like the evidence that it all really happened.
2. It’s the bridge between your work and the organization.
My team may not fully understand how fields & objects work in our database. And probably best to keep it that way.
But they do understand spreadsheets – which is why our database is documented in Google Sheets. It’s an easy reference that can help them better understand our system (if they choose). It’s also something they can easily hand off to a consultant or future admin.
3. It’s intellectual property that shouldn’t just live in your brain.
Look, we are not the sole owners of our work. Whether we’re documenting a thank-you letter process or a 5-year strategic plan, those contributions belong to our orgs.
Yup, even if no one asked us to document any of it.
So consider it your ethical duty to package that knowledge in a way that your org can truly own. Otherwise, you’re neglecting half the job.
4. Documentation helps you recall the stuff you’re bound to forget.
Do you remember the pensieve from Dumbledore’s office, where we got to relive those very fun memories from Snape’s childhood?
Think of documentation as your own nonprofit pensieve. It’s a way to not play the guessing game when someone inevitably has a question about some random detail from that long forgotten project.
5. Documentation lets your staff help themselves.
This is where documentation truly shines. When done well, it can help staff answer questions on their own. Without our help.
Um, get more time back to focus on my own work?? Yes please.
p.s. User manuals are one way to create helpful documentation for your staff. But they can be tough to start, so I’m sharing the template that I use. Grab it here!
6. It’s a real, impressive skill.
Like I said earlier, most of us aren’t deep 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.