Harrington Group Blog

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Although the absolute necessity of virtual events is starting to slow down as we continue to move forward from the pandemic, there will always be a place for virtual events in the world to come. The convenience of attending an event from the comfort of your home is almost too good to pass up. In addition, the lower overhead costs that go into hosting virtual events is also a big pull for organizations to continue incorporating them.

Does your nonprofit organization have an interest in hosting virtual fundraisers? Have you started implementing them due to the restrictions of the pandemic and realized that you want to keep them in the mix? Either way, we have some tips for you on the logistics of these web-based events and how to maximize your success.

1. Put Effort into the Invite Process

You’re hosting a virtual event so logically you would just send an e-vite and be done with it, right? Wrong. Even though you will need to send electronic invitations and reminders with direct links to your live stream, you also want to entice more people to attend by reaching out in different ways.

Think of how you can make the invite process more personalized. Perhaps you put together a list of donors who have supported you in the past and make direct calls. You can also send a beautifully designed post card or invite in the mail. Or just a letter reminding donors of your virtual event and directing them to an online RSVP location. Making multiple points on contact and addressing your donors by name will make them feel more connected to your cause.

Make sure to also post links to your event all over your organization’s social media platforms. Give teasers to any speakers or presentations that may be taking place during your virtual fundraiser. Reach out to any participants and ask them to re-post on their platforms to widen your reach.

2. Choose a Streaming Platform

A big step in hosting a virtual event is making sure you have the correct software and setup to do so. Appoint one or more team members to look into software options, as well as streaming platform options and do a compare and contrast. With the increase in digitally hosted events over the past year and a half, there is also in increase in available information on the topic. If it is within budget, you can also outsource this to a vendor who specializes in this technology and have them help you get everything set up, as well as give tutorials so you may be proficient with the process before the date of your event.

3. Secure Sponsors

Just because your event is virtual, doesn’t mean you should treat it much differently. You will still want to secure sponsors for your fundraiser so that you can offset the costs of hosting. You may find that some of your usual sponsors have been hit hard by the pandemic. Fortunately, there are plenty of others who have continued to thrive and have been looking to increase their philanthropy in a time with the world really needs it. Cast a wide net throughout the connections of your employees, volunteers, donors and all of those who are in the circle of your nonprofit organization.

4. Focus on Production Quality

Again, you will want to treat your virtual fundraising event as if it were still an in-person scenario. Quality of production should not suffer and actually should have even more emphasis. Cohesive graphic design, smooth transitions, hosting and overall glitz and glam should be a focal point of your planning process. You want to grab your audience through the screen.

Ensure that you host a dress rehearsal before the actual date of your event to work out any kinks, such as tech logistics, lighting, camera angles, sound etc.

5. Speak with a Purpose

Ensure that you are not supporting the concept that a virtual fundraiser might feel less formal than an in-person event. You want to keep your audience engaged in your mission and your cause. Speak with a purpose and ensure that you convey gratitude towards your donors, letting them know how much their contributions (big and small) mean to your organization and to your overall cause. You can use actual dollar amounts to communicate this message – as little as $5 can accomplish …showing the donor the power of their money.

Throughout your event, speak about the accomplishments of your organization. How many people have you helped? How have you served the community? Keep your attendees emotionally invested in your organization.

6. Keep it Interesting

The last thing you want is a boring event. Due to the lack of in-person interaction, you will want to ensure that your virtual event is engaging and that it doesn’t drag on. Depending on the number of speakers/presentations and the overall layout of your event, you may want to aim for anywhere between 45 minutes to a few hours. If it’s packed with engaging information and attention-grabbing content, you can get away with a few hours. If you have less information to get across, stick to a shorter event to ensure the best impact.

Incorporate fun transitions, perhaps a comedy-based host, a theme….anything your organization can think of to keep your virtual fundraising event entertaining and enjoyable.

7. Say Thank You

Live streaming an event allows you to reach our audience on camera and express your gratitude directly to your donors and supporters.

Flash names up on your screen of big donors an anyone you want to thank. Maybe email out a graphic with a full list of donor names. Any way that you can make your supporters feel special and appreciated will do you good.
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Like any other business, running a nonprofit requires that you annually prepare and submit paperwork. You need to submit to your employees, your Board of Directors, the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Each year, you should also take the time to evaluate your organization and its progress. Take a look at your successes and your failures, go over a strategic plan for the year to come and just do an overall wellness check. This annual wellness check helps to keep things moving, in addition to fulfilling business requirements.

CPA Audit

Contact a CPA to audit your financial statements. Accuracy is very important, especially for maintaining tax-exempt status of your nonprofit organization. Having audited records is ensuring the validity of your finances and adds an additional level of credibility. Contact us today if you need help!

Form 990

As a not-for-profit organization, the government monitors your financial activity to ensure you are adhering to guidelines that allow you to keep your tax-exempt status. In order to keep them informed, each year you must submit the form 990 (an annual information report) to the IRS. This form lays out all the financial activities of your organization. It highlights your financial strengths and weaknesses, sources of income and how you’re spending money.

Annual Payroll Reports

Submit annual payroll reports to the Social Security Administration, IRS and your employees. Form 941 is due no later than January 31. W-2s, W-3s and 1099s are important and must be accurate.

Organize a financial plan for the year ahead

It is recommended that you look forward and plan out your next year. Organize a task force within your organization and assign them the duty of reviewing numbers and strategies. Have this team assess budget costs and do a benefit analysis of each line item.

Organize goals for the year ahead

Goals can shift and change as your organization grows and evolves. Take an annual look at your progress, cross out goals that have been achieved and continue to develop new goals for the coming year(s). Bring up this adjusted goal list at your annual board meeting.

Employee Appreciation

Maintaining a happy staff is just as important as maintaining financial security within your organization. A happy and developed staff are able to carry on the day to day and year to year practices smoothly. Take time to celebrate your staff each year for a job well done.

Declutter your office

A tidy workplace is a productive workplace. Don’t hold on to old files and paperwork or any misc items that have gathered around your office. Take the time to annually (at the least) declutter your office and prep for a fresh start in the new year. Clearing clutter makes your job easier, saves time and increases productivity. It’s important to know where everything is and to be able to quickly access whatever you need, when you need it.
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In life, all things are temporary. This includes the current appointed leadership within your nonprofit organization. Eventually, a leadership role must transition and if there is not an adequate succession plan in place before this happens, it may cause some waves within your organization. It’s best to have a comprehensive written succession plan in place. Seem overwhelming? Let us help! Check out these tips for a smooth transition:

1. Maintain a well-rounded team and train employees within. With a knowledgeable support staff in place, hiring for a leadership position can be much easier. Junior staff members who prove to be hard-working and capable should begin training for leadership roles ahead of time. Even if an outside hire is selected, this support staff can help to bridge the gap of transition.

2. In addition to a strong support staff, strengthening systems and procedures will also aid in a smooth leadership transition. Ensure these policies and procedures are well-documented, as well and being clear and concise. This organizational knowledge will be crucial for a new in-coming leader.

3. Evaluate your organization from the present moment. Is the out-going leader lacking in any areas? Are there qualities in a new leader that would benefit the growth of your nonprofit? Don’t assume that you should look for a new person with the same qualifications. A fresh set of skills and perspective can be beneficial.

4. Ensure that your succession plan accounts for sudden departure. How will you communicate this transition to clients, donors, your board, staff and even press? Planning ahead will allow this process to be well thought out, as opposed to feeling rushed. Consider having an appointed junior staff member who is skilled enough to bridge the gap during a sudden departure transition.

5. Lean on your advisory board. Boards are full of knowledgeable members who can act as strong resources to a nonprofit organization. They may have recommendations, advise and input during leadership transition. Make sure you maintain a strong board for this, as well as many other purposes.

6. Prioritize employee satisfaction. Having well-trained employees is useful in its own right but employee satisfaction is equally important. A happy staff is a helpful staff is a loyal staff. Building an environment where employees feel comfortable, appreciated and integrated is crucial for employee retention. This is a huge benefit when it comes to ensuring a smooth leadership transition. Teamwork!
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Summer is often associated with fun in the sun! This makes it an ideal season for outdoor fundraising events and activities. Although, if not chosen carefully, a fun event can create a lot of joy without generating a lot of giving. So, how do you combine summer fun and charitable giving into an awesome event? We have some ideas!

Games! Games! Games! This detail can be worked into many different types of events (BBQs, pool parties, wine tastings, etc). Games that require tickets are a great way to generate funds.
Food Trucks. Incorporating food trucks into your event and requiring trucks to participate in the fundraising portion of the event will generate fundraising money. Ensure that you only bring on trucks who are willing to give a small percentage of their earnings towards your organization/charitable cause.
• Market for a cause-based fundraising event to generate interest prior to event date. This could include a walk-a-thon or marathon and should be targeted towards a specific cause. For example, a dog walking event is a great idea to raise money for an animal shelter.
Sporting tournaments. This can include events such as volleyball, dodgeball, surfing etc. Require participants to raise a minimum amount of money to enter the tournament (such as $50 or $75 or $100). The amount is up to you.
Car Wash. Can we say classic?? What better season to host a fund-raising car wash than summer?
• Throw a big 4th of July party and require a fee for entrance.
Summer concert. Whether big or small, concerts have money generating potential. This can be a simple concert in the park, or a larger concert thrown through partnering with local venues and musicians.
Outdoor movie. This can be a drive-in movie, a rooftop movie, a movie in the park, etc. Partner with existing companies who screen movies in outdoor locations and who already have necessary equipment and logistical knowledge.
Treasure Hunt. Require teams to pay a fee to participate with the option of contributing extra money.

Summer fundraising ideas such as these (and more!) are the perfect way to combine a fun outing, whether for families, adults or children with a way to give back! To consider which type of event(s) are best for your organization’s purpose and mission statement, evaluate your target audience. Your choice should resonate with your donors and supporters. So get out there are use some of these summer ideas to earn top dollars, as well as strengthen your organization’s connection with your community and supporters!
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In many ways, nonprofit and for-profit organizations are different. Payroll procedures, however, is one area where they must adhere to very similar rules and regulations. Wait…nonprofit organizations are tax-exempt, right? Well actually, this is a common misconception and although nonprofits are typically exempt from federal income taxes and certain other types of taxes, they are NOT exempt from payroll taxes.  

If your nonprofit organization is growing and it becomes time to scale up and hire employees, you will need to register for employer accounts, withhold payroll taxes, file returns and remit taxes. The rules and regulations that you must follow will depend on the area(s) where you and your employee(s) are located. Let’s go over some tips to make this process easier for you:

First of all, if your organization is not yet registered – now is the time. Register with the IRS to obtain your EIN (Employer Identification Number). This is necessary before hiring any employees and is required for filing tax returns, as well as remitting federal employment taxes.

Once you have registered your organization, you will also need to register for employer accounts in any state(s) where you will be hiring employees. Ensure that you pay close attention to this process, so as not to incur any penalties. Make sure that as new employees come in, you check to make sure you are registered in that state and if not, proceed to do so.

Just like a for-profit organization, you will not have your employees fill out the federal Form W-4 and any state specific tax withholding documents.

You will also need a payroll schedule. This typically happens bi-weekly or weekly. As you run payroll, your organization is required to withhold a percentage of your employee’s paycheck. This amount is made up of Medicare Tax, Social Security Tax, the federal withholding indicated on their W-4 and any other state specific employment taxes.

Remit the tax amounts withheld from the employee, plus an additional 7.65% employer FICA (Medicare & Social Security Tax) match to the IRS. You will also need to remit any amounts withheld from employees for state taxes, as well as the associated employer taxes for that state.

Lastly, file your organizations payroll tax returns either quarterly or annually. Refer to the particular state’s employer website for detailed requirements, as they vary widely from state to state.

Now you are on your way to having employees at your nonprofit organization!

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Here at Harrington Group, we pride ourselves on being a little family unit. We each play our own role and we come together as a strong team. This week, we are shining the spotlight on one of our most valuable team members, managing partner Tonetta Conner.

Tonetta’s passion to become an accountant started at the age of fifteen, when she took her first accounting course in high school. Here, she managed and prepared “mock” corporate books and developed a desire to help others manage their business operations. From here on out, she was hooked. She went on to major in Business Administration, with an emphasis in accounting at the University of California, Berkeley. Then, of course, she later became a licensed CPA.

Early in her career, Tonetta worked as a Controller for a design-build firm and then as an accountant at a Los Angeles based CPA firm. Tonetta joined the Harrington Group family in June 1997. This is when she was able to combine two of her greatest passions: accounting and the wonderful opportunity to serve nonprofit organizations. Over her many years with the firm, she has drawn upon her extensive experience to provide accounting, auditing, tax, and management advisory services to our clients. A knowledgeable professional, Tonetta has developed her expertise in working with a range of nonprofit organizations—from privately funded community organizations, mental health agencies, foster care organizations to private and charter schools. Tonetta truly believes in the focus of the firm to be “a trusted nonprofit partner.” Outside of work, she is a philanthropist herself, supporting various nonprofits through donations and contributions.

Tonetta stands strong in her leadership role at this company and beyond. Her tenacity and her captivating public speaking abilities support her in leading others. She has shared her insights as a speaker at the California CPA Education Foundation’s Nonprofit Organizations Conference and as a speaker for CompassPoint on nonprofit finance.  Tonetta is often the speaker at the firm’s “NPO Symposiums” which are hosted quarterly on a variety of nonprofit topics and she provides tailored nonprofit management training to the Boards of her clients.

Tonetta is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the California Society of Certified Public Accountants (CalCPA). She also holds a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation from the AICPA.

Outside of her professional pursuits, Tonetta enjoys spending time with her family, attending sporting events and traveling the world. Those who know her well would say she is a “daredevil” and a “world traveler”, which are truly supported by her many traveling adventures—ziplining over the rainforest in Costa Rica, bungee jumping in Australia, driving an amphibian dune buggy through the Dominican Republic, and being up close and personal with “big game” on safari in Africa.  Tonetta loves to travel the world not just for the adventure, but also for cultural enlightenment. “We live in a society made of up people from various backgrounds and cultures. Seeking to know more about other cultures is to embrace that fact.”

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It’s no secret that the IRS has lots of rules about expenses and about how to log and submit them for tax purposes. Although being a nonprofit organization keeps you exempt from actually paying taxes, it does not mean you are exempt from many of their other rules – including the task of keeping travel and other expenses organized.

So, what is the best way to do this? Let’s go over some of the key points pertaining to organizing travel expenses for nonprofit organizations.

                                                                                                              Travel Policies and Procedures

The first step to managing travel expenses for your organization is to have a set of defined travel policies and procedures. These policies and procedures should be distributed to all relevant members of the organization and reviewed before any travel outings. Ensuring that employees or volunteers are clear in what they need to provide after their trip, will make the rest of the process that much easier. Setting up a clear system is the best way to get clear and organized results, saving you time and hassle.

Travel procedures should outline:
1. A list of exactly what can be reimbursed and what is not reimbursable
2. The required documentation
3. Information about the standard mileage rate
4. An outline of estimated budget for certain expense categories (i.e. food, lodging, airfare, taxi, tips, parking ect) – based on individual trips

                                                                                                                       Accountable Plan

If you reimburse an employee or even a volunteer for travel (or for other expenses), you must do so using an “accountable plan”. This is important because if you don’t use an accountable plan, the reimbursement will be considered taxable wages and no one who is helping or working for a nonprofit wants to be taxed on their reimbursements!

An accountable plan (IRS publication 463) is defined by:

1. Expenses reimbursed are for a nonprofit purpose
2. Expenses are accounted for within “a reasonable period of time”
3. Any excess reimbursement or allowance is returned within a reasonable period of time

To account for expenses, travelers need to provide:

1. Detailed receipts which show dates or purchase, what was purchased and the vendor
2. An expense report documenting all relevant information about the trip

                                                                                                                    The Standard Mileage Rate

The IRS updates the standard mileage rate every year. The rate for 2021 is:

• 56 cents per mile “driven for business use”
• 14 cents per mile “driven in service of charitable organizations”

Here is where we find a difference between employee and volunteer reimbursement rates, which can complicate expense reporting a little further. Employees of nonprofit organizations may be reimbursed based on the business rate, as they are incurring business mileage while on the job. On the other hand, volunteers find themselves in the category of service for charitable organizations and are therefore capped at 14 cents per mile. On the upside for volunteers, they may also be reimbursed for commuting mileage, while employees may not be reimbursed for their daily commute to and from work.

Using an accountable plan to have mileage excluded from taxable income, both employees and volunteers must provide complete documentation of their trip. Details include:

1. Date(s) of travel
2. Purpose of travel relating to the business
3. The travel destination
4. Total mileage driven
5. Include all receipts upon submission

                                                                                                                           Travel Advances

Travel advances are another topic that should be outlined in an organization’s travel policies and procedures. This can be a tricky area, depending largely on the type of travel. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations who work to help youths and often take large trips where chaperons monitor groups of youths. In instances such as these, it can be too much of a financial burden to expect the chaperons to pay up front and be reimbursed (especially when it comes to feeding large groups multiple meals a day).

This is where the concept of a travel advance makes sense, given that limits and guidelines have been given ahead of the trip. It is an option to give an advance, based on a per person budget, for meals and any other misc expenses that may fall outside of the pre-paid travel fees. Any remainder at the end of the trip would be returned to the organization. You can also hand over a company credit card – although this takes a lot of trust in the designated employee(s) who will be responsible for the limit of charges going to the card.

Regardless of the method, travel advances will come up and every organization should have a policy outlining details.

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The differences between nonprofit and for-profit organizations are substantial – beginning with their core missions and extending into ethics, practices and accounting methods. Nonprofit organizations exist to meet the needs of society and to do good things for people without any monetary goals. As they are not earning revenue for profit, it is easy to see why the accounting methods would differ from those of organizations who are turning profits. While the accounting practices of these two entities share the same underlying goal – to keep track of financials and provide transparent feedback - the information that must be disclosed to the government is different. Let’s take a look at some of these key differences for accounting purposes:

Income Statement VS Statement of Activities

Businesses that operate for-profit must maintain an income statement (aka a profit and loss statement) that breaks down financial information regarding revenues and expenses. This statement will indicate whether the organization has a net income or net loss during a period of time – information sought after by investors and creditors alike. On the other side of things, nonprofit organizations maintain a statement of activities (SOA). This will include revenue (from all sources, such as membership dues, grants etc) as well as expenses. The SOA will showcase a nonprofits net assets and may indicate either a surplus or a loss.

Balance Sheet VS Statement of Financial Position

Financial statements must be prepared regardless of the entity classification. The main difference here is that for-profit organizations have owners and shareholders (or some do) and nonprofits do not have owners. So, nonprofits prepare a statement of financial position which outlines the net assets of the business (assets minus liabilities). For-profits must prepare a balance sheet (typically this happens quarterly), which also outlines their net assets. This sheet includes owner’s equity or stockholder’s equity and assets minus liabilities. Similar but different!!

Income VS Contributions

As we have already outlined, for-profit organizations exist for monetary gain and they receive income differently than not-for-profit organizations. While for-profits make money through aspects of the business such as sales of merchandise, service fees and shares of stock, nonprofits also receive contributions – monetary, physical and service based. A nonprofit can receive in-kind contributions, restricted and unrestricted contributions, grants and awards, membership dues, fundraising money and money from sales or merchandise. As all contributions to a not-for-profit are put back into the business for purposes of funding their chosen philanthropic avenue, this flow of assets is not classified as “income”.

Tax Status

One of the clearest differences between for-profit and nonprofit is the tax status of the organization. Nonprofits, once approved as a 501(c)(3) by the IRS, are exempt from paying federal income taxes. State and local taxes will vary from state to state. In addition, individuals who donate to nonprofit organizations will receive a tax deduction at the end of the year. All for-profit organizations are responsible for paying income taxes at local, state and federal levels.
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It’s that time of year again…spring cleaning is upon us and it’s not just an at home activity, it also applies to the workplace! Whether you are back to working in an offsite office space again or you are still in the swing of the work from home life, spring cleaning can refresh your space and boost your productivity in the process.

It is not uncommon to let papers pile up on your desk, dust to gather around your workspace and drawers to become cluttered. Once your space is messy, it can feel like such a chore to return things to harmony that the chaos is often avoided. Rather than add another task to an already long to-do list, we think, why should I clean and organize? Well, let’s talk about the “why”…

                                                “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it,
                                                                                           it is not all mixed up. “
                                                                                                   -A.A. Milne

                                                                    “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
                                                                                           -Benjamin Franklin

Many successful and productive people have figured out the benefits of a clean and tidy space. The investment of time that you put into organizing is returned to you, with an added bonus. You will no longer waste time looking for a particular client folder or an important document that you printed out and thought you left in a special spot on your desk, only to have been buried by more papers or miscellaneous items. When every item in your space has a “home”, meaning it has a space, whether in a drawer or on a surface, where it belongs, this makes keeping yourself tidy much easier. Simply follow the blueprint that you’ve created and ensure all papers and items return to their home when you are done using them or at the end of each workday. Being able to find something right when you need it saves you time and energy.

In addition to saving yourself time, being tidy also allows your mind to focus on work. Whether unnoticed or noticed, our brain makes an overwhelming number of micro decisions every day. Starting from the moment we wake up. What should I wear today? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I tie my left shoe first or my right? Again, the brain is deciding, even if this goes unnoticed to our conscious mind, as our unconscious mind will take over for tasks that are very familiar (such as tying shoes, driving the same route to work, etc.). With our mind always working overtime, when it comes time to sit down and focus on a specific project, having a clear workspace with minimal distractions does wonderful things for productivity. The less clutter surrounding you, the more you can hone in on your computer screen, document, notebook or any task you happen to be working on.

If boosting your productivity and saving you time isn’t enough motivation, a clean and organized space also makes a good impression on clients and co-workers. Feeling convinced but don’t know where or how to begin? Don’t fret, we have compiled some tips for spring cleaning your workspace:


This seems pretty simple…because it is! Organizing your space will inevitably kick up a long of dust. Let’s just handle that right off the bat. Cleaning doesn’t require as much thought as organizing, so it’s a great way to get the ball rolling and feel some immediate satisfaction of results. Really go for it, pull your desk away from the wall (if applicable) and vacuum behind it. Pick up every item on your surfaces and wipe them down. Wipe the tops of any piles of books or files that may be sitting around gathering dust. GET IN THERE.


Make sure that you plan this out so that it is an achievable task within your current schedule. For some, this may mean blocking off a day to get it all done in one fell swoop. For others, this may mean blocking off 30 minutes increments every day, a few days a week and so on. You know your schedule and your mental energy the best, so tailor the timing for yourself. The important part here is to schedule this task. The same way that you would schedule a zoom meeting or a workout class…and then don’t skip it! Keep yourself accountable.


Organizing can be overwhelming if you try to think about the entire process at once. Instead, focus your attention on one small area or one full category at a time. So, maybe start with your top drawer. Keep your focus here by taking everything out. Clean the inside of the drawer. Sort the items and toss any trash or get rid of anything you no longer need. Place everything you want to keep back into the drawer in an intentional way. BOOM, progress. As far as categories go, paperwork is one full category that may be strewn about all over your office and shoved in different drawers. You should gather all of your papers together and sort them into categories. Get rid of anything you don’t need anymore (toss or shred) and then, file the rest away! Make sure to label your file folders.


Depending on your personality type, you may find your mind fighting the process. Satisfying some of your senses may help to combat this mind chatter. Light a nice smelling candle or some incense, put on some relaxing music or even a favorite podcast. Keep a snack nearby and reward yourself every time you finish a “section”.


Having some outside accountability can be really helpful and motivating. Evaluate your circle of co-workers, friends or family and consider asking one or more people (who you think will actually participate) if they want to spring clean with you. They will clean their own space and you will clean your own, but you can check in with one another on progress updates and hold each other accountable for your end goals.


A rewards-based system is a good system. Set your end goals for spring cleaning and decide on a reward for yourself upon completion. Maybe you want a laptop case, a new work bag, a new piece of art or fun knickknack for your desktop or maybe you just want to order a nice dinner and some dessert to celebrate…find something that you really love and will feel motivated to work towards.


Even if you are only able to carve out small increments every week to clean and organize, make sure you set a deadline during the planning process. This will help to ensure you finish the project, instead of just starting it and leaving it unfinished.


Once you have achieved your end goal, AKA you are super clean and organized, keep it up! Set aside 5 minutes at the end of each workday to file papers and put items back in their “homes”. This will prevent a larger mess from piling up again and keep you organized for the long haul.

There you have it, a road map for spring cleaning that will be sure to leave you feeling refreshed, reenergized and productive. Good luck and happy organizing!!
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So here we are, about one year in to most (or all) office buildings working from home. Working remotely certainly has its benefits – skipping the morning commute and evening rush hour traffic, saving gas, not having to pack your lunch and wearing sweatpants all day (to name a few). Yet, it also has many drawbacks. One of which comes in the form of loneliness. Office staff is generally used to passing by one another in the hall, having chats at the water fountain and in the lunchroom, sitting next to one another in cubicles and many other small moments that simply come down to socializing.

Without a change in environment (staying home to work, exercise, eat, relax etc. all in the same place) or opportunities for human interaction, productivity can often suffer. The brain begins to move into auto pilot after a certain amount of monotony. As a result, remote workers will begin to start their days with “ground hog day” syndrome – invoking feelings of “this again…”. This is a relatively new issue for business owners but one that should not be ignored. So, the question is, how do you keep your employees engaged with their work remotely? What strategy can be used to minimize the monotonous feeling they may be experiencing and keep their productivity, as well as overall engagement, up?

Humans are both social and playful creatures. When given the opportunity to fulfill these inherent desires, we usually come out happier and more connected. This is where remote team building activities come into play (literally). Whether these are organized during lunch time breaks, after work happy hour or small 10-minute breaks throughout an employee’s shift – it is sure to facilitate a more joyful and engaging working environment. We recommend a combination of all three! Having an open discussion board, a chatroom or an email chain where employees and managers alike can post ideas and times for group games/activities will give all staff the opportunity to pick and choose the socializing they would like to participate in. Perhaps this can even extend to pre-work exercise classes, meditation or coffee chats. The sky is the limit but the goal is team building and social interaction to break up the boring home routine that comes with remote work.

Below are some ideas for remote team building activities but know that the list is honestly endless! Creativity is key here.


        This would require a purchase of game packs from the company JackBox. They are compatible with zoom and can be played using employee’s computer screen and cell phone. These are fun online games and range in length. They can make a great lunch time activity for a small group of employees and an after work happy hour.

Online Tournaments
        Employees can play 1v1 games such as chess, pool, battleship, checkers etc. Create a tournament bracket and circulate it for sign-ups.

Quiz About Each Other
        A manager can put out a questionnaire to gather interesting facts about employees and put together a quiz. This can be a fun and interactive way for employees to get to know each other.

Zoom Games
        Many simple games can be played over zoom groups. Pictionary, charades and bunco – just to name a few. Sign-up sheets can circulate to fill up for lunch time games (which may need to be ongoing for several lunch days in a row or may finish in one, depending on the size of the group and length of the game).


        Maybe there is someone on your team that wants to lead a dance class, a yoga class or a fitness class. This is a great opportunity to bring people together in the hours before work or after work. Again, a sign-up sheet and group discussion over what employees would be interested in would be helpful. For certain personality types, this fitness group could turn into friendly competition and a way to support each other with their fitness goals.

Costume Parties
        Sounds a little like elementary school but what’s wrong with that? Perhaps a dress up day is just what your company needs to lift spirits and add a little humor. Maybe it’s crazy hair day, pajama day, 70s day – or whatever you come up with. Have employees dress up and have a lunch time costume competition. Winner gets a prize!

Coffee Chats
        Groups could start off their window before clocking in with a little social coffee chat. They can read inspiring things to one another or just gossip about their lives. Some people will be more interested in the simplicity of these chat options over games or activities. It will allow them to start work at the beginning of their shift, already having the experience of social interaction.

Again, these are just a FEW ideas to get you started. The possibilities here are endless but the goal is to bring your team together, combat the loneliness of remote working and increase the happiness and productivity of at-home staff. Have fun!!
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