My previous post The Ultimate Guide to Charity Sabbatical Planning lists my top 10 tips for charity CEO’s who plan to take a sabbatical. Limiting the list to just 10 things is impossible. So here’s the rest of my list with more sabbatical essentials tips. I hope it helps you make your sabbatical a wonderful experience for you, your team and the work of your charity or non-profit.

More sabbatical essentials

11. Delegate Effectively

This was a game-changer for me, as someone who struggles to delegate. Assess our tasks to see if a colleague can take them on. Is it necessary to pay invoices monthly when a competent colleague can handle it?

And make sure everyone knows who has responsibility for specific areas, such as safe-guarding, human resources, etc.

12. Update Contact Lists

Make sure your contact lists are up-to-date, secure, but accessible, including key partners, donors, and service providers. Add this to your ‘How to Handbook’ (Tip 6 in The Ultimate Guide to Charity Sabbatical Planning)

13. Plan for emergencies

Have a contingency plan in place for potential emergencies. I’d advocate not writing an extensive plan of doom but agree with key staff and your board what your approach will be should something awful or challenging happen.

14. Communicate Your Availability

This is your choice, but you’ll need to decide how reachable you want to be and communicate this clearly. For example, some people like to schedule ‘keep in touch days’. My boundary was to be completely off and only reachable in case of emergency (See 13).

15. Prepare your deputy

Use one-to-ones to talk openly about your plans and listen to any thoughts or concerns they may have, and of course any great ideas for innovations they’re planning. This can be a great opportunity to consider mentoring them and supporting them to step in to your role to ensure leadership continuity.

16. Inform funders and partners

Make sure you let your funders and partners know about your sabbatical. Reassure them of the charity’s stability, the ongoing operations and the intended purpose of the sabbatical. It was reassuring to find that our funders and partners saw it as a wise move, as they don’t always consider sustainability and continuity.

17. Legal Issues

When you run a charity, you spin a lot of plates. However, you cannot drop some of those plates, which are made of precious bone china. Things such as:

– Ensuring insurance is up to date

– Filing accounts with Companies House

– Filing annual returns to the Charity Commission

Knowing these things are crucial can also instil worry into your colleagues who will take them on in your absence.

Therefore, create a date diary and mark the crucial ones for our charity’s work. 

18. Passwords and log-ins

Create a secure system for storing all your passwords and logins. I also created a spreadsheet with links to all the various websites and services we subscribe to, along with a succinct description of what they were for. The length of that list will surprise you.

19. Email subscription lists

This was another game-changing activity for me. Prior to my sabbatical, I made a spreadsheet of my email newsletter contacts. It took me months to do this.

Just before my sabbatical, I began unsubscribing from the entire list. I then kept this list for my return so I can decide whose lists I value reading the most.

The result has been a huge reduction in emails and gives me much ability to focus on newsletters, which are helpful to me personally.

The size of the list of regular email subscriptions I received truly shocked me, and as a result, I have removed a lot of noise from my inbox.

20. Health and Well-being

Time to think about yourself. How will you use your sabbatical to prioritise your health and well-being?

Can you relinquish old habits and adopt new ones?

And don’t forget to book any jabs and health insurance if you’re planning to travel

21. Start dreaming and saving

Grab a notebook and jot down ideas for your sabbatical.

New skills, places, friends, experiences – anything that appeals to you.

Then think about what might be possible. I found Workaway a fantastic place to fuel my imagination and thinking about visiting places I’d never thought about.

Create your own budget and save up. You can keep the costs down but you want to maximize your time off. I managed to afford a volunteering trip to Uganda for a month, despite being on a budget.

22. Don’t write an ‘outcomes plan’

I know other people who have taken a sabbatical and their managers, or boards, have instructed them to write an ‘outcomes plan’. I know someone who suggested I did the same.

The reason I resisted this was I wanted to approach my sabbatical with an open mind. I knew the objective. Resting and testing the charity’s sustainability was my intention. I couldn’t see the point in trying to force outcomes. It seemed an overly bureaucratic approach to me.

Openly discuss your desires and intentions with your board, then approach your sabbatical with a spirit of exploration.

Have a theme of some kind, my theme, loosely, was ‘Pilgrimage’. I made small pilgrimages, and some bigger ones, for things that interested me.

23. Keep a journal

Form the habit of journaling your sabbatical, even with a few words each day. You can also include photos of your time off.

24. Plan your return

Plan for your return before you leave.

It’s crucial because upon your return, everything will have changed and you must be aware of this. Initially, I struggled as my colleagues had progressed in their roles and I was hesitant to reclaim my responsibilities. I wished to see the changes first.

When rejoining the charity, be mindful. Use the first few weeks to observe, reflect, and adapt your newly shaped role.

Above all else, expect everything to have changed, both you and your team.

25. Investigate personal growth opportunities

Ask your colleagues, how they now see their roles and how they would like to develop personally.

26. Enjoy your time off

Embrace a sabbatical if you can, as opportunities like this are rare.

Make sure you enjoy it. Seize the opportunity to try new things, recharge, learn, and grow, while also fostering the growth of your colleagues.

Finally, enjoy your sabbatical. Use this time to recharge, learn, and grow so you can return with renewed energy and perspective.

I set myself one golden rule throughout the whole six months, which was ‘if I ever catch myself watching Homes Under The Hammer or Bargain Hunt, I’ve failed!’

I glanced out the window daily, observed the weather, and devised spontaneous, healthy, and often cost-free activities.

How often do we normally experience life like that?

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Paul Richards Executive Director, Stay Up Late

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