3 Time-Off Ideas When You Can't Take a Summer Vacation

Posted in executive director / vacation / staff team

3 Time-Off Ideas When You Can't Take a Summer Vacation

For some non-profits, summer is the busy season, and it isn’t possible to be away. If that sounds like your work world, let’s talk about other ways to take time off.

When can you start using vacation time?

Think back to when you first started working at your non-profit. Did you have to wait a whole year before you were allowed to take vacation time? How did that feel – working 12 full months with no official vacation days, just weekend? Sounds like a fast-track to burnout.

To prevent a work team from collapsing from exhaustion, and executive director can have employees use their vacation time within the year the days are earned. The good news is happier employees, because they can access vacation time right from that first day of employment. The even better news is the non-profit will be unlikely to have unused vacation days still on the books at the end of the year – days the auditor might want to record as a liability of the financial statement.

Shut down when programming is slow.

Take a good look at the workflow of your non-profit. Do programs slow down over the Christmas holidays? Do programs build and build to a certain point of the year, maybe a summer festival or winter concert series, after which a natural break is badly needed because everyone is flat-out exhausted?

Executive directors can monitor the ebbs and flows of the annual programming calendar, and completely close the office for a holiday break. Use the programming lull that follows a busy season to provide a handful of paid days off. Employees will return to work refreshed, excited to get back to work, and will feel valued by the organization.

Find out about the special days, then take them off.

The next time the team is together, an executive director can start a conversation about special days. For some, this might be a birthday. For others, this might be a personal religious date. Then find a way to give everyone a paid day (or two) off to celebrate those special days. This will require some flexibility, and likely a policy, so everyone feels supported and knows how to access their paid days off.

Recognizing special days is a great way to recognize employees. Forget the pizza parties. Nothing beats a paid day off.

Pitch one perk at a time.

I know what you are thinking. These ideas all sound great, but the board will never go for it! Yes, it can be challenging to get this approved by the board. Especially if you have a board that doesn’t like giving perks to staff that they themselves don’t receive in their own jobs. Its petty, but it happens.

Start small and ask for approval one idea at a time. Make a case for how this will be better for the organization. Keeping holiday hours out of the financial statements is usually easy to understand and a great place to start. Don’t forget to report the positive results to the board, so they come to see they made the right decision.

Not sure how to get started? Follow these steps...

If you are feeling apprehensive about presenting an idea for approval, try turning it around to a problem-solving discussion. Share with the board that you are concerned about staff burnout after a particularly busy programming period and would like to find a way to help the team rest, WITHOUT using up all their vacation hours. Then, see if you can guide the board discussion towards your idea for special days off, or closing the office. Sometimes a board will surprise the ED and offer even more than was expected.


How does your non-profit handle days off?  Have a great idea, I want to know! If you have questions, I want to know that too! Please use the form on the right side of the page to let me know.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts or relying on leadership development tips simply won’t help when you need practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation.

I created ChristieSaas.com so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is based on real operational solutions.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

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