5 No-Cost Ways to Improve 2020 Open Enrollment at Your Non-Profit

Open Enrollment season is upon us. And depending on how many ducks you have and how long the row is you’d like them to get in, it can add more hats onto someone’s head who has plenty of hats already and doesn’t really have an affinity for hats in the first place.

So how can we make sure that the man or woman with so many hats makes open enrollment a period of fun, excitement and gratitude and not of grumbling that rates went up again?

This is not necessarily easily, but definitely do-able without asking for extra funding. Here’s how:

1. Change your Approach

If your approach to Open Enrollment (OE) every year is that you hate it because it piles a bunch more work on your plate, that will translate. If you’re upset (as the ED or the admin) that you have to take more meetings, make more decisions, and interact with more people - that’s palpable. That’s visceral. People will notice. They’ll begin to (if they haven’t already started that process) to feel like a burden, which is what you’re treating them like. Now, if your employees are your most valuable asset, (they are) that’s not how we want to treat them, is it?

No. We want to use Open Enrollment as a time to reflect and say thank you to our staff and team. Every year we GET to evaluate the benefits that we’re offering our staff and see if they’re in alignment with our mission and the best interest of our staff. This is a time when you get to advocate for your team after they’ve spent the year advocating for your clients or your mission. Don’t be grumpy about it!

2. Get Organized

One of the worst things you can do is show up late to the party with no appetizer or desert. Put it on your calendar for next year to begin thinking about Open Enrollment in JULY. Yes, July! If advocating for your team means making major changes to your benefit plans, you cannot wait until October to do that. Look at your data of who is enrolled, who is using the benefits, and send out surveys to see if there are other benefits that they would be interested in and research if you could afford and provide those benefits. Now is the time to talk to all of the people who want you to switch to their benefit plans. Make the time now while you’re not rushed.

If there are no major changes - just get your open enrollment period mapped out.

When will open enrollment be? What meetings do you need to schedule? Maybe you could create a checklist for what each person will need to do. If you have a benefit provider who needs to meet with each person, allow people to schedule those meetings in advance so that you’re not bombarded with 1,000 calls and emails during Open Enrollment when you’re already up to your eyeballs in paperwork.

If you need a timeline - let me know, I can send you one!

3. Pick a Theme

This is a FUN thing you can do with your open enrollment period each year. Pick a theme to use to market your open enrollment documents. If you build a checklist - use your theme. If you send out an email - use your theme. If you have a group meeting - use your theme!

What’s an open enrollment theme?

I’m so glad you asked.

You could use “Rock Enroll.” Like, Rock N’ Roll, but Rock Enroll. Because you’re enrolling in benefits. Get it!? You could put music notes and rock star icons on open enrollment documents. You could have your executive team dress up as KISS. I mean - the options are endless!

You could do “Cover your Bases.” and do a baseball theme. Or “We’ve got you covered.” and do an umbrella/weather theme. Because it’s an election year you could do a play on “Elect the right benefits!” and do a USA theme.

One of my favorite ideas that I EVER had was “What to expect when you’re electing.” But that would likely go over best at an organization that had an all female or mostly female staff.

ANYWAY - you get the idea. You can make this potentially (insert negative emotion you experience at Open Enrollment) time of year FUN and about the employees, not about the benefits or the bits of extra work or meetings.

4. Create an Employee Statement of Benefits

This one might take a little more time and so your org will have to weigh the value of this one. A Statement of Benefits shows the estimated cost and value of the benefits provided to each employee over what they’re paycheck provides. It breaks down the information by employees, so it’s specific to them. These are valuable to provide to employees because often times, employees simply don’t realize the cost that the employer spends to ensure they have benefits.

Often times, benefit providers will offer to provide these statements to employers (maybe for an additional cost) but you could certainly look up the information yourself and plug in the data on your own. Type up a small sheet for each person, print and hand it out. Boom. Employee benefit statement!!

One line of advice here: Often times employers will send out these statements and they fluff up the results or the wording is written in a way that says, “Look at everything we did for you - you should be grateful.” Avoid that air at all costs. What your statement should say is, “We’re happy to provide you these benefits as our way of saying we appreciate you and want what’s best for you and your family. We know that what we offer will NEVER be enough to convey how thankful we are and how valued you are as an employee of this organization. You’re worth much more than this and we are always working to do better for you.”

5. Get Feedback

Create a survey at the end of the Open Enrollment period and ask them what went well, what they liked, what didn’t go well, and what they didn’t like. And then make adjustments for next year. These can be paper forms, type forms, survey monkeys, google forms, any kind of form!

Don’t take it personally, it’s data. And your employees and team will be happy to provide you feedback in an effort to make their space more enjoyable.

So there you have it folks. 5 sure-fire (and free) ways to spice up Open Enrollment!! If you have questions on any of these feel free to email me or Patrick and we can help you brainstorm themes or answer other questions. I have a feeling Patrick would be pretty dang good at picking themes!

About our Contributor:

Marissa Willits is a Professional in Human Resources and Small Business Consultant in Fargo/Moorhead. She is the founder and CEO of Next Level Consulting. She has over a decade of Human Resources experience and is a rabid Do Good Better fan.

You can find her in the #DoGoodersNetwork group on Facebook or on her own Facebook Page. Feel free to email her at