Leaders of nonprofit organizations face unique organizational and leadership challenges every day. Tiny budgets and the need to placate donors add to the constant stress of managing day-to-day operations, leaving nonprofit coordinators to seek creative solutions to fulfill their organization’s mission and maximize resource efficiency.
One of the most important resources for any nonprofit is the employees and volunteers who support the organization’s mission on the ground. Five management strategies dominate the approach that successful nonprofit coordinators use for their organizations.
Clarify the Mission
According to several studies of employment behavior in Millennials, the youngest generation of employees places a high value on a sense of mission in their jobs. Young employees want to believe their work is making a difference, whether they are in the for-profit or nonprofit sector. Good mission statements place the organization in the wider social context, and show how the work of the organization contributes to making society a better place.
When the statement is strong, organizations attract workers with a close, personal connection to the organization, and they become deeply committed to the work they do. This feeling of purpose is critical because employees who are deeply engaged with their employer are much less likely to pursue other job offers than those who are not engaged. A reduction in employee turnover decreases the cost of hiring and training staff, freeing more funds to serve the purpose of the organization.
Make Good Hiring Decisions
Putting the right people in the right positions is one of the primary jobs of management, so finding the “A Team” is a constant struggle for employers. Nonprofits typically have a smaller pool of candidates for openings than for-profit companies; however, nonprofit coordinators cannot undermine the integrity of their organizations by lowering their standards for employment.
Hiring based on effort is a common problem for nonprofit coordinators. They see a volunteer working hard for months at a time, so when a paid position opens, they want to reward the volunteer with priority hiring. While the volunteer may be a good fit when they can choose their own hours or perform their favorite tasks, they are not always a good choice for day-to-day operations. Hiring must be done with an eye toward forming the “A Team” at all times.
Mobilize the Community
Nonprofit coordinators can become so focused on their work, dealing with the operations of the organization and communicating with donors, that they lose touch with the people or groups they are trying to help.
To counter the problem of alienation, nonprofit coordinators should motivate themselves and their staff to mobilize their communities on a continual basis. Community organizing and service place the mission of the organization in real terms, deepening the commitment of employees and volunteers to the cause. Leadership guru and Harvard scholar, Marshall Ganz, wrote of the importance of community organizing, saying that working with the people they want to help gives nonprofit employees and volunteers, “responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.” Those employees then approach their jobs with renewed vigor and an appreciation for the impact of the work they perform.
Spend One-On-One Time
Nonprofit employees, on average, make less money than they could make for a similar position at a for-profit organization. The difference in salary is compensated by a feeling that the nonprofit employee is making a difference in the world with the work that they do.
The sense of job satisfaction can be tenuous, with dozens of different factors that can destroy that satisfaction. Once an employee loses the sense of mission, the allure of higher salaries and better benefits from a for-profit employer may be tempting enough to pull the top talent away from nonprofit organizations.
The best way for nonprofit coordinators to combat the loss of satisfaction and to stay ahead of the factors that can drive good employees away is to communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis. Regular meetings with management allow employees to voice their concerns, and to feel that their voices are being heard by decision makers in the organization. The conversations also increase the employee’s personal connection to the job, decreasing their risk of turnover.
Under Promise, Over Deliver
The old adage to “under promise, over deliver” is a powerful message for nonprofit coordinators, especially when they communicate with donors and sponsors. It is tempting for coordinators to promise impossible goals to donors when seeking funds, only to fail to meet those expectations later. Unfortunately, the failure to meet expectations drives donors and volunteers away from the organization, and without those groups, the organization will collapse.
Under promising takes a tremendous amount of skill, and is a difficult task for even the most experienced coordinator. If the promises are too low, the organization can appear weak and shortsighted, lacking the vision to take donor money and achieve great results. Under promising can also set the standards so low for employees that it robs them of their motivation and increases their dissatisfaction. The key to striking the right balance with under promising is to remain realistic and transparent. Nonprofit coordinators must be able to convey the reality of their expectations, and how they will achieve their ends with the resources at their disposal.
Nonprofit leadership requires a specific skill set, where commitment to the mission and an ability to convey that mission play critical roles in the success of the organization. Successful nonprofit coordinators are able to make employees feel as though they are making a difference in the world, not just collecting a paycheck.
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Millennials In Nonprofits