Nonprofit Staffing: Maintaining Corporate Identity When Growth Occurs
Corporate growth is almost always a good thing. It can augment the bottom line, create new jobs and open new business opportunities. Yet, expansion can sometimes create unforeseen human resource issues, especially in small organizations. In a rush to fill the personnel gap growth creates, companies often accelerate staffing actions without first assuring structures are in place to maintain organizational identity.
Seven years ago, I shepherded the expansion of a 49-member direct marketing agency into the digital world. We doubled the year-one revenue projections in my business plan and, by year two, had reached almost $2 million in billings. Digital was no longer a foray into a possible new business line. It was an essential, revenue-generating component of the organization. To keep pace with customer demand, we upped staffing levels quickly, almost doubling staff size.
The influx of new personnel included new managers, particularly at the entry and middle levels. On the upside, we were able to ramp up operations and launch a viable business line that met the needs of a growing customer list. The downside was that outside hiring meant that some of our managers had not come up the ranks. Thus, they had missed the acculturation process that is so vital to perpetuating the values and traditions established by our founders. These core ingredients set our organization apart and were essential contributors to our success.
Maintaining Organizational Culture
To avoid a total change in organizational culture, you need to institutionalize core values and a process for their transmission to employees. A formal management training program is the best way to achieve this goal. However, most small organizations must start from ground zero—often after all the hiring has occurred.
Start by becoming an expert yourself. Invest time and effort into reading management books and attending seminars and webinars to identify and extract best practices. Then, use that knowledge—and your own understanding of what makes your organization unique—to create entry-level, midlevel and master's-level management training tracks to assure that all managers, regardless of length of employment, learn and understand your organization's core values. In this way, they can be role models who transmit these ideals to staff directly and indirectly.
Kim Cubine is president of Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (CCAH), a full-service direct marketing firm with offices in Arlington, Va., and San Francisco. She possesses over 20 years’ experience as a strategist and communicator for progressive causes and political candidates. She has managed the direct marketing programs of some of the largest, most prestigious campaigns and global nonprofit organizations, including Obama for America, EMILY’s List, Clinton-Gore ’96, The Wilderness Society, NARAL Pro-Choice America, AARP and the Democratic National Committee. Since assuming the presidency of the firm, she has been instrumental in developing CCAH into the first and leading, full-service direct marketing agency in the country.