Are You Truly 'All In'? Getting 100 Percent Staff Buy-In
I was sitting in my office the other day when a staff member wanted to meet with me. This individual came in to submit his resignation—he had taken a position at a different institution. I had hired this person and it was a joy to work with this individual. This employee has all of the attributes to succeed in his nonprofit career, and I wished the person well. I was happy for this employee, as I was told the new position and organization was a better fit for his work experience and history. That said, I felt sad for the profession, as our nonprofit organizations constantly suffer from musical chairs and transition.
Just when I was beginning to feel blue, I started smiling. I remembered a visit by a potential volunteer a year and a half earlier. That person was eager to meet with me. I was amazed as this individual looked at me in the eye and said, "I want to serve your organization with total dedication and service. In fact, I am 'all in' for supporting your organization going forward." That new volunteer is now a leading member on our advisory board. Rarely in one’s career do you hear, "I am all in." I wondered if I could hear that from administration, staff, board members and volunteers? I am a perfectionist, so being all in was music to my ears.
Administration. To be all in as an organizational leader, you must walk the walk and talk the talk. According to writer Kareem Shaker, to promote leadership, all members of administration individually and collectively should be able to do 10 things—inspire, motivate, respect, listen, empower, tolerate, empathize, trust, foresee and create new leaders. If you practice and believe in these elements, others will want to engage collectively in an effective organization.
Boards. The National Apartment Association created a list of tips to maximize board and member involvement. This organization believes you can generate a greater sense of engagement and participation by focusing on a few key areas to improve your board. A few of these areas are:
- Developing a list of excellent potential non-members for service
- Developing a targeted list of key board members that can influence maximum efforts
- Confirming buy-in by board members and reinforce board expectations
- Constantly communicating with board members and review board results
- Constantly showing the value of being a member of the board and organization
Volunteers. You definitely want volunteers of all levels of experience and years of organizational service to say they're all in without being prodded. In an article for NOLO, IIona Bray explained that in order to keep volunteers engaged and excited about your organization you must do the following:
- "Tap into volunteer motives"—ask them what they would like to get out of their experience
- "Tell volunteers what you expect"—give each volunteer formal training
- "Make volunteering convenient"—determine their availability and try to adjust to their schedule
- "Make volunteering fun"—be innovative so volunteers will look forward to coming back and serving
- "Show appreciation"—say thank you early and often plus have appreciation activities
Staff. As a nonprofit leader, your goal is to recruit, train, orient, motivate and constantly engage staff, so they stay productive and willing to give 100 percent effort.
"As leaders, giving 100 percent all the time is a challenge, but one that will define you as someone who values the pursuit of excellence," writes Jay McDonald on his website, Empowering Excellence. McDonald believes leaders should learn to slow down, be patient and think qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. "Giving 100 percent of yourself is a lifelong quest," he writes. "As long as you’re prepared and willing to put forth the effort, it’s attainable."
For the majority of us in this profession, we get up each day and perform to the best of our abilities. I encourage all of you to maintain a positive attitude and always seek to be all in with your organizations. You will enjoy the ride and stay in one place longer—with joy—if you feel you are a personal fit with the culture, mission and organizational belief system. We all have choices in our work careers. I strongly prefer to work in an organization where administration, board members, volunteers and staff truly want to be there and strive each day to make a difference in the lives of others.
Are you truly all in?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.