Building a Strong Organizational Culture for Greater Impact and Engagement
As we know, nonprofits are an essential part of the social fabric of our nation. But it's not easy running one. And it's incredibly challenging to increase impact and engagement at a time of so much noise. One great way to cut through the noise is to build a solid organizational culture with your team.
The fact is that nonprofits have a lot going on with their missions, programs and, of course, getting donors to give to their causes. But a vital ingredient for the secret sauce is teamwork, and you get the best of your squad by building a great organizational culture. While everyone has a job to do, making strides to foster a vibrant and impactful team culture can help get your organization on the map.
The Power of Organizational Culture
Let’s begin by discussing what organizational culture means for your nonprofit. A solid nonprofit organizational culture is one where your team is aligned with shared values. Consider it like a table. The values of your organization sit on top of legs or pillars. Those pillars are the activities to ensure you keep aligned with your values. When your nonprofit lives its values daily, it attracts and retains top talent — and donors.
Fostering a Collaborative Team Environment
If you want to attract talent and donors, you have to consider creating an organizational culture that is a space others wish to join. While it sounds like something easy, it's not. Again, you have to prioritize your organizational culture every day. That means acting and behaving in ways that align with the organization's values. For instance, if excellence is a value, it means being excellent every day and measuring to that value.
One of the best approaches to having a positive organizational culture is to foster collaboration in your team environment. By doing so, you demonstrate to your team that you value what they have to bring to the table. Here are three approaches the best leading organizations use to foster a collaborative environment.
1. Support Cross-Departmental Collaboration
Unfortunately, many nonprofits have departments, and everyone prefers to keep their information to themselves. That's not going to work in an era of transparency. So, look for ways to knock down walls. For example, use communications technology that forces people off emails and places everything about the organization in the open.
2. Create a Culture of Transparency
Following up on the first point, transparency in today’s world is essential. In other words, you must ensure open information flow among your team and departments. You want everyone to be well-informed about your goals, metrics and progress against your key performance indicators.
3. Empower Your Nonprofit Team
The final element for collaboration is the empowerment of your team. In other words, as a leader, you need to provide autonomy, authority and agency to make decisions within areas of expertise. Doing so fosters a sense of ownership, allows people to learn from their mistakes, and makes your team more inclined to innovate and create.
Cultivating Purpose Within the Team
Team collaboration is vital, but a sense of purpose is another pillar of the table. Sure, nonprofits have a mission, but do you have a strong sense of purpose at your nonprofit? In other words, does everyone on your squad feel a strong personal connection and sense of wanting to effect the change? Are they meaningfully engaged?
Creating a strong sense of purpose means considering a few things.
1. Living the Mission Regularly
One of the best ways to keep your team engaged in the mission is to get them out there doing the work. In short, don't let it be the program people who provide the service. Rotate your team (e.g., operations, fundraisers, finance) to get out in the field to see the mission in action.
2. Align Individuals With the Mission
People on your team understand that the organization, as a whole, is making a social impact. But how about them as individuals? How does the administrative assistant or social media manager’s job tie to the mission? Show them.
3. Celebrate the Wins
Finally, you cultivate a sense of purpose when you celebrate the wins — the big and small ones. If you made the goal, great. Celebrate it. Create a culture that celebrates your team's successes — as well as those from volunteers and champions — as much as possible.
Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Greater Impact
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) matter. If you want to build engagement and create greater impact, you want everyone to know your nonprofit supports DEI. For one, in a world with diverse voices, it's an ethical responsibility to allow people the chance to be heard. And for organizational culture, you increase creativity and opportunities to think out of the box when there are different views and opinions.
1. Assess and Address Biases
Do regular audits and reviews to ensure your nonprofit adheres to DEI principles. Understand where your organization may have biases in technology platforms, policies and processes. Look at organizations that offer resources for fighting bias, such as MITs resources.
2. Create a Culture of Belonging
The vast majority of people want to be part of something and belong. Just having a job at your nonprofit isn't enough. Create a safe space where people of differing opinions and approaches can discuss topics (including sensitive ones) with value, respect and dignity.
3. Ensure Diversity From Top to Bottom
To ensure DEI, you have to get everyone involved. Help ensure meaningful board engagement with diverse directors and executives and do the same throughout the organization at every level. Ensure diversity in decisions, program design and community engagement.
To sum it up, creating a solid organizational culture goes beyond being a nice-to-have. It's a necessity. When you have a solid organizational culture, you have a strong squad of people — pulling in the same direction — and you can do anything. Your nonprofit can cut through the noise that drowns so many voices.
Moreover, a strong culture allows you to recruit and retain top talent and donors. People want to be part of something big, which has a demonstrable impact. A strong and positive organizational culture helps you do just that. Ultimately, your nonprofit will not only achieve its goals, but it’ll inspire people and make a lasting difference.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Why Nonprofits Must Make Peace With Turnover
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.