Your people matter

As we enter the third year of pandemic life, no one would say that things are the same as they were back in February 2020, before the world as we knew it changed. Social responsibility and work/life balance are a priority for nearly everyone. If leaders aren’t thinking about their role in the overall happiness of their team members, they should be. In the nonprofit world, turnover can be devastating. Donors and stakeholders lose faith and confidence in organizations quickly if it appears there is a revolving door of people joining and leaving the organization.

Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of team growth, recruitment and retention efforts at my day job. This has taught me so much while reaffirming ideas and concepts that are common sense. Here are a few observations:

People want to feel like the time they spend at work matters.

People want to feel like they are part of the bigger picture.

People want to make a difference.

People want to feel like their employers think of them as PEOPLE.

With that in mind, how does a nonprofit — or business for that matter — create an environment where employees want to spend their time and feel a strong sense of ownership and belonging? The key is to place your people and mission at your foundation and build from there. 

Here are a few steps to get you started:

Start with your why questions: Why does your organization exist? What is your mission? Why did you or the founders start it? Who is it trying to serve? What problem are you trying to solve?

Develop (or modify) core values for your organization to ensure employee happiness and balance are uplifted in a way that has value and is a priority while remembering the mission. The essential element to a nonprofit organization is the people that tell the story and do the work. If they can’t feel good about what they are doing at the end of the day, nothing else matters.

Each time you are faced with a decision in your organization, go back to your mission, your “Why.” If it does not align with that mission, look in another direction for growth. It has to be about the mission, not just expansion for expansion’s sake. Remember that. Growth (or more income) is only the right path to follow if it aligns with your core. If it doesn’t, it will not be sustainable.

While you are making decisions, reflect on your employees. How will the change impact them? For example, are you asking them to do something that may make them sacrifice time with their family or friends? Things like that matter.

Social responsibility and work/life balance are no longer buzz phrases. The great recession has taught us that. Employees want to work for organizations that care about more than the bottom line. At the same time, they have zero time for managers or organizations that treat their employees like a number. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This is a fantastic opportunity for employers to add (and retain) team members that genuinely care about making a difference. Now, that is something donors will love. 

Anna Patty is the Owner of Be The Good Consulting, LLC, a strategic marketing, fundraising, data management and public relations consultancy in Cedar Rapids. She is also the Director of Communications and Talent Acquisition at Covenant Family Solutions, a leading provider of mental and behavioral health care services based in Eastern Iowa.