Now that plans are in place to guide your overall strategy, funding and communications, it’s time to rally the troops. That is, you need to get everyone—from employees to board members to donors to volunteers to service recipients—aligned to help you put your plans into action.
It sounds easy. People involved in the nonprofit realm are idealistic. They want to help your organization be the best it can be, right?
In reality, that doesn’t always happen. While often unintentional, volunteers and board members may feel marginalized. Employees may be distracted by competing interests within the organization or suffer from emotional burnout. Service recipients may lack the confidence to get involved in tangible ways.
So what’s the answer? Empowerment. Yes, this buzzword may be somewhat overused, but it certainly has merit in this context. Encouraging your stakeholders to contribute to the organization’s success is vital for ongoing stability.
Here are some ways to empower your key stakeholders to take a more active role in your organization.
Getting board members involved, especially in fundraising, should be a priority for any nonprofit. Without support at the board level, your fundraising efforts may never really take off. Engaged board members who publicly support your cause offer an advantage over nonprofits who rely solely on staff to raise funds.
Securing board member engagement can take on many forms. Some nonprofits require board members to sign contracts outlining specific fundraising responsibilities. Others involve board members in relatively simple tasks related to fundraising: stuffing envelopes, writing personal messages on solicitation letters or researching grant/foundation funding opportunities. Other meaningful ways to get board members involved may include:
- Asking board members to host a social gathering for potential donors at their home.
- Presenting information about the organization to corporations, civic clubs and professional associations.
- Meeting regularly (quarterly or biannually) to identify new donor/funding prospects.
Believe it or not, nonprofit employees are some of the least engaged of any industry. A 2015 study found just 58 percent of nonprofit employees were actively engaged in furthering their employers’ missions. Nonprofit employees are also subject to higher levels of burnout than in many other industries.
The reasons are many. Tight budgets, long hours, low pay and the emotional toil usually top the list. But your employees were well aware of the realities of non-profit work when they accepted the position. They know many of these pressure points probably won’t change, but they know management can play a key role in their job satisfaction and engagement.
Keeping employee engaged takes forethought and planning. Be intentional. Give employees latitude to make decisions. Overcommunicate, and build in opportunities for self-care. You could also:
- Include employees in the strategic planning process so they “own” some of the organizational goals.
- Encourage input from employees into decisions and be transparent about how you reached the final decision.
- Give employees the power to decide if they will work independently or with colleagues on a project.
- While skills are important, when hiring, look for candidates that fit the culture of your organization.
- Reward employees for good work and give them opportunities for professional development and career advancement. Show them the organization is invested in their future successes.
There’s no question that your organization can’t function without volunteers. They want to help. They want to serve as ambassadors. And they want to do a lot more than make copies and man the ticket table at events.
Volunteers don’t always want to be told what to do. They’re “volunteers,” not “voluntolds.” They want the autonomy to put their skills to use. Create leadership opportunities for volunteers so they have ownership of an event, project or campaign.
Target your communications directly to volunteers so they don’t get overloaded with messages from your organization. They’re more likely to stay involved if they recognize how organizational “news” pertains to them. Send an electronic newsletter geared specifically for volunteers or set up a Facebook group where they can interact with staff and other volunteers.
Show volunteers the difference their work is making in the lives of your clients. Share first-person accounts of service recipients with volunteers. If appropriate, let volunteers interact with service recipients. And by all means, recognize volunteers for the work they do. This should go without saying, but volunteer appreciation is key to retaining the ones you have and adding more year after year.
The best laid plans will never get accomplished without people moving the dials. Your nonprofit must rely on its human capital to raise funds, do the work and grow “brand” ambassadors.
Need more ideas about how to empower your board members, employees and volunteers? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Ginger Keller-Ferguson, MBA