Most not-for-profits develop a culture over time that comes to define the organization. But even if your organization has a successful record and reputation, your staffers can become complacent and growth and productivity can suffer. Here’s how to determine if you need to make cultural changes.
Signs of trouble
There are several signs that a nonprofit’s culture is stagnating. For example, you may notice a lack of commitment. It’s critical that employees believe in your organization’s cause and demonstrate their passion for it. This means they should share ownership of your charitable mission. If they don’t, implement changes to help bring them into the fold.
Poor communication is another warning sign. Without open and honest communication from the top of your organization to the bottom, staffers (and, possibly, volunteers) can become disinterested and discouraged. Give stakeholders opportunities to provide feedback so they feel they’re part of a team striving for a common goal.
Other signs of trouble might include:
No accountability. If employees don't take pride in what they do and take responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof), your organization will suffer. This may be reflected in poor year-end evaluations and failure to meet strategic goals. Get to the root of this problem because it can fester and, ultimately, destroy your organization.
Lack of innovation. Getting stuck in a rut and doing things because “that’s how they’ve always been done,” restricts organizational growth. Encourage staffers to come up with and implement fresh ideas. Make sure they know that all suggestions, however “left field,” will get a hearing (even if, after review, they aren’t implemented).
Inadequate diversity. If your nonprofit’s staff is made up of people from similar racial, financial, religious and other backgrounds, its composition could stifle growth. Of course, your mission will determine the amount of diversity that’s appropriate. But recognize that diverse opinions and life experience can spark ideas and prevent cultural stagnation, regardless of your specific mission.
Be a strong leader
Changing your organization’s culture requires focus and cooperation. Strong leadership will enable you to set priorities and communicate them to staffers. For example, try making change initiatives part of employees’ personal goals — and achievement of them key to raises, perks and promotion.
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