Putting greater value on values in the non-profit workplace

Putting greater value on values in the non-profit workplace

By: Alison Myers 

For a long time after having kids, I worked as a stand-alone freelancer, living the introvert’s dream in the confines of my own home. The benefits are as you’d expect: flexibility on work hours and clothing choices, and the ability (theoretically) to pass on projects if life isn’t cooperating.

 

Then, a couple of years ago, something odd happened. I started craving the company of like-minded souls. I remember saying to a friend sometime in 2019—a time I like to refer to as B.C. (Before Covid)—that I was missing the feeling that comes from being part of a team of people working together towards a common goal. This was before I met Jolene.

 

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one wanting work to have more meaning. A LinkedIn survey conducted in the spring of 2018 concluded that workplace values and identity mean more to employees than money and inner-office fame.

“People would rather put up with lower pay (65%) and forego a fancy title (26%) than deal with a bad workplace environment [and] 71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values.”

As I mentioned in our article about cultivating culture last month—featuring the professional pontification of Laura Istead with Two Wheel View—determining values and building identity gives the people on your team tenets they can work collectively to uphold. And as Laura says, they can’t just be words written in fancy script on the wall. They have to be part of what everyone lives and breathes, written into policies, procedures and even performance agreements.

 

One strategy being adopted by a growing number of organizations is that of scrubbing resumes, and by that I don’t mean polishing them up to look spiffy. Also referred to as blinding a resume, scrubbing eliminates as much non-pertinent information from a person’s resume as is humanly possible so hiring committees are left with a stack of easily comparable candidates. No name, photo, address to start but some go so far as to take out the names of schools the candidates attended, the time frames of their work experiences and even hobbies they enjoy.

 

For people coming into these jobs, as well as their pre-existing colleagues, there’s clarity around values before they even walk in the door. Everyone knows the new hires are there because their skills meet the needs of the job, not because they share an alma mater or love of needlepoint with the boss.

 

The impact of having clearly stated and effectively demonstrated values goes beyond staff recruitment, retention and satisfaction. It carries over to your organization’s identity within the community and to your relationships with potential donors. Non-profits are often described for their goals within society: what they work towards, who they aim to help, what problems they seek to solve. Rarely do we talk about how the internal, working values play an equally important role in that success. Can you imagine, for example, a situation where you would say no to funding based on the personal values of a donor or donor agency not meshing with those of the non-profit where you work? If not, it may be a useful workshop exercise to help your team become more aligned with what you all stand for, together.

 

A recent article on DonorBox offers a comprehensive beginner guide on how to formulate your nonprofit’s values statements, including some interesting examples from organizations you’ll recognize.

“Every organization, whether it knows it or not, has a particular set of core values that define every aspect of their daily decisions, from how they answer messages from donors on Facebook to how employees are rewarded. Without clearly defined core values, an organization lingers in a constant state of an identity crisis. Worse yet, the organization then operates on some values but it just doesn’t know which ones.”

While it may initially seem like a simple task to formally define what guides you, the process will take time. With open communication and respect for varying opinions, you and your team can come to a place where your guiding principles and internal motivations are clearly aligned.

 

As for me, a few months after I put my plea out to the universe, I was invited to work with Bespoke, thus fulfilling my desire to be connected with others on a path towards the greater good. Our values here are clear—we want to help non-profits shine—and every success is the result of a concentrated, collective effort.

 

What are some of your core values, as a person, as an employee. Help us keep the conversation around organizational culture going and growing by sharing your thoughts here or on any one of our social media channels.

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