How to Create a Vibrant Nonprofit Organizational Culture

Enhance workplace loyalty and talent retention during economic downturns. Discover actionable steps to build a vibrant nonprofit organizational culture.
Organizational Culture

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Is your nonprofit feeling the effects of the ‘Great Resignation’?

Are you struggling to promote workplace loyalty and retain talent in the midst of an economic downturn that affects compensation packages?

I have good news for you: organizational culture is often the deciding factor when it comes to workplace satisfaction.

And there are several steps you can take today to build a vibrant and dynamic nonprofit organizational culture!

"The great resignation" or "the great discontent"?

In 2021, Gallup published a report on the state of the workforce that sounded an alarm for many employers.

According to the report, nearly half of America’s working population was actively seeking alternative job opportunities.

Job resignations were beginning to pile up en masse across the United States, and a concerning number of roles needed to be filled.

This trend, which became widely known as the ‘Great Resignation,’ was spurred on as employees began to reassess their priorities and career goals in the face of the pandemic.

This wasn’t so much of a salary issue as it was an organizational culture issue.

In fact, Gallup data demonstrated that even a pay raise of 20% by a competitive employer did not entice most engaged employers to switch jobs.

It was disengaged workers who were resigning, and they were doing so for little to no incentive.

According to Gallup, this wasn’t the ‘Great Resignation.’ It was the ‘Great Discontent.’

As organizations continue to be impacted by the ‘Great Discontent,’ employee retention can feel a little bit like trying to protect a sand castle from a crashing wave.

But just as a sandcastle can stand when it is built on a tall and strong foundation, a workplace can withstand the tides of employee turnover if they have developed a strong organizational culture.

→ Learn why team development should be emphasized during hard times, and how nonprofit leaders can implement this in their organizations from our conversation with Rex Miller!

How to upgrade your nonprofit organizational culture

How to upgrade your organizational culture

Are you looking to enhance the organizational culture at your nonprofit?

Here are a few steps to begin building an attractive work environment today!

1. Perform an internal evaluation

If you happen to be a fan of the Apple TV show Ted Lasso, you may remember the scene in Season 1, Episode 2, when Ted makes a suggestion box to gather ideas from his soccer team.

At first, the team is resistant to their new coach. They want to play soccer – not mess around with silly cultural changes.

Eventually, however, they warm up to the idea of the suggestion box.

And when Ted fixes the shower pressure in the locker room due to one player’s suggestion, the new coach is able to build trust with his team by showing that he cares about his players more than he cares about winning. 

Building a healthy organizational culture often starts with asking good questions.

Whether you choose to send out a survey, sit down with your team for one-on-ones, or bring in a cultural expert to assess your staff, make sure to perform some kind of internal evaluation to take the temperature of your team.

What you learn may surprise you, and it will give you a good starting point as you work toward improvement.

2. Consider a staff outing

One incredibly effective way to enhance organizational culture is to invest in relationship-building outside of the office.

A staff retreat, for example, allows team members to step away from their daily routines and connect with each other on a deeper level, leading to genuine relationships outside of work.

If a weekend retreat is not currently on the table, consider taking your team to a baseball game or going to a yoga class together. 

For the most part, these events should take place during work hours as opposed to being pitched as extracurricular activities.

This will help your team see that you value relationships as much as productivity.

They will be encouraged to work hard when it's time to be productive and to be fully present when it's time for relationship building.

3. Revamp your office

Not all of us can be Google, and I’m not saying that you need to create a Google-eqse playground in your office to improve your organizational culture.

However, it is important to recognize that the environment goes a long way when it comes to workplace satisfaction and creativity.

If you have the means to revamp your office space with a little creative inspiration and emphasis on fun, you will likely find that your employees are more proud of their place of work and, thus, more excited to come into the office.

→ Learn about the importance of nonprofit innovation, how nonprofits can begin to innovate, and more from our conversation with Nathan Hill of NextAfter!

4. Consider implementing workplace flexibility

Workplace flexibility has become a popular solution for organizations post-pandemic.

Importantly, workplace flexibility is not the same as a hybrid situation.

In a hybrid scenario, employees may work from home Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while being expected to be in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In the case of workplace flexibility, however, true autonomy is given to employees regarding when and where they work. 

While this can be scary for employers, it typically has a positive outcome on the workplace satisfaction of employees.

Especially post-pandemic, employees know how to work remotely and highly value the ability to make decisions about how to get their work done.

There should still be several touch points throughout the week with your employees (think effective meetings, project days, etc.), but implementing flexibility will go far in establishing trust and respect in your company culture.

5. Value your employees through time, words, and actions

Adequate compensation is important when it comes to helping your employees feel valued, but it definitely isn’t everything!

Especially as the economy continues to challenge many nonprofits, now is a time to lean into valuing your employees through time, words, and actions.

Are you giving your employees your time? This might look like checking in more consistently, taking your employees to coffee, and offering professional mentorship. 

Are you giving your employees consistent affirmation through your words?

The more you verbally communicate that your employees did a good job, the more motivated they will be to continue to perform.

Are you showing your employees that they are important via your actions?

Keeping stress levels low, prioritizing community, and giving random half days off are just a few ways to show value through your actions.

6. Promote communication and honesty

Another effective way to build company culture is to lead by example when it comes to open communication and collaboration among your employees.

Hold brainstorming meetings in which no idea is a bad idea, and really listen to and apply your employees’ feedback.

Most employees are excited to share their ideas and feel disempowered when they have no ability to affect change.

Creating an organizational culture that promotes honest feedback, open communication, and equal participation in meetings will help your employees feel more deeply invested at work.

→ Learn about organizational transparency and the steps you can take to cultivate impactful relationships that can significantly benefit your organization.

Employee satisfaction = employee retention

Employee satisfaction = employee retention

The ‘Great Resignation’ may be coming at employers in full force, but that doesn’t mean your nonprofit has to feel the effects of it.

When employee satisfaction is high, employee retention is high, and you can help employees feel more satisfied by focusing on organizational culture.

With some creativity and intentionality, you can build a positive work environment that fosters engagement, productivity, and loyalty among your employees.

It may require sacrifice, but it will be worth it! 

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