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If I Ran the World (of Non-profits)…

A bit of a different topic today…

I’ve worked in non-profit organizations for five+ years, and while much of it has been interesting and exciting, it’s also been hard for a number of reasons; the main ones, as you can imagination, are the low salary and large workload. However, not all non-profits are created equal, and some have found ways to compensate for their low pay. They do this through a number of things:

1. Verbal employee appreciation. This is when management actively tries to build employee morale through encouragement, incentives and general kudos. Appreciation can go a long way because most of us are seeking some sort of fulfillment through are jobs, and getting a sincere “thank you,” or “good job!” every now can help us reach this goal.

2. Employee appreciation through treats. Yes, non-profits are struggling. But by allocating a small amount of funds to provide treats to the employees, they can save themselves money in the long run. Under the right management, happy employees make productive employees. Unhappy employees lead to high turnover rates, which ends up costing the non-profit more money. The small amount of allocated funds can be used to treat staff to coffee or cookies every two months. Heck, even every three months is better than nothing! And these small gestures can make employees feel happy and appreciated.

3. Asking for employee feedback. Management in non-profits is usually juggling about a thousand different things. And they are smart and capable (usually), so they are able to do this. However, they forget that the “little people” are also smart and capable (usually), and so they don’t often ask them for advice. Big mistake! The “little people” are often involved in the nitty-gritty, internal workings of the organization, and they can have great ideas to propel the organization forward. Management should ask employees for their suggestions, and take them into account when warranted.

4. Staff meetings. Staff meetings are a way of showing that there is some sort of unity between the staff. It is a way of involving us “little people,” which makes us feel important and in-the-loop (basic human needs, right?). Staff meetings are also a forum where the aforementioned employee feedback can take place, either verbally or through a suggestion box.

5. Basic human decency. In one of the non-profits I worked in, I encountered the moral conundrum: how could such a bad person do such good things? Yes, one of my bosses was just terrible, and I was forced to conclude that, at the end of the day, the good a person does is not cancelled out by the bad, and the bad is not cancelled out by the good. The two simply co-exist side by side and simultaneously, as incongruent as that may seem. But back to our topic – a boss needs to act with basic human decency towards his or her employees. If not, this will create a high turnover rate, low morale and general nastiness in the workplace.

So there you have it – these are the five things that I would enforce if ran the world of non-profits. (Too bad nobody asked me!) Some non-profits already practice these things, but not all of them. In my humble, meager experience, I would venture to say that the management that employs these practices will be able to run a successful venture, and those that don’t will fail, or will just “get by.” And who wants to just get by?

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