I am continually amazed by what our Nonprofit Hub team can accomplish as lean as we operate. This summer, we took a different approach by hiring a new wave of interns. It had been a while since I was able to hire and train a number of people at once. And it reminded me just how important culture plays in the recruiting, hiring, training and retaining an awesome staff.
Nonprofits can’t succeed without a strong foundation. But often nonprofits think of their foundation in terms of tangibles, such as money or other material resources. Instead, let culture be your bedrock. Let your mission, values and goals bring your organization to new heights. And most importantly, let your nonprofit culture permeate into everything—and I mean everything—you do. If you do all of this, those tangibles will surely follow.
What I mean by “culture”
As I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be a misguided notion of “company culture” floating around that has more to do with a dress code and whether or not there’s a ping pong table in the office than it does with hiring practices, staff expectations and mission statements.
Culture is complicated—or at least a lot more complicated than most realize. It consists of all of the attitudes, beliefs, values and goals of your organization. It’s embedded in the way you talk to your staff, volunteers, donors and the community at-large. It’s not just the physical environment of your office or workspace, but the overall atmosphere of your nonprofit. Even though you can’t grab culture and hold it in your hand, it’s absolutely everywhere.
Why culture is so important
Okay, back to our awesome new interns. During the interview process, we had tons of amazing, qualified applicants. What made these six candidates stick out from the rest was how well they matched our culture—their values and ideas are very much in line with our own. They love doing good for the community, and, better yet, they love doing good while they’re at work. You could have the most qualified, experienced applicant in the world, but if they don’t align with your culture, problems will surely arise down the road.
Nonprofits can have recurring problems of high employee turnover, causing them to frequently hire and train new staff. Use your culture to combat this. Infuse culture into your new team members by hiring to your values and goals—if they’re already living your mission every day in their personal lives, the transition will be short and seamless. And, if they find that your organization’s goals are very much like their own, they’ll be more likely to stick around.
The importance of a strong culture goes far beyond the hiring process. During onboarding, communicating the mission and overall culture of your organization is imperative. The sooner your staff and volunteers are exposed to your nonprofit’s attitudes, goals and values, the better. Have weekly meetings to check in with new team members; create open lines of communication between staff; and make sure you share your organization’s guiding principles and long-term vision up-front.
Culture can also be used as a recruitment tactic. If potential employees, volunteers or donors agree with your culture—whether it be your mission, principles or the way you engage with constituents—they are far more likely to contribute to your organization.
Let culture be your driving force. Integrate it into everything you do, and use it to find (and keep) awesome new staff. And get ready for some amazing, fresh content from the perspective of new eyes looking at our challenges we face as nonprofit professionals.