The conversation around culture has been permeating in the corporate world for years now, with more and more businesses focusing on creating the right atmosphere to attract top talent. But should cool office perks, casual dress codes and Friday beer clubs just be limited to tech start-ups and creative agencies? Not necessarily.
These sorts of perks and benefits are just as important when it comes to working in the third sector, and it’s all a larger part of the values you want to reinforce. No matter the mission or size of your charity, it’s crucial to clearly identify your core values, beliefs, and perspectives. If you haven’t already, taking a deep dive into defining your organisational culture will help recruit the right talent to drive your mission to the next level.
Why charities need a defined culture
There’s a lot of misinformation about what working in the charity sector is really like. Especially when employees come from a corporate background. The culture of your organisation determines your team’s understanding of how your charity approaches its mission and tasks. It gives them a roadmap for the best way to achieve their goals. This can also impact donor satisfaction and increase your team’s engagement and commitment.
When both your employees and your donors understand your core values, they’re empowered then to take action in the right direction. And it builds a culture of trust, which is the most important aspect of running a charity. Happy employees mean more success for your non-profit, which is why assessing your values is such a crucial part of making sure that everyone is on the same page.
Not sure where to start? Ask yourself:
- What atmosphere do we want to create in our office?
- How do we define working hours during a typical day?
- What would make our employees proud to work for our charity?
- Are we relying on effective processes?
- How do we celebrate success?
- What kind of flexible arrangements do we offer for our staff?
- How should we define the way we work and what does that mean for our mission?
Working through each of these should give you a clear idea of your non-profit’s current operations, allowing you to use this information to decide on the principles that are most valuable to you.
Want to define your culture? You need a clear mission statement first.
It’s absolutely crucial that your staff understand what your charity stands for (and what it doesn’t). An easy way to communicate this internally is through the mission statement. It’s what gives candidates a chance to really understand what you are trying to achieve (and attracts more people to want to work for your charity).
Your mission statement needs to be a thoughtful and honest representation of the purpose your charity serves to its audience. It’s the ‘who’, ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of your company, defining the reason why it exists. But it doesn’t have to be long – in fact, you can achieve a lot with just a few words. Let’s take a look at a few mission statements from other non-profits:
- TED: Spread ideas.
- Oxfam: Our vision is just a world without poverty.
- Watts of Love: Watts of Love is a global solar lighting non-profit bringing people the power to raise themselves out of the darkness of poverty.
Simple, right? And by infusing your mission in your non-profit’s day-to-day culture, you’ll be encouraging your team to not only have a purpose but to have it with passion. It’s been found that teams who have a higher connection with the charity’s mission are more likely to be satisfied, involved with their work, and committed to the organisation for the long-term.
Promoting your culture from the top down
Every employee impacts the way a culture is built and defined, but leadership plays a big part in driving that culture in the right direction. Managers enforce the charity’s ideals in their teams, making sure every employee is not only promoting the culture but actively enjoys being part of it.
Evaluate your leadership decisions and analyse how they impact the team. If you emphasise transparency as part of the organisation’s credo, do you apply it to day-to-day communications? If flexibility is a big part of your values, are you actually flexible with the employees who report to you? You don’t want to come across one way to your donors, but then not practice those values internally.
Explore these questions with leaders in your non-profit
- How transparent are you with your staff?
- How are you supporting professional development and career growth?
- Does your team know where the organisation stands and the direction it’s going?
- Do you encourage an environment that welcomes honest feedback?
- Are you taking action on the feedback you receive?
Organisational culture is an intentional act. It’s defined by leadership, proactively practised and driven forward from the top down. Always clearly communicate principles and live your organisation’s culture in your behaviour. Your team will follow suit.
Creating a positive culture for a happy team
It may come as no surprise that when your staff feels empowered and cared about, it has a direct impact on their productivity. Practising communicative processes on a regular basis is perhaps one of the most critical pieces of building a vibrant culture. Hold regular meetings to share and reflect on projects. Make brainstorms an open invitation. Celebrate successes. Learn from failures. The more you foster open communication and encourage creativity, the more successful your employees will be.
If you want to build a culture that’s inspiring and drives dedication to your mission, it will take an active effort to push the ship in the desired direction. These actions will have a deep, lasting effect on your team, supporters, and the overall success of your organisation. Happier staff means happier donors and more success. It may take a bit of time to establish, but trust us, you’ll be glad you did it.
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