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Leveraging Diversity and Culture

Think for a moment about the challenges a large organization like The Salvation Army faces. It has operations in most countries. It must allow the local leaders to determine how to interact with the local population. Dictating the interaction from world headquarters would diminish the effectiveness of its mission, acceptance by the local population, and its ability to attract support. In short, the local leaders are responsible for local relevance.

It is tempting to have a single standard for doing everything. A universal standard creates a high level of efficiency. It also alienates everyone who is different from the standard.

The Salvation Army is a good model because they ensure their mission is never compromised and their services are always relevant.

Why is this important to a nonprofit in your community?

Our communities are becoming more diverse and the trend is likely to continue. The internet has taught all of us that we can expect a customizable experience from any organization who serves us. Yet, we each define ‘customizable experience’ to be ‘relevant to me’.

Your staff needs to be able to function like the local leaders of The Salvation Army. Your staff must be able to freely translate your services into relevant experiences for each family and client.

Next Step:

Empower your staff to treat standards as guidelines so that the diverse and individual needs of your clients will be effectively met

Review your standards to ensure they are broad enough to encompass the needs of the diverse population that surrounds your nonprofit

Review your standards with community representatives to ensure the standards are relevant to the needs of their constituents

The sustainability of your nonprofit depends on growing your capacity to serve an increasingly diverse client population, which requires an ability to keep your mission relevant to your constantly evolving community.

Is your standard for serving clients flexible enough to accommodate everyone in your community who wants what your mission promises? If you were more flexible without sacrificing your mission, would demand for your services increase?

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