Staff Engagement

Most nonprofits want more engagement from donors, board members, and clients.  We have written several articles about engagement (boards and donors) and three profiling engaged board members, clients, and donors.

Here is another critical element – the staff.  Your success will be limited if your staff’s engagement is low.  The majority of your board members, clients, and donors need an example of what it means to be engaged in your context.  They need a guide.  They need someone to mentor and inspire them.

Routinely, polls show that employee engagement is below 50% for the average American business.  Many nonprofit employees choose their profession and employer based upon the employee’s passion for the social issue, the nonprofit’s mission, and the clients being served.  Other nonprofit employees seek employment simply for the income.  Every employee needs to have their engagement cultivated.  It is easier to cultivate the passionate but it is more necessary to cultivate the unengaged (dispassionate) or minimally engaged.

Passion and engagement are inward conditions.  Every inward condition has one or more outward indicators.  Therefore, to evaluate the passion and engagement of each of your staff members you need a list of outward indicators.  Here are few to help you start the process:

They enjoy their work

They are donors

They enjoy working for your nonprofit

They enjoy working with your clients

They think their work is meaningful and important

They want to be part of the future of your nonprofit

They are passionate about your mission and clients

They tell others about your nonprofit

They proactively suggest changes that will help your mission, clients, and donors

They are optimistic about what your mission can do to make your community better

They do what they can to engage others

They do what they can to help develop others

They are committed to helping your nonprofit, staff, and clients to achieve goals

Before you do the structured evaluation of your staff, you can probably easily divide your staff into three groups: unengaged, minimally engaged, and engaged.  Now when you begin the evaluation using the outward indicators it will be possible to validate your perceptions and determine which indicators need the most attention and how to develop those indicators.

Next Step:

Determine the level of engagement of each staff member

Determine how to help each staff member become more engaged

Use the change in engagement in your board members, clients, and donors to determine the success of your staff engagement process

It takes time to cultivate staff engagement.  It is worth the effort.  Engagement is contagious.  As it infects your board members, clients, and donors, you will notice an increase in support, program results and outcomes, and the quality of decisions the board makes as well as the quality of questions asked by the board.  As those changes take place, sustainability will improve, your nonprofit’s value to your community will increase, and there will be an increase in support.  It will also become part of your nonprofit’s culture.

Increased engagement by staff members, board members, clients, and donors, will result in a competitive advantage that others will find hard to match.

When you increase engagement, everyone will enjoy being associated with your nonprofit.

Take It Further:

Engage all staff members even if they have little contact with board members, clients, and donors

Remember that engagement is also influenced by tasks or activities (a dull and seemingly unnecessary discussion can adversely affect a board member’s engagement for example)

Change your staff recruiting to focus on hiring those who will be easiest to engage


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