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How would you describe the collective culture of your nonprofit organization? Is it fun, authoritarian, in high spirits, or riddled with low morale? Do people work cohesively, or not? With so many areas to focus on - marketing, fundraising, services and more - it is easy to overlook what is right in front of us: culture. Organizational culture can have a very positive or negative effect depending upon what values are being encouraged by your leadership and staff.
If you are thinking, “who cares about culture” or “how is this relevant to my bottom line,” I’ll tell you how ... staff buy-in.
It is simple yet profound. When the stakeholders of your organization do not buy-in to the mission, they will not buy-in to their work or projects being executed with their peers. There are exceptions to every rule, but for the majority, this is a reality to give thoughtful consideration. A commitment to work, and an appreciation for the relevance of the work, is crucial at all levels of an organization. The most successful nonprofit organizations have staff buy-in at every rank, from volunteers, to administrative professionals, executives and all the way up to the board members.
Cultivating a mission-centric culture is paramount to success.
When workers are dedicated to the mission, they are more likely to command ownership of their tasks and team projects. It is the responsibility of the organization’s leadership to set this standard. Organizational culture will not change overnight, but a small shift in perception and understanding can trickle down and reverberate back through the ranks. It is the conscientiousness of management that will secure the dedication of all stakeholders and their work commitments.
If the mission of your organization does not resonate, then find a better way to tell your story. No organization is too large or too small for this important convergence of mission and culture. When the culture of your organization is centered upon your mission, your staff and volunteers - the true fabric of your organization - will understand that their contributions matter to all work outcomes. When everyone contributes his or her best effort, this will allow for the betterment of what is ultimately the most important focus of all nonprofit work, the mission.
Audra holds a master’s degree in communication studies from Arizona State University. She recently completed one year of service in the domestic Peace Corps and is now working as a communications consultant and freelancer.
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Read Mary Hall's "Research Friday: Making Workplace Culture an Asset in your Nonprofit."