A guest post by Sybil F. Stershic, Quality Service Marketing
True or False?
1. Mission matters in a nonprofit organization.
2. The people behind the mission – a nonprofit’s employees and volunteers – also matter.
3. Employees’ and volunteers’ passion for the mission ensure their commitment to a nonprofit organization.
The first two statements are true. While the third statement may be true in an ideal world, the reality is, while passion is critical, it’s not enough. Here’s why.
Every nonprofit will attract employees and volunteers who share a special affinity for its mission. People typically don’t work for a nonprofit for the money or glory. But a noble mission doesn’t guarantee a great workplace. If employees’ and volunteers’ work is not respected, and if they’re not given the tools needed to do their work, they’re not going to stay.
Bottom line: once engaged doesn’t mean always engaged.
The good news is, keeping staff and volunteers (including board members) engaged doesn’t involve anything complicated. It does require an intentional and ongoing application of internal marketing – a strategic blend of marketing, human resources, and management to ensure people have the resources and reinforcement they need to do their work. (Don’t be concerned with the “marketing” term as you don’t need to be a marketer to apply this approach.)
How to engage employees and volunteers with internal marketing
Internal marketing basically connects employees and volunteers on three fundamental levels:
• To the overall organization – to ensure everyone who works in the nonprofit understands its mission and goals, where they fit within the organization, and what’s expected of them in helping it achieve its goals.
• To the people the organization serves and those it works with in the process (such as donors, community influencers, advocates, etc.) – so staff and volunteers know who is important to the nonprofit and how to serve them.
• To fellow volunteers and employees – so they understand their individual and collective impact on the mission, along with how best to work together.
You can build these connections through a range of organizational activities that include but aren’t limited to: new staff and volunteer orientation; training; team building; and group meetings to share important information on new programs, policies, strategic plans, funding and organizational updates.
Nothing truly extraordinary – just whatever it takes to provide the necessary tools, attention, and reinforcement that enable the people behind the mission to do their best and know that their work is valued.
Even though I advocate “internal marketing” as a framework for engagement, it doesn’t matter what you call your approach to engage the people who work in your organization, as long as you are intentional and proactive in your efforts.
Remember, an inspiring mission may attract talented employees and volunteers to work with your nonprofit, but it takes much more to get them to stay. People need to feel they matter as much as their work.
Sybil F. Stershic, author of the award-winning Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, is a respected thought leader, speaker, and facilitator who specializes in engaging employees with internal marketing. Active as a volunteer leader in many organizations, Sybil is a former chairman of the American Marketing Association. For more information, please visit her website and blog at Quality Service Marketing.
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