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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Nonprofit Innovation: Team Culture & Employee Retention


Please stay tuned as we delve into a number of topics essential to innovation in the nonprofit sector, including programmatic methods and technology.

An organization’s team is essential to achieving its mission. How well an organization staffs, trains, and retains employees can have a direct impact on its program quality and outcomes. 

Before you donate, consider the ways an organization values and invests in its staff. Is it committed to helping its employees develop professionally in ways that will better serve its constituents? This important indicator not only reflects a culture of learning, but can shape employee engagement, morale, and overall performance, all of which influence retention.



Successful organizations value their employees beyond their programmatic responsibilities. They understand that each team member offers unique experience and expertise and look for ways to leverage and supplement their talents and skills through strategic investments in professional development. For example, as it learns more about the unique needs of the population it serves, an organization may send key staff to training to help them become more specialized in addressing the needs of their constituents. The employee benefits from expanding their skill set, while the organization benefits from being able to better serve the individuals who rely on its services.

Professional development opportunities are one way organizations can improve employee engagement and retention, which is critical to organizational health and success. For employees, believing their organization values their professional success over their ability to simply complete program-related tasks is priceless. Investing in staff development can also serve to prepare a future pool of candidates within the organization that are better prepared to seamlessly take on more challenging roles. The ability to move up within the organization is often a great motivator for employees and promotes engagement. 

Engaged employees are more likely to remain loyal to their organization, thus improving retention — a goal many nonprofits struggle to achieve. The difficulties nonprofits face in hiring and retaining talent is widely acknowledged. However, nonprofit organizations seem ill-prepared to address the poor retention rates that pervade the sector. A recent study conducted by Nonprofit HR found that fewer than 1 in 5 organizations surveyed reported having a formal retention strategy. A retention strategy is essential for mapping out plans for recruitment, staff development, and employee engagement practices, which can lead to reductions in turnover. A retention strategy also serves to advance the organization’s culture  — the core values and beliefs that shape the organization from within.

In addition to investment in staff,  donors can easily ascertain an organization’s values by evaluating its relative commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Organizations in the nonprofit sector are generally committed to improving equity, diversity, and inclusion among their constituents. However, all too often, organizations, even those addressing the needs of underserved groups, fall short of embracing these same values with respect to their own employment and leadership practices. The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that 55% of CEOs believe it is important for their leadership team to reflect the diverse backgrounds of the people served by their organizations, but only 23% believe their leadership team resembles the diversity of the population they seek to serve. Moreover, research conducted by BoardSource found that 65% of CEOs were unhappy with their organization’s progress on diversity. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not only essential from a moral perspective, but they’ve also been shown to influence program outcomes and mission success too. The National Council of Nonprofits reports that diversity in the workplace “can boost the quality of decision-making and encourage people to be more creative, more diligent, and harder-working,” and even foster enhanced innovation.

So, before you donate to an organization, consider not just their mission, but also their culture. Page through their website and ask has the nonprofit embraced the same commitment to equity and diversity internally as they endorse externally? Are the staff, leadership, and board members that govern the organization reflective of the constituents they seek to serve? Does the organization have publicly available Equal Opportunity Employment and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion policies? These are indicators of the organization's commitment to its employees, its constituents, and innovation.

Written by Ofira Bondorowsky, Program Manager, and Ashley Post, Communications Manager, at Charity Navigator.


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3 comments:

jeantoo said...

It is now very difficult to get to your official site to check ratings of charities I am considering. It used to be much simpler. I have to go to several phony sites claiming to be your "Official" site before I could get to what I wanted. Plus, the web page has become more cluttered and less direct than it was in years past. None of this is improvement.

Unknown said...

If ya'll can't be more user friendly than I will not be able to use your website

Marty said...

What exactly are your definitions of equality and inclusion? Thanks for any response