Creating a Culture of Care

Nonprofits are businesses on a mission, usually driven by a heart to care for people, a cause, or some type of non-human creature.

The nonprofit might be a conduit of funds, a hands-on mental health provider, a school, a sports organization, or an arts and culture organization, but at the core, there is a deep passion for the nonprofit’s target mission.

One question that all nonprofit leaders or risk managers should ask is this:

How can we strengthen our core culture of care?

Here’s a process to help you start answering this question, especially as it relates to the people within your organization:

1. List the people who are vital to your mission.

2. Consider what you are doing to protect them from physical, financial, or other harm.

3. Consider what you are doing to help them actually thrive and grow – whether employee, volunteer, client, or leader.

4. Create systems to protect them via safety protocols, process best practices, and insurance options.

5. Look for ways to help your key stakeholders reach their goals and grow in their core competencies.

Creating a Culture of Care in Your Organization

Think about one of your worst jobs. What would it have been like if your manager came to you and said this, “We would like to accomplish not only our organizational goals, but we’d also love to help you achieve your personal goals. What about your work excites you most right now and how can we help?

How powerful would that have been?

In my little way, I try to use insurance as a tool not only to protect assets but also  to bring up questions about best practices that create greater stability and basis for an organization’s growth.

Take some time to think through your mission and vision as a nonprofit. Apply those goals to the people who are actually inside your organization – your employees, volunteers, and board members. It’s been said that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of the numbers.

A culture of care that starts from the inside out will sustain itself over the long haul.  That culture of care will bleed into everything you do. When employees and volunteers are happy, your clients will be better served and your mission will move forward more effectively.

What are your thoughts?

What is something you can do to apply your nonprofit’s mission to your organization’s employees to create a build a culture of care?

Why Your Nonprofit’s Stories Aren’t Working

Storytelling is all the rage right now.

Not the storytelling you do around the fire pit on the camping trip, but the storytelling that every marketing blog or consultant encourages every business to engage in.

As you know, your nonprofit is a business. And you have a marketing department and a sales department. You might call them different things, but you do.

You Tell Stories All the Time

The reason your marketing department or donor development efforts struggle aren’t because you’re not telling stories. Most nonprofit websites have plenty of pictures and anecdotes of what the nonprofit is doing to achieve its results.

You’re just telling the wrong stories.

More accurately, your stories have the wrong protagonists.

You are the star of your stories. And that won’t work.

Who is the hero of your nonprofit's stories?

Who is the hero of your nonprofit’s stories? Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll via Compfight cc

Make Me the Hero

It’s like going to a party and being stuck in a conversation with someone who incessantly regales you with her feats of high school, college, post-collegiate, and current career greatness. We’re thinking, “Yes, you are an impressive human being, but enough already.”

The magic of storytelling in business is not that people love to hear what you are doing.

The magic comes when the hearer is transported from being a bystander to being a participant – the hero even.

Your donors don’t want to be ancillary to your efforts to change the world. They don’t want to just hear about worldchangers. They want to be worldchangers.

One of the biggest reasons people become involved in nonprofit work by volunteering or donating is because it’s an opportunity, away from the normal day-to-day responsibilities, to push back whatever darkness they can push back alongside an organization that cares as much as they do. They want you to tap into that common ground.

How can you make your donors the heroes of your stories?

Can it go beyond, “Your dollars went to build this school to help this sweet 7-year-old”?

Here are a few suggestions for finding ways to make your donors the heroes of your stories:
  1. Prospect better: Find the people whose personal stories already dovetail with your organization. We in sales call this target or niche marketing. If you’re an after school program, can you find individuals whose lives were changed because of after school programming? Find the people who have walked the path that your clients will walk.
  2. Listen to stories: Engage your donors and potential donors. Ask their stories. Find out who they are, where they come from.
  3. Have your donors tell their stories: Sometimes the best way other potential donors or volunteers can view themselves as the hero is by hearing current donors and volunteers tell their personal, boots on the ground experiences.
  4. Think like a donor: Avoid the ‘curse of knowledge’ – that problem where you assume all your potential stakeholders know as much about what you do as you know about what you do. They don’t. Try super hard to put yourself in the position of a potential donor. Listen and read all of your messaging through that perspective.

I’m not in your business directly, but I think some of these ideas are universal, whether you sell insurance or cars or whether you developing revenue streams for a nonprofit that’s building wells in Africa or arts programs in inner city Chicago.

Let me know what is working for you in this whole storytelling arena.

Leave a comment about how you use stories to build your nonprofit’s donor and volunteer base. How do you make your donors or volunteers the heroes of your stories? 

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