How to Communicate with Your Nonprofit Staff
It is impossible to overstate the importance of good communication. If your nonprofit has only 1 or 2 staff members, your job is easier than if you need to communicate with 50 or more employees. Either way, good communication is always important.
Of course, confidentiality is important in some matters. For example, if the organization is contemplating a major change, such as a merger with another organization, some information needs to be withheld from the staff.
On the other hand, letting rumors circulate about changes that may affect staff can create worse problems than being forthcoming about the details of a potential change. Give people as much information as you can, and be sure they have a chance to tell you how they feel.
Communication is a two-way street. A good manager keeps an open ear and devises ways to ensure that his employees have a way to voice complaints, offer suggestions, and participate in setting goals and objectives.
Regular nonprofit staff meetings
Too many meetings can be a waste of time, but having regularly scheduled staff meetings is a good way to transmit information to employees and give them an opportunity to offer input and feedback and to keep everyone working toward the same goal. Keep these points in mind when arranging staff meetings:
Try to schedule the meetings at a specific time on a regular basis. Hold meetings no more often than once a week and no less often than once a month, depending on the needs of the organization.
All meetings should have an agenda. Nothing is worse than going to a meeting that has no point and no direction.
Keep to a schedule. Unless you have big issues to talk about, one hour is usually long enough to cover everything you need to discuss.
Provide time on the agenda for feedback. Be sure that everyone has a chance to speak.
Memos to nonprofit staff
Use memos to introduce new policies and other important information so you don’t have any misunderstandings. By putting the information in writing, you can clearly explain the situation. If the policy is controversial, distribute the memo shortly before a scheduled staff meeting so employees have an opportunity to respond.
Some larger organizations create staff newsletters that cover organizational programs and achievements. People work better if they receive recognition for their work. Stories about client successes, gains made by the organization, and announcements about staff comings and goings help instill feelings of accomplishment and organizational loyalty.
For very large organizations, a dedicated website or intranet that’s accessible only to employees can transmit information and offer staff the opportunity to provide feedback and communicate with one another.
Talk around the water cooler
Although formal written communication is important, nonprofit leaders also need to communicate informally by being accessible to staff in the hallways and around the water cooler. Some people are able to communicate concerns better in an informal setting than in a staff meeting.
Managers who sit behind closed doors all the time often have a difficult time relating with their staff. However, don’t force the camaraderie. Let it develop naturally.
Nonprofit staff retreats
From time to time, especially if the organization is facing big changes, you may want to arrange a half-day or full-day retreat to address issues, do department or organizational planning, or provide specialized training. A retreat needs an agenda that’s flexible and developed with the help of participants. Every retreat should have an objective and be led by a competent group facilitator.