Gratitude starts at home

10 Feb

Back on the subject of thanking people who make your agency’s work possible…

Donors, obviously–so I won’t deal with that yet. I’ve covered a little about volunteers. So who’s left? That’s it, right?

What about the people who do the work day after day? The people you pass in the hallway, whose checks you sign (or direct deposit), who could be making a heck of a lot more money elsewhere?

Yes, I mean staff! And yes, you need to thank them. I know they get paid, but a paycheck is something any employer can offer, and believe me, you are not paying as much as the next guy. Every time  you have to rehire an employee, it costs your agency and your clients. If you want motivated, connected staff with longevity, then give them a reason to work long hours for low pay.

Plus, ya know, people talk. If you’re trying to hire top-notch staff, bad word of mouth can sink you. Trust me. People talk. So here are some things you might want them to talk about:

Competitive pay: This of course depends on the size of your agency and its budget. The Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations (TANO) publishes a nonprofit salary survey, sold for a modest fee. It’s well worth it. I have directed two clients in the past three months to that survey to determine salary range for newly created positions. TANO divides the scale between large ($5 million and over) and small (below $5 million) agencies, and while that’s a pretty large spread among small agencies, it’s still useful. Look at the upper, median and lower range, and you will get an idea of what you should be offering. If you can’t offer competitive pay, you need to reconsider some things about your agency and its budget. Seriously. Staff is your biggest service to clients.

Competitive benefits: Health insurance and paid time off are a given. These days more and more non and for-profit businesses are requiring employees to pay a portion of their health insurance, and I can understand that. Just make sure that you offer a useful, realistic, dignified plan. That means your female employees get full coverage for reproductive health care and are not out-of-pocket any more than the men are for their coverage. Again, seriously. How do you think it looks for your staff or their family to access health care through Medicaid, CHIP, MAP or another nonprofit health care provider?

Professional Development/Training: Let your staff know you are committed to their personal and professional growth. Even just a few hundred dollars each year per staff–including support staff. Let them be part of choosing which trainings they will attend, make a professional development plan part of employee evaluation. Use it like a carrot, not a stick. Stretch your training dollars by sending staff off with the responsibility of bringing knowledge back to the agency and teaching others (a leadership development opportunity!), ask about scholarships, write the cost of training into your grant budgets. Oh, and don’t make staff take vacation time to attend a training! Yes, I had to take vacation time to take my CFRE exam.

Create a culture of gratitude: Whether you instill this in your agency, your department or just the cramped little office you share with three other people, you have the power. Notice the work of others and tell them you like the way they handled that client/donor/volunteer/vendor. Thank them for the things they do that make your job easier. Let their supervisor know when they shine.

Have fun: Potlucks and Secret Santa go a long way toward creating a cohesive group of people who get to know and appreciate each other across departmental lines. Celebrate together.

Be sincere: This is something you can’t fake. A forced thank you is worse than none at all. Open your heart.

Just say thank you: Wow, what a concept.

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