Re-posted from the NationBuilder Blog - 501(c)onference

501conference.jpegFrom May 16th, 2013

Last week, I attended the Center for Nonprofit Management’s 501(c)onference. I enjoyed meeting others who care about their communities and are interested in using organizing strategies to achieve their mission. Putting people first was the overall theme of the conference. This is actually at the core of what we're doing at NationBuilder so the synergy was amazing. 

How to put people first

Here are my takeaways from the conference on how you can put people first in your organization:

  1. The people connected to your organization create your power - even more than money!
  2. Find people who are passionate about your cause and utilize that passion.
  3. If the funding for your nonprofit grows, first invest in your current employees. By helping them grow, you’ll reinforce their passion for your cause and help your organization move forward. Long-term, this is a more sustainable model than hiring “senior” employees to oversee new projects.
  4. Ask a large for-profit organization if you can join them for a corporate coaching day. Leadership and management skills are transferable between sectors.
  5. Look for organizing trainings that are available for free online.
  6. Consider investing in capacity-building trainings at your organization. Trainings can provide a safe-space where employees feel free to brainstorm innovative ideas that can help your nonprofit reach the next level of effectiveness and engagement.

Embracing transparency and a culture of empowerment

Hierarchal power tends to obscure information. Larger organizations operate under the assumption that focusing on information immediately relevant to a job will help employees be more productive. The opposite is true - by understanding how other departments work and how that work fits into the bigger vision of your organization, you’ll provide employees with ownership of your organization. This will deepen their commitment to achieving your mission and increase productivity.

Remember, even if you’re the executive director of an organization, you aren’t alone. Instead of taking on more responsibility than one person can possibly handle, delegate responsibility to other staff. Similarly, define a ladder of engagement for volunteers. Creating a path of responsibility for a volunteer will help avoid burnout and help expand your organization’s reach. An empowered volunteer is more likely to recruit her friends to support your organization. 

As the speakers at the 501(c)onference said, when you open up, trust people and delegate, success will come naturally.

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