Advice from a non-profit CEO on how to build staff loyalty

In case you haven’t heard, DonorDreams blog is hosting for the second year in a row the Nonprofit Blog Carnival in the month of May. This year’s theme revolves around building loyalty among various non-profit stakeholder groups such as donors, employees, volunteers, etc. If you are a blogger and looking for the “Call for Submissions,” then click here. The carnival will be posted right here at DonorDreams blog on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Stay tuned!

In the interest of building momentum, we’ve dedicated the entire month of blog posts to this topic. We’re specifically focusing on what a variety of non-profit organizations are doing (or are looking at doing) to build loyalty.

adviceWhen I decided to ask local non-profit organizations to use my blog platform to talk about some aspect of building loyalty with a particular stakeholder group, I sent out a ton of email requests to former clients asking them to consent to an interview or send me something in writing.
The following is a letter from a former client talking about their experiences with building staff loyalty. I didn’t secure permission to use their name. So, I edited their submission to protect their identity.

Dear Erik:
I think it (building loyalty) starts with choosing the right people. Some people have the capacity or desire to be loyal in the right circumstances. If you choose someone who is not wired in that way, nothing you do will make it happen.
Once you have that kind of a person on staff, you have to provide them with something to be loyal to. 
One of my big foundations — and I think it is key with younger employees — is work flexibility.  I let them:

  • set their schedules
  • take time when they need
  • don’t require a 1-for-1

I find that I get back more than I give and have people who are willing to work on the odd weekend, can be counted on putting in extra time, etc.
 If there are opportunities to make extra money (e.g. by working a rental event, etc), I never take it unless no one else wants it. That way, staff have the opportunity. 
I support my staff in all their decisions, always assume that they have made a decision in what they believe to be the best interest of our agency, and try to use mistakes as teachable moments.  I rarely get mad with staff as I find it to be a pointless waste of emotion on both sides. They are usually much harder on themselves than I would be, and they don’t need me adding to their burden.  If I have to countermand a decision they have made (which is extremely rare), I do it in private and make sure everyone knows I support my staff but just feel like they made a poor decision that one time.
I try to share lessons I have learned with my staff and help them benefit both from those lessons as well as from learning the process of working through making a decision. 
I make them treats, cook them breakfast, make them take time-off when they need, and get them cups of coffee when they are running on empty. 
I try very hard not to share issues or difficulties in my life as it is my job to help them, not theirs to provide “counseling” for me.  At all times, I try and keep in mind that I have more of a choice about whether to lay my “stuff” on them than they may feel they have to listen to it or not.
 By the same token, I have become a lot less tolerant of new employees who do not share our values or ethics and try and weed them out before they upset the balance of our little apple cart. 
I try and let my employees know how much I appreciate them, be there with the difficulties they have, and participate in all the nasty parts as well as the good parts of everything we go through. 
I try and make less work for them rather than increasing it.

Thanks for sharing, BW. You obviously work very hard at building staff loyalty and have put lots of thought into your strategies.


If you want to learn more about what other non-profit organizations are doing to build loyalty among various stakeholder groups (e.g. donors, employees, volunteers, etc), then tune in here to DonorDreams blog every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the month of May. We will also publish the Nonprofit Blog Carnival on May 28, 2014 with a number of links to other non-profit bloggers who are talking about loyalty related themes.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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