Building staff loyalty means engaging in conversation

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.

All-staff meeting results in health care discussion
Vietnamese Association of Illinois

vietnamese associationThe idea of how to build loyalty has bubbled into all sorts of conversations with my non-profit friends this month. Just last week I met my old friend and current President & CEO of the Vietnamese Association of Illinois, Paul Luu,  for a delicious lunch at Tank Noodle in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. After ordering hot tea and pho, we started talking about his one year anniversary as the top dog at his agency. Quickly, our discussion turned to the topic of loyalty.

When the conversation turned to Paul’s staff, he got very excited and started talking about the quarterly meetings his agency hosts where every employee is invited and encouraged to attend. At these meetings, a wide variety of activities occur. The following are just a few examples of things that have ended up on quarterly all-staff meeting agendas:

  • trainings
  • updates from upper management and board members about the state of the agency
  • Q&A with the President & CEO

Recently, it was brought to Paul’s attention at one of the quarterly all-staff meetings that employees were struggling with health insurance issues. These struggles were going to become more pronounced with the IRS poised to enforce the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
loyaltyUnderstanding that it isn’t enough to just give the staff a forum, Paul and the board of directors listened and developed a plan of action to help employees with their healthcare challenges.

  • ACA navigators attended future all-staff meetings to work with employees
  • healthcare became a priority and repeatedly talked about in internal communication vehicles
  • the agency found funding to help underwrite some of the costs associated with giving employees a healthcare stipend

Why did the agency go to great lengths to meet their staff halfway on the healthcare question? Paul explained it as follows:

“Our staff is talented and could go to work for any number of other social service non-profit agencies throughout the city. We understand that we are only as good as our staff and the services they provide our clients. While we don’t have endless financial resources, we owed it to our employees to engage in a discussion that was very important and collaborate with them on working through the problem until an acceptable solution was found.”

As I heard Paul talk about this situation — one with which he and the board are obviously very happy — I couldn’t help but think about what Peter Drucker once said:

“All organizations now say routinely, ‘People are our greatest asset.’ Yet few practice what they preach, let alone truly believe it. Most still believe, though perhaps not consciously, what nineteenth century employers believe: people need us more than we need them. But, in fact, organizations have to market membership as much as they market products and services — and perhaps more. They have to attract people, hold people, recognize and reward people, motivate people, and serve and satisfy people.”

I believe that Paul and the Vietnamese Association of Illinois just put a huge down payment down on something called employee loyalty because they gave their staff a forum; they listened; they collaborated; and they acted.
I think Peter Drucker, Frederrich Reichheld and all of the other loyalty thought leaders would be very proud of this non-profit organization.


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

Obamacare and your non-profit organization

obamacare1I am not a healthcare expert, and I promise not to play one today. However, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been mentioned in passing a handful of times in meetings I’ve had with non-profit board and staff members over the last few months. Of course, when things like this happen, it tweaks my curiosity and normally ends up here as a blog post. Today, I thought I’d quickly touch upon the quickly evolving topic of healthcare and the non-profit sector and how everyone needs to start paying attention.

In my experience throughout the last few decades, I’ve seen non-profit organizations occupy two very opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to healthcare and employee benefits. These two generalizations can be summed up as follows:

  1. They are expensive and the agency does everything in its power to avoid offering them to its employees.
  2. They are provided to employees generously as a way to compensate for low wages and entice employees not to leave for better salaries in the for-profit sector.

There is an increasing number of news stories about Obamacare as we inch closer and closer to implementation of the law. As this happens, it is top of mind for executive directors and their non-profit boards. As I mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this blog, I’ve heard both board and staff members mentioning things in passing on this subject.

Of course, the thing that worries me most is that all of the passing comments I’ve heard involve verbiage such as:

  • We’ll see if . . .
  • Obamacare might . . .
  • We’re not sure, but if . . .

I recent read an online article published at Online Athens, which is the website for the Athens Banner-Herald newspaper, about non-profit organizations and what the Affordable Care Act means for them. It was this paragraph in the story that sent chills up my spine and inspired this blog post:

Local nonprofits contacted about the tax credit were unaware of their eligibility and did not want to comment at the time of publication.”

Let’s please face facts:

  • Many non-profit organizations are small, under-resourced, and fragile.
  • These organizations tread water on most days and celebrate just keeping their doors open for another few months.
  • These agencies don’t have their eyes on things like the Affordable Care Act because throughout time much of what the federal government has done only applies to larger employers with 50 or more employees (and many non-profits aren’t this big)

The Athens Banner-Herald did a nice job of making this point when they ended their article with this:

There is no requirement on employers to provide health insurance, but there is a penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s employer “shared responsibility” provisions for employers with 50 or more full-time employees that do not provide a minimum level of insurance coverage that goes into effect in 2015. The Act does not require employers to provide health insurance to part-time workers and nonprofits that employ fewer than 50 employees will not be subject to employer-shared responsibilities.”

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that ALL non-profit organizations need to start paying attention and educating themselves about the changing face of the healthcare sector.


There is this thing called the “individual mandate“. To make a long story short, this means that most Americans will soon be required to have some sort of health insurance coverage. It also means that health insurance coverage will soon be on your employees’ minds. So, don’t be surprised when you start to hear things around your proverbial workplace water cooler like:

  • Why doesn’t our employer offer us health coverage?
  • Would it be cheaper to talk to our employer about adding employee subsidized health benefits or purchasing a policy through the government-run insurance exchange?
  • Since my agency can’t/won’t offer health benefits and I now have to pay for private insurance, I wonder if I can push for a better year-end raise to help offset some of these new costs?
  • Can I still afford to work in the non-profit sector? Or should I be looking more closely at sector jumping and applying for jobs that offer health insurance?

Sure . . . you may be a small non-profit organization with fewer than 50 employees, but don’t think that none of this is going to effect you.  None of this is meant to serve as commentary. I am only trying to make the point that every agency should start thinking about healthcare as changes start to occur and they lead to unanticipated questions and additional changes.

My best advice is to start educating yourself about the Affordable Care Act. Take a few small baby steps and start reading articles and attending free webinars and seminars on the topic. BE PROACTIVE! The following are just a few online resources you may want to check out in your spare time:

Let’s use today’s blog post as a starting point for many small non-profit organizations. If you currently work at an agency focused on helping with implementation of this new law, please use the comment box below to share a few thoughts or point folks in the direction of online resources. If you’ve attended a webinar or workshop and learned something worth sharing, please consider taking a moment to share it here.

Here’s to your health!

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