Whether it’s the end of the year, the start of a quarter, or a mid-year reflection, there’s never a wrong moment to think about keeping your team energized and engaged. Fortunately, nonprofits have a powerful tool in their toolbox: vision and mission.
There are, of course, countless recommendations for how to keep your best people. But a piece in the Harvard Business Review about “How to Energize a Depleted Team” stood out to us. Reporting on a 2022 global worker survey, the authors explained that:
What we’ve learned is people want to keep working—just not at the expense of their overall health and happiness.
One of the top things that workers reportedly found demotivating was “a lack of meaning in their work.”
Luckily “meaning” is an area where nonprofits are uniquely positioned to succeed. Though of course there are some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid along the way.
Leaning Into Vision and Mission
One of the benefits of working in the nonprofit sector is having a clear vision and mission that drives our daily work. We’re here because we want to make a difference in our community. We often seek out roles with organizations whose missions align with our values. And we generally feel a level of commitment that goes beyond a paycheck.
The truth is that those of us in the nonprofit sector are here for a reason.
Being able to spend our working hours contributing to positive change in the world is a huge benefit.
Of course, nonprofits can lean too heavily on this benefit to the detriment of more concrete needs like competitive wages and benefits and reasonable hours. But once those factors are addressed, leaning into vision and mission can give your employee engagement a boost.
How to Keep Vision and Mission Front and Center
Here are three strategies that can help keep staff across your organization connected to vision and mission:
- Assess mission-awareness. Does everyone in your organization understand the organization’s vision and mission? Is awareness consistent across departments, or are some departments more disconnected than others? Consider going directly to staff using simple survey tools. Once you understand gaps, you can build a plan to fill them.
- Encourage cross-department collaborations. When working with nonprofit clients, we often discover that some departments in an organization are much more connected to mission than others. For example, it’s easy for program or outreach teams to see how their work creates change, whereas it may be harder for finance staff to feel the same. The good news is that you already have mission ambassadors in your own organization, and with a little bit of cross-department collaboration you can help all your departments find more meaning in their work. Consider creative approaches like a staff swap, that build capacity and connection.
- Leverage strategic planning: Strategic planning is one of the best ways to make sure your vision and mission remain front and center in your organization’s work. As part of creating a strategic plan, you’ll revisit your vision and mission, ensuring it resonates for your staff, board, volunteers, and community. You’ll also develop 3–5-year goals and a concrete plan to achieve them. With a strategic plan in hand, it will be easy for every department to understand how their work contributes. Plus, the strategic planning process is designed to be inclusive and engaging, giving staff and board the opportunity to get “hands on” with long-term planning of how to put your mission into action.
While nonprofits may start with an advantage when it comes to finding meaning in the workplace, as leaders it’s easy to forget that our team’s connection to vision and mission needs to be cultivated. But with a little effort, you can leverage your vision and mission into a powerful tool for employee engagement.