Making the Most of Your Staff in 2016

In the spirit of new beginnings for 2016, I want to focus on how to make the most of what you have — particularly your staff. I was motivated to write this based on this excellent blog post from the CEO of, in which this compelling sentence caught my eye:

There is a difference between operating as a frugal nonprofit and operating as a cheap one. A frugal organization is willing to spend on overhead that increases their bottom line in the future and makes their work more efficient. A cheap one will avoid costs for the sake of appearing fiscally prudent.

That post encourages leaders to invest in their organization in specific ways. I’m going to use the post as a springboard for my own thoughts, and I hope you’ll read the post itself as well. The author, Jay Wilkinson, breaks down the investments he encourages managers to make in five sections. Here are my thoughts on four of his sections.

People: Your non-profit staff is your most valuable resource. To the extent that they are motivated, encouraged, coached, and rewarded, they will work their hearts out for you. Although it’s true that their salary may be the most obvious way to demonstrate that you value them as employees, offering an additional reward from time to time (such as a box of chocolates) can send an additional message that people really appreciate. I hope you’ll think about new ways to motivate and show appreciation for your staff.

Education: Today there’s so much educational material online that every manager should be encouraging his or her staff to learn more about how to be better at their jobs. From online courses (e.g., Coursera or to blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and LinkedIn groups, your staff can get better at what they are doing, all at no (or low) cost to your organization! Your role is simply to encourage (if not prioritize) continuous learning to improve skills and industry knowledge.

Blog: If your organization doesn’t have a blog, I hope you’ll make starting one a goal for 2016. And far from this being a burden on a single individual, the more that you can encourage your staff to participate by becoming bloggers themselves, the easier it will be for you to keep your blog fresh. For the past several years, we’ve had a semi-annual blog post contest. We invite our staff to write posts, and the post that gets the highest number of views wins a prize. So encourage your entire staff to help create your blog, and by doing so you’ll be able to show off the insights of some of your staff members that your supporters may not know and/or appreciate.

Technology: Here’s the goal few people focus enough on with regard to new technology: staff efficiency. If you can invest in a software tool that saves your staff time, eliminates meetings, helps them work better together, and eliminates redundancy — these things ought to be a high priority.

We talk with managers all the time, and most of the conversations are about features and functionality — but not about how those features affect people’s actual jobs. We hear, “We need a system that does X or Y,” but we rarely hear, “We need a system that will save us 20 percent of our time in processing donations, because our staff is overworked.” As you consider new technology, invest in tools that help make your staff more efficient and effective.

I hope you’ll keep these ideas in mind as you get started in what I hope will be a great and productive 2016!

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One response to “Making the Most of Your Staff in 2016

  1. Great blog post. Why would we not constantly be looking for a better, faster, more efficient way to do our jobs? If we’re just shoveling more work on without becoming more efficient at the same time, our system (or people) are going to break or we’re going to have to revamp as a part of our growing pains.
    Most of all, I like how you started with people. People are the heart of our organizations, and I think we can sometimes forget that.

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