There’s been a lot written about the ROI on staff development - increased job satisfaction, morale, motivation and efficiencies in processes to name a few. Always of particular interest is the proven result in financial gain for the organization from a well trained staff. But if a thing can be more true, it is more true that staff performance translates into impact on the funding future of a nonprofit agency. This happens because it is the staff that has regular and frequent interaction with clients who go out and report into the community, delivering what is effectively a performance evaluation on the agency based on their experience with staff. This performance evaluation and the reputation that results has the same outcome on the agency income as in any business – people and income vote with their feet. Indicators then that your staff development requirements are wanting attention are: wildly fluctuating client numbers, little to no offers of collaborations from other agencies and marginal cash flow. The highs and lows experienced from neglect of staff development, I refer to as the Nonprofit Yoyo Sector Effect (NYSE). The good news here is that staff performance is readily and easily affected by conscientious development.
Checkpoints to Enhance the Funding:Staff Equation:
Make certain that staff is aware of the goals of the agency beyond mere performance outcomes – they need to be aware of the agency mission.
If they are not, your staff may be inadvertently foreshortening your funding opportunities. Example: I worked with a business start-up project providing educational workshops and one-to-on business coaching to low income women which I will call Project X. That is its mandate. But in practice Project X does more than that. As a by-product of educating about business , Project X also educates about money, authority, social class and the implications of social class, power, critical reasoning, problem solving, relationship building, communications, computer software skills and so on. There are other agencies in town that provide business start-up instruction so business start-up instruction is not a unique service – putting Project X in direct competition with a number of other agencies. So when the staff introduces the agency at public speaking opportunities, offering business start-up as the singular offering of the center, the staff is really narrowing the scope of possibilities for funding.
How the staff represents the agency also has a limiting effect on the client traffic. The more ways an agency’s work can be interpreted the more reasons people have to self-select in. And the more people select in for different reasons, the more the agency positions itself for funding opportunities. The more people select into the agency – the greater the need can be demonstrated. The greater the need that can be demonstrated, the more leverage an agency has with funders.
Additionally, when the staff goes about its daily duty with the clientele and contains its thinking to just business start up, this shapes the reputation with regard to – and return from - the community. This is so not only in the representation of the extent of what the agency does but also caps the results of staff performance because the staff will only do what it is aware of vis-à-vis the extent of responsibility.
Regularly survey your clients – with your staff.
These surveys do not have to be painful or lengthy. They do need to be focused and, if possible, include the staff in the development of the survey. This information can work for the agency many times over – helping to shape a program that is responsive and relevant to the community it purports to serve, thus helping to assure support and longevity. Share these results with the staff as a component of staff development.
Regularly Conduct Employee performance reviews.
Ask the staff what it thinks. Rethink staff as more than implementers but also as contributors to the agency. Performance reviews should include feedback from the point of view of the staff as to how the currently practiced model is working to attain program goals as well as a check in as to the understanding of the staff as to the mission and purpose of the agency. Performance and reputation go to support collaborations and funding opportunities This is the real world reason for conducting regular and in depth performance reviews. Reputation develops from staff performance.
Finally, the ED needs to participate in service delivery – at least periodically - in order to develop depth of understand regarding the possibilities for clients, the potentials for staff and the challenges before the agency. One agency I worked with produced a lot of public education seminars. They had to produce a lot because they were not getting the attendance at any one training to attain the necessary program numbers. I advised the ED to check with the staff as to why more people weren’t attending. As it turns out, the topics of the seminars did not correspond with the demographics of the client population – the client population had changed over time and the ED – who did not interact with the clientele – did not realize this. This disconnect of the ED with the clientele - combined with sufficient staff turnover culminated in a disconnect with the needs of the clients.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is quoted as saying that one accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions. A properly prepared staff can be the best promotion for the agency and the source of the best information about the agency. Letyour staff be the one accurate measurement.