Many recent studies indicate that nonprofits have higher average employee brand advocacy than for profit or public sector organizations. It’s worth noting, though, that nonprofits aren’t without their engagement challenges.
According to a recent study by career development website Opportunity Knocks, while engagement numbers may be high so is employee turnover. They state that nonprofits have a 3.1% annual turnover rate, compared to a 2.7% rate among for profits and 1% among government workers. Even if engagement is high at nonprofits, a low turnover rate should in theory be one of the positive consequences. So why do these numbers look more dire for nonprofits than other types of organization? Opportunity Knocks points to a number of factors, with one of the biggest being emotional burnout.
To combat the effects of burnout and other disengaging factors, nonprofits should be focused on their greatest strength, which is belief in the mission of the organization. Opportunity Knocks also noted in their study that a full 87% of respondents cited the ability to serve the organization’s mission as very important to them. With such an overwhelming majority, nonprofits have a clear motivation to capitalize on feelings of loyalty to the mission. Creating internal brand advocates among employees will boost engagement and, with it, retention.
Hire for your culture
Every nonprofit is a unique place to work. Employees and volunteers tend to be well educated on the mission and often on related issues as well. People who fit that paradigm and understand the goals and struggles the organization addresses will be well suited for brand advocacy. In an article on 10 of the best nonprofits to work for, The Muse says of Teach for America:
“Many of TFA’s employees are former teachers, which has created a close-knit team that’s passionate about the organization’s work.”
While it’s not absolutely necessary to only hire employees who have that close of a connection to the work itself, Teach for America is an excellent example of a company that knows its new hires will be a great cultural fit.
Develop core values
It’s one thing to say that nonprofits should promote workers’ connection to the mission. The mission could mean different things to different employees, making it difficult for the organization to cultivate that connection and create brand advocacy. For this reason, it’s important to define what values are central to the mission and to the organization. This is a communications job in essence – whether it’s done over the organization’s intranet or by any other means, workers should have an easily accessible and relevant mission statement, as well as materials that demonstrate how their tasks further the core values.
Show the results of your brand advocacy efforts
Again, The Muse touches on something that is necessary in creating brand advocacy in a nonprofit – of New York City based organization, charity: water, they say,
“…employees get to see the people they help every day, literally. Inspiring photos line the office walls and showcase the projects and people whose lives charity: water’s initiatives are directly changing.”
Work at nonprofit organizations can feel like an uphill battle when employees and volunteers are left to wonder whether or not anyone is benefitting from their hard work. This contributes strongly to burnout and disengagement. There are myriad ways to connect workers who aren’t in the field with those they’re helping, and this is only one brilliant example.
Encourage workers to pursue additional causes
Nonprofit workers care. That’s the basis for why the organization’s mission is so important to them. For many, though, they aren’t limited to a single cause. They expect the organization’s values to align with their commitment to justice across the board. When a nonprofit works with employees to empower them to pursue other causes, they demonstrate that their mission is to enrich the world in a multitude of ways. The Nonprofit Times cites community development organization Cinnaire as having an unlimited vacation policy and flex scheduling specifically to allow employees to engage in volunteer opportunities. This is an excellent example of a commitment to justice.