I’m not crazy about all the hype around the new year and new starts or resolutions. I do like the idea of simple reflection. So I share the one key thing that will move your organization forward every time, new year or not.

Put away the checklist, stop obsessing over measurement, realize social media will be there tomorrow, and focus on your people for a minute. Whenever Executive Directors or board members of nonprofits tell me they are frustrated because they aren’t getting the results they want, we talk about the people involved. We talk about whether the goals are clear to these people, we talk about the level of commitment from them, we talk about the support being provided to them, and more.

You can’t get results without the right people being engaged, regardless of what fancy plans and systems you have in place.

You probably know this, but are you doing anything about it? Engaging people around things that matter to them is easy when you think it through and apply some focused effort. Yes, even in nonprofit organizations. Perhaps, especially in nonprofit organizations where passion abounds.

I took a straw poll – less than 50 people, nothing scientific. They were staff and volunteers who are significantly involved in a nonprofit organization. I asked them one question –

“ Why do you work/serve here?” The top three answers were:
1. I believe in the mission – we do important work and I respect the leadership.
2. I value my relationships with my peers.
3. I receive value from the experience also; it feels rewarding to make a difference and know my skills/connections/perspectives are needed.

Any surprises? The point is – know what motivates your board members, staff, donors, and volunteers and then engage them around that.

The people alongside you are there to help and want to support the organization. They need you to tell them how.

So how do we align their motivation with the organization’s goals?

1.  Clarify their value – I’m not talking about broad roles and responsibilities. I’m talking about their individual value to the organization. You recruited them for a reason – focus on that and articulate it clearly. Was it because of their marketing expertise? Because they are connected to people of influence? Or perhaps they are respected leaders who will take on a key role one day? They can’t help in any significant way if they are kept at arm’s length. It’s not too late, so refocus on their value and let them know why they matter.

2.  Ask questions to get them talking. When was the last time you had meaningful conversations with those you are counting on to advance your mission? They want to relate with you (see #2 above). No need to complicate things. Just ask them why they give so generously; how they are enjoying their board experience; how they feel about your goals for the organization. These are great conversation starters which can lead to more specifics about how they can be an integral part of the future success of the organization. And who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend.

3.  Always tie their individual efforts back to the overall goals of the organization. Most folks are motivated by being part of something that’s bigger than them – of being part of a winning team. When you can show how their part fits into the puzzle, the likelihood of improved engagement and retention increases.

As you think about this, also remember – none of this works unless you are genuine. You can’t fake it and be successful. You can’t do it by yourself either. Board leadership and staff work together to build a stronger team.

Refocus on your people – a motivated group aligned around common goals are a force to be reckoned with.

It’s not possible in a blog article to dig deep on this topic…..if you know someone who could benefit from a closer look and specific coaching, feel free to introduce us.
You’ll also find more guidance in my book “The Impact Triangle” on how mindset, relationships and winning practices must be in place to be successful. Consider checking it out, and let me know what you think.