How to Create a Positive Nonprofit Culture

Creating a positive and collaborative nonprofit culture

Nonprofit organizational culture is one of those vitally important topics that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. People often assume that nonprofit culture tends to be positive by default because there is a noble mission at the center of it rather than a profit motive. But, that may not apply to all nonprofit businesses. We are all human. Building a positive culture requires hard work and wise, understanding leadership.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to create a positive nonprofit culture in your organization.

Have a Clear Mission and Believe in It

This one is much easier said than done! Every nonprofit has a mission, but not every nonprofit has a clear mission, and that makes all the difference. To understand why consider this:

Suppose your nonprofit’s mission is “to promote public awareness and appreciation of the local ecosystem.” What does that really mean? Are you going to have a nature preserve? Where will you get the land? How will you maintain it? Will you host school field trips for educational visits? Who do you call to make a field trip happen? What kinds of insurance should you get?

You don’t necessarily need to answer all of these questions upfront, but you need to be aware that they exist. By understanding this, and committing yourself fully to all the little details of your mission, you will lay the foundation for a healthy nonprofit culture to rise up around it.

Build and Maintain an Operations Schedule

It is amazing, and heartbreaking, how many nonprofits fall apart because they never master the basic art of doing the work they’re supposed to be doing. In contrast, when a nonprofit is productive then the nonprofit culture will reflect that work ethic and commitment, leading to pride, shared experiences, and a sense of accomplishment.

Work has a way of slipping through the cracks, or being perpetually pushed back, if it isn’t scheduled. Build that schedule and hold everyone to it. Only by actually doing the work will you come to fully understand what your organization truly is.

It’s also important to be open-minded with your processes. There is always room for experimentation and improvement. Don’t get stuck in the trap of doing things just one way: that may breed a myopic and rigid nonprofit culture.

  • Tip: Identify all the roles in your nonprofit as they become evident. Write them down somewhere. Eventually, assign them to whoever makes the most sense—or, for shared duties, begin keeping a rotation calendar.

Develop and Empower Your People

To build a positive nonprofit organizational culture, you have to lead. And to lead, you need people worthy of leading. Here are the two most critical words you’ll ever learn when it comes to leadership: develop, and empower.

  • Development in Nonprofit Culture: Teach your staff and volunteers what they need to know, as they become ready to learn it. Be honest with them when you don’t know something, or when you’re wrong. When they do something wrong, explain it maturely, and minimize punishment in favor of putting attention on how best to move forward. Always be in the process of training your replacement. Never hoard expertise and knowledge; spread it far and wide.
  • Empowerment in Nonprofit Culture: Give your staff and your volunteers real ownership in the work you ask of them. Give them as much latitude as you can to let them do things their way. Listen to their feedback, and don’t punish them for what they say. Push them to rise to the occasion. Give them opportunities to expand and grow, and don’t pressure them if they choose to stay put.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Of course, there’s a lot more to building a healthy nonprofit organizational culture than we could ever cover in just one article. BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions offers an extensive range of nonprofit solutions to help you build the competencies that lead to a positive nonprofit culture:

Contact us today to discuss your nonprofit! We’ve helped over 30,000 people, and we can help you, too!