Culture: The charity sector's missing ingredient

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As more and more people look for meaning in their work - up to 80% of North American Millennials according to a recent report - and with a generational shift in the workforce, it seems logical that charities would have hopeful employees knocking down their doors to join their causes. However, attractive offers from purpose-driven businesses with deep pockets often pull ahead of charity recruitment and retention of top-notch talent. Charities need to level up - and experts suggest the way to do that is by investing in culture.

Where’s the opportunity?

A recent Parson study polled young millennials (18-24 years old) about their expectations and aspirations for the workplace (it’s worth noting that this is the group who incidentally will make up about 50% of the workforce by 2020!) The study revealed that 80% would be more motivated and committed at work if they felt their employer made a positive impact on society, compared to 46% of baby boomers. Arguably, through the very nature of the work, there is no better place to find meaning than with a charity.

Right? Not necessarily, as being purpose or mission driven doesn’t automatically translate to a positive culture. That’s where charities and nonprofits are finding challenges. What are the challenges?

Yes, charities are meaningful places to work, emotionally connected with people, and are broadly known to be positive. Indeed, this has, in the past, been enough to set not-for-profits apart from other entities in the eyes of their potential employees.

However, this is no longer the case, as more and more corporations are recognizing the value in these traits. Businesses are increasingly sharing this desire for social impact as well as making money.

They are seeing the cause and effect of good work culture and predictable success - “The world’s most successful companies have a clear sense of purpose and a strong set of values that guide their actions. Forward-thinking organizations recognize that to survive and thrive in the future, they need to exist for reasons beyond making a profit,” says Rosie Warin, CEO, Kin&Co - As a result, the edge that charities once had is not assumed. This means that going the extra mile is critical when recruiting top talent, and retaining their employee loyalty.

So what can you do without huge salary offers, or swanky office spaces, and how can you continue to attract and retain the best people out there? - The answer: investing in culture.

What do we mean by culture and why is it important?

Culture - it’s not a word you often hear in the charity sector. For some it may be regarded as corporate jargon, a luxury only the big private companies can afford. Historically many charities have not allocated budget or resources to exploring what culture within their organization is or should be.

In order to attract and retain the best talent, charities need to start putting some serious thought to their internal workplace culture. Our research found that 85% of Canadians would be more motivated and committed at work if their organization had a strong purpose or values. Eight in ten (79%) of Canadians would consider leaving their job for a similar one at an organization that had a stronger sense of purpose, and over three quarters (78%) wouldn’t work for a company that didn’t have a social purpose or values in the first place.

Many nonprofits have the purpose aspect covered through the very nature of their organization, however often it’s the values and culture that needs work. What a focus on culture means is taking time to consider how your organization behaves, what makes you unique and why people would choose to work with you over any other charity or business. It’s about nailing your colours to the mast and demonstrating how you work and how you want to work in the future.

Where do you start?

Now that you know what we are going to be sharing with you, we would love for you to join behaviour and culture change expert Jessica Pelchat, National Director at Kin&Co, as she provides 5 Top Tips for using culture to positively transform your organization! Join us on May 23 for this free webinar - click here to register.

Jessica Pelchat is the National Director at Kin&Co Canada, an award-winning culture and behaviour change consultancy that fixes the way the world works. She brings a wealth of experience working at the intersection of strategy, communications and sustainability over the last decade, guiding some of Canada's largest employers in both the corporate and not for profit sectors to realize their goals through holistic organizational change. She is driven by the transformation and growth of a purpose-driven business, and cares deeply about the people she works with – making sure that the serious work of social change also includes some playfulness, an occasional pun, and little moments of bold inspiration.

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