- She needed a grant application for an infrastructure training program prepared and submitted on time; most of the application was ready, but she couldn’t seem to get a program budget together. Her Facebook posts were current and ongoing, but the 4 simple narrative paragraphs were never written. She said this was important to her, but her actions said otherwise.
- The theater program founder hired someone who was really interested in theater production, but had to miss many hours, sometimes at the last minute, for auditions. The employee called 90 minutes before a scheduled full rehearsal and wasn’t sure if he was going to make it that day or not, but did want credit for calling in rather than simply not showing up.
- An employee was harassing both clients and staff at a mission rescue organization. The E.D. said he found this troubling and was going to pray over the problem; he was reluctant to discipline the employee because of their policies of acceptance and tolerance.
Being a nonprofit organization can mean making do with fewer resources than for profit companies. But being a nonprofit does not excuse less than professional behavior and work practices. Tax status notwithstanding, the minute you hire an associate, create a board and begin to deliver your mission, you are a business, and you are in business.
It is crucial to act as professionally as possible as much as possible. For sure, there is so much to do, so many calls on your time and energy and it seems at times if you can never get to it all. And there is stuff that has to be done that is really heinous, whether filing state-required paperwork, evaluating metrics and outcomes and/or all the administrative stuff that has nothing to do with producing an after school swim team, a play with 20 people or providing food and shelter to the most needy. But you have to. The consequences of not doing them can hurt your organization in many ways.
How do you look from the outside?
Being timely, responsive and behaving in a polished, professional manner will return more than it costs. Consider how your organization appears to the outside world when things are not done properly.
- How do you feel when the cable company makes an installation appointment and never shows or calls?
- How do you feel when you send in a donation of your hard-earned money and don’t receive any acknowledgment or thanks?
- How do you feel when an employee of any firm treats you poorly?
What excuses work for you as a customer or client in these situations? Those excuses probably won’t work for the nonprofit either. But while there may only be one cable company in the area, there are lots and lots of nonprofits and all of them eager for new donors. Don’t lose one for a preventable reason.
- The capacity development grant never got finished, so it was never submitted. The opportunity to learn and connect was lost at least for one more year, and the organizational struggles continued.
- The theater company founder realized that she was an employer, not a friend or fellow actor in search of roles. Hours and expectations were clearly spelled out for the new employee that required showing up for the work of the theater at the required days and times.
- The director of the mission had to fire the employee: by not doing so he put at risk his staff and his most vulnerable clients at risk. His concern for the employee, while nice, did a huge disservice to his organization and mission. A potentially dangerous and legally intolerable behavior may have required prayer, but the organization required decisive and immediate action to protect itself from potential litigation or worse.
Be proud of the work you do, and be proud of the way you do it. Your mission will not be deterred or suffer if you take the time to consider yourself as professionally as possible; if you don’t, who will? People do notice and can often judge you based on how they see your organization behaves.
If you might need some help with polishing your practices, please give a call. It can be tough to see from the inside out, let us help you protect your profile to the public.
image credit: http://jobscience.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Unprofessional-work-attire.jpg