Good culture breeds success

Andrew Healey, FINZ

Jack Welch, the hero of corporate America, said this about company culture: “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energised employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

Well said, Jack! And I’m sure no one would argue that the same applies to charitable and not-for-profit organisations. A healthy organisational culture breeds passion. It fosters people emotionally committed to a cause, not a salary. And in this extremely competitive environment that we operate in — with over 27,000 New Zealand charities and dwindling government support — surely supportive organisational culture has never been more important for success.

At a recent FINZ breakfast forum, Starship Foundation’s CEO, Brad Clark, and HR specialist, Anne Andrew, spoke about how CEOs can establish a culture to support effective fundraising. I was keen to explore the topic in more depth, so I spoke with Anne Andrew.

What makes an effective fundraiser?

I reckon that before management can develop a culture in which their fundraisers can thrive, they need to understand what makes an effective fundraiser in the first place. So, I asked Anne what she believes makes an effective fundraiser.

Anne: “There are many important qualities a fundraiser needs, depending on what their role is. However, a generic quality is the ability to be passionate about a cause. Not everyone is like that, especially those in the commercial sector.”

It’s not unusual for fundraisers to work for several organisations during their careers. So, I ask how a fundraiser can be passionate about a number of causes.

“It’s more about having a passion for doing something for others, as opposed to making a profit. It’s about wanting to be in an organisation that makes a difference.”

Anne says a fundraiser needs to be a people person, whether doing bequests, regular giving or looking after corporate partnerships.

“It’s important to have a warm and engaging manner.”

Have a clear direction; acknowledge success

Apart from Starship, Anne works with several other organisations.

“When I run exit interviews, many a time people have said there is no direction in their organisation. People say they want to know where they’re going, what the direction is.

So, Anne believes it’s important not to just have a “vision on the wall” in order to “tick the box” and move on. She says the vision must be kept alive.

Part of Starship’s vision is to acknowledge success. So an example of keeping their vision alive is doing just that.

Anne believes acknowledging success is particularly important in charities and not-for-profits, as many can’t afford bonuses and pay rises.

“Fundraisers give a lot of themselves; they give a lot emotionally. It’s not a nine-to-five job and fundraisers often work into the night. So, a timely text from the CEO or a morning tea can go a long way.”

Turn things upside down

During her FINZ breakfast forum presentation, Anne spoke about an upside-down pyramid method of developing vision, objectives and strategies.

“I’ve facilitated quite a few visioning exercises for many different organisations, including the commercial sector. Many times the management team has a weekend away to develop the vision. Then they say, ‘okay, now we have to take this to the staff.’”

With the upside-down approach, development of vision and objectives begins with the staff.

“In Starship’s case, we started with nothing and got the staff together. I facilitated a workshop where we did a SWAT analysis. Through this, the staff created what they saw as the future picture. Once we had that, we took it to management to get their input, and then it went back to the staff.”

Anne says the staff were involved from the beginning. As a result, they were committed to Starship’s vison, rather than having it imposed on them.

“I remember at one particular workshop, the staff clapped. They were really pleased that they had owned this and shaped it. There was a lot of debate. It was about consensus. It wasn’t just about the CEO saying ‘this is what I want.’”

Have professional processes

For some reason, some charitable and not-for-profit organisations appear to place little value on professionalism. Perhaps it’s just a bit too “corporate.” However, Anne believes that having professional processes and systems in place is essential.

“It’s about being clear about how things are done in an organisation. I’ve developed a lot of systems and processes for not-for-profits, and, as soon as they have them, they think it’s fantastic.”

Anne says that with good plans and systems — whether for staff fair-wells or a social media policy — all scenarios are planned for and agreed upon.

“It makes things so much easier. They allow staff and managers to just get on with their jobs without thinking ‘What do I do here?’ ‘Who do I ask about this?’”

So it seems even though corporate and not-for-profit objectives are quite different, there is one thing they both need to succeed: a supportive culture.

Thanks, Anne.

Read more stories at Management and Governance

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