Motivating Your Organization: Inside and Out

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The mechanics of motivation are easily overlooked in reviews of organizational performance. Fundamental incentives may vary, ranging from individuals who aspire to carry out a vision under a nonprofit umbrella to people who seek to quietly volunteer a few hours a week. Whatever the motivation, understanding when and how to engage board members and staff is a necessary aspect of organizational management.

Motivation falls under two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to satisfaction derived from the enactment of a job itself. Stemming from internal reasons, an intrinsically motivated person enjoys completing a task solely for the nature of the task. In contrast, those who are extrinsically motivated seek tangible rewards, such as income or prestige.

Traditional values regard work as satisfying a physical need or, more modernly put, a method of obtaining financial security. However, motivation may also integrate social needs such as bonding over a common cause or recognition for community undertakings. This is especially true for unpaid staff members who volunteer their time and talents. Different motivational appeals can be employed to strengthen the connection between staff members and their work, improve communication within your organization’s hierarchy, or broaden the outreach of your mission.

Interact. Depending on the size of your nonprofit, it’s important to properly structure interactions among board members, staff, and volunteers to facilitate productivity. Volunteers should know from the start what is expected of them and what they should anticipate in return. Staff should be able to clarify these responsibilities and their own, avoiding role confusion and micro-management.

Communicate. Communication should be tailored to what motivates an individual or group. Consider, for instance, a nonprofit’s strategic plan, which is designed to articulate the protocols and assignments of its members in order to reach a collective goal. Do board and staff members each have a solid grasp of their roles in relation to the organization as a whole? Do purposeful objectives within a realistic timeframe offer sufficient instructions to the detail-oriented? Do they also communicate the “big picture” to the broader thinkers?

Reach out. After you have internally fine-tuned the function of your nonprofit, share your resources and capacity-building techniques with relevant local organizations. Building new relationships and reinforcing old ones strengthen your active presence in the community. Establishing ties with local partners will also offer continued opportunities to reflect on your nonprofit’s mission statement and to find support from others.

Knowing the motivational dynamics of the individuals who contribute to your nonprofit will guide you in customizing a management approach that brings out the best in everyone.

The following article was written by Ruth Peebles, MPA, and President of The INS Group, a national consulting firm that provides organizational development and capacity building services to nonprofits, government agencies and faith-based institutions.

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