How to delegate effectively in the non-profit sector

One would think, given the human-centric focus of most nonprofit organizations, they would be great examples of post-industrial leadership styles. Rather than a top-down management style they would exhibit the best traits of current, collaborative leadership. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.

There may be a couple of reasons why this is so:

One suggestion is, nonprofit organizations tend to be more collegial, have flatter management structures, and have a kind hearted approach to their employees. Therefore, leaders in these organizations are reluctant to burden staff and volunteers with delegated work.

Another suggestion says, the type of personality, drive and ability it takes to become a nonprofit leader often adds up to “control freak” (I can relate).

However, the inability or unwillingness to delegate is one of the biggest problems managers face. Delegation is one of the most important management skills for managers and leaders. The benefits are substantial, both for the leader, for staff, and for the organization.

Delegating:

  • Saves time for the manager to focus on things only they can do.
  • Ensures tasks are assigned to staff with skills to do the job.
  • Gives staff opportunity to develop.
  • Motivates and engages staff.

So, how do we delegate effectively?

  1. Plan – know what needs to be done, and be able to explain it clearly to the one receiving the task. Understand the skills required to complete the task, the outcomes expected, etc. Nothing is worse than setting-up someone for failure by giving them a job that is not clearly defined, and not matched to their skill-set.
  2. Define – Ensure the person receiving the task understands what is to be achieved with specific and measurable results; how they are responsible for producing the required outcomes; the deadline for completing task/project; what their level of decision-making authority is.
  3. Monitor don’t micro-manage, but provide enough oversight to enable the job to be completed: schedule regular progress meetings; make yourself available to provide clarification; communicate effectively.
  4. Be patient – If delegating is not currently an active part of your management toolbox, it’s going to take time for it to work fully. The first time you delegate a task, staff may lack confidence in the process, and come to you more frequently, or proceed carefully, taking more time that might be necessary. Stick to it, be consistent. The more you staff gets comfortable with the process and results, the more confident and efficient they will be come. Don’t dismiss delegation at the first hiccup, but support the process to see more effective results.

When you invest the time and energy to delegate, you increase personal and organizational effectiveness.  You improve communication, build skills and competency, and strengthen employee engagement. Effective delegation makes others better and ensures that even when you are absent your leadership impact is still present.

6 Steps for Recruiting Volunteers

Volunteers play a critical role in the operations of non-profit organizations and NGOs. For many organizations, volunteers can make the difference between successfully delivering services or program or falling short of their goals.

However, it is becoming more difficult to recruit volunteers. More people are expressing a lack of time are a reason they don’t volunteer. Additionally, more organizations are in the market for volunteers.

What kinds of things can your NGO/non-profit organization do to maximize your recruiting efforts? Here are six steps for recruiting volunteers.

1. Recruit

Write a job description and post on:

  • Volunteer Websites
  • Your organization’s website, or social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Include it in your regular newsletter, whether electronic or paper.
  • Ask current committee members to circulate the posting or suggest potential names.

2. Find out what attracts a new volunteer

What sorts of things motivate people to volunteer? Understanding their needs will help you better match them to the volunteer opportunities you have. Perhaps they have a:

  • need to network with peers
  • desire to better understand local markets
  • need to give back to the profession
  • wish to enhance their career
  • need for appreciation and recognition
  • need to belong

3. Select

Interview them like you would a prospective employee. The interview is an important component to the comprehensive volunteer screening process and allow both the organization and the potential volunteer to make informed decisions about participation.

The selection process should also include reference checks and any background checks that would be considered standard for the services your organization provides. E.g., a vulnerable sector check if you service vulnerable individuals.

4. Orient and train your volunteer

In order to be effective, volunteers need to receive adequate orientation and training. Orientation familiarizes volunteers with your organization’s policies and procedures and will help them to act in alignment with your organization’s mission and values. Training helps ensure that volunteers can perform their roles effectively and minimizes potential risks posed to themselves and others.

5. Manage

A volunteer’s schedule will look different from that of staff. Generally, they are giving of their spare time. Manage the expectations up-front. Create a schedule that is mutually beneficial to the organization and to the volunteer.

6. Recognize and reward

Volunteers are motivated by much the same things that motivate all of us:  praise, affiliation, accomplishment, power and influence. Remember to say thank you to your volunteers.  Say it often.  Say it publicly.  Say it with sincerity. And, hold formal events that recognize the hard work and contributions of your volunteers. Take time to focus on them.

There are challenges that make it difficult to recruit and retain the active volunteers needed to serve the community’s needs. But with determination, focus and strategy, volunteer-run organizations can find those individuals willing to influence their cause.

Theme and Variations

As I reactivate things here at Ian’s Messy Desk, there is going to be a bit of a shift in content. While still focusing on personal development, leadership and management skills, productivity, and related tools, the overarching theme will be the not-for-profit/NGO environment.

NGO leaders face many challenges – both at a personal and organisational level. These challenges are distinct from those faced by governments or the for-profit sector. NGO leaders are often isolated and unsupported. It can be challenging to find qualified individuals willing to work in this sector. Often, someone gets thrown into a leadership role, without training or much in the way of support.

Through the content of this web-site, I hope to share some of my experience from twenty-plus years of not-for-profit management, as well as relevant experience from time spent in for-profit management.

Some things to keep in mind as you look at the content on Ian’s Messy Desk:

  1. I live in Canada. Much of my personal experience is influenced by Canadian law, practice, culture, etc. These things vary from country to country, and what works here may not work as well in a different country.
  2. I don’t know everything (the bleeding obvious). This content is based on my experience. Your mileage may vary. There are many successful ways of getting to a similar end. Take from this site what works for you, ignore what doesn’t, and add to the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments.
  3. I am not a lawyer, accountant, etc., etc. This content does not constitute formal recommendations. Always review your decisions with an appropriate, qualified professional
  4. Some links make money. The will be links I include in content that are affiliate links. That is, if you click the link, and purchase the product or service at the other end, I get a couple of dollars from the transaction. There are costs associated with maintaining a web-site like this, and any revenue I can generate helps with those costs. In the interest of disclosure, I will identify such links with the letters ‘aff’ in parenthesis. E.g., (aff).

I hope you find the renewed version of Ian’s Messy Desk to be useful. If you have comments and suggests, leave them on a post, or use the Contact page.

If you are interested in contributing content, please read the Guest Blogging Guidelines.

The desk is still messy.

It is almost four years since I last posted anything here. Now , it’s time to reactivate.

Over the next while, I will add new content. The layout is somewhat old-school blog, and needs updating. My web-design skills are rusty and haven’t really kept up with changes over the past few years.

Welcome back. Hopefully, you will find content that is useful.

How to Communicate With Confidence

Listening well, speaking clearly and asking the right questions—these skills are vital to your success as a communicator.  The good news is that by using a few simple strategies, you can boost your own communication confidence.

The way to avoid ineffective communication patterns is to practice being authentic. This means explaining how you really feel and asking for what you really need.

When you communicate effectively, you’re direct and honest. Believe you have a right to feel what you feel and to ask for what you need. This will help you speak authentically. The following ideas can also help you communicate effectively:

  • Speak clearly and simply. Try to say what you mean. If you think you may have trouble saying something you need to say, write it out and practice.
  • Make sure your voice matches what you want to say. Does it sound like you’re joking when you want to be serious? Are you mumbling because you think it’s selfish to ask for what you need?
  • Be aware of your posture. It’s hard to speak clearly and authentically when you’re slouched over or slumped in a chair.
  • Stay in touch with your body. Is your stomach in knots? Is your heart racing? What do these signals tell you about how you’re feeling? Breathe and allow yourself to relax as much as you can.
  • Keep your goals in mind. They’ll help you stay in touch with what you need.
  • Speak for yourself by using the word “I.” Using the word “you” often means you’re focusing on the other person rather than yourself. The word “I” puts you in touch with your feelings. Instead of “You have no right to say that to me!” say “I get really hurt and angry when you say that to me!”

Respect yourself and others

When you communicate authentically, you respect yourself and the other person. You make sure that the other person hears your feelings and needs, but you also listen to that person’s feelings and needs too.

You show respect when you:

  • Choose the appropriate time and place to express your feelings and communicate your needs. For example, asking instructors in front of the class about a mark you feel is unfair puts them on the spot.
  • Express yourself as clearly as possible and listen carefully to others when they speak.
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings. Don’t put the other person down in order to express yourself.
  • Ask people how they feel about what you’ve shared with them and respond to their feelings.

Listen well

Our brain works a lot faster than our mouth. People at a rate of about 125 words per minute, but our brains turn out ideas at a much faster rate. Our thoughts race ahead while we listen, filling in the space between what the speaker is trying to say and our thoughts. This is why many people have trouble listening. It’s estimated we hear only 25 per cent of what’s said to us.

Here are some ideas to help you become a better listener:

  • Make eye contact
  • Don’t think of listening time as waiting for your turn to speak.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Listen for the feeling beneath what the speaker is saying.

When you communicate authentically, you bring your whole self—your thoughts, feelings and experiences—with you. You show others that you respect yourself and them too.

When you’re honest and direct, people pay attention. Your voice is heard.

BLOG – LIVING ORDER: On becoming a project leader

Earlier this year, the Consortium for Project Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started a new blog. The “Living Order” blog focuses on sharing stories and lessons learned about the leadership role in project managementThe first story posted in spring 2014 explains how the early 20th-century concept of “living order” is relevant to today’s project leaders.

Besides the blog, the Consortium for Project Leadership has a more traditional website with additional details and background info which can be viewed here. CPL is co-led by Dr. Alex Laufer, author of the recent book, Mastering the Leadership Role in Project Management.

Learn more, do more, become more