Candid communication can help ease nonprofit staffers’ anxiety
October 15, 2020
It would be an understatement to say 2020 has been challenging. Leaders of not-for-profits still standing are justified in worrying about strained budgets and their ability to deliver on their organization’s promises during a pandemic, financial crisis and time of social and political upheaval.
Staffers are likely to be just as concerned about the future of your organization and its constituents. Understandably given the current high unemployment rate, many are also worried about their own job security. Now more than ever, you need to be as open and transparent as possible.
Even if your organization is weathering the storm reasonably well, your employees may still be anxious. Be open with them about where you stand now and how you expect your nonprofit to fare financially in the coming year. You may want to provide some personal opinions to build rapport and ease anxiety. But your core focus should be on the facts and how you’re responding to and anticipating events.
Just knowing that leadership is listening and has a plan is enough to help some people go back to focusing on their work. However, employees must feel confident that your plan is well considered and likely to be effective. They also need to know that you’re being candid with them. Solicit staffers’ questions and answer them truthfully, even if the only thing you can say at the time is “I don’t know.”
Difficult times can have the upside of providing a rallying point for the whole organization. If you need to make budget cuts, ask for suggestions and make individuals personally responsible for specific tasks.
Be proactive about bad news
Whether the fear is actually voiced, layoffs will be on staffers’ minds. Before they even ask, broach the subject to show you understand their concerns. Just be careful not to make promises you might not be able to keep. Although it’s fine to talk about the steps you’ll take to try to avoid layoffs, most leaders would be remiss to categorically deny that layoffs are a current or future option.
It’s not enough to hold one meeting about the state of your nonprofit’s finances and then go back to business as usual. Keep staffers informed with frequent updates, using the methods that are most efficient given your workforce’s location. Face-to-face video conferences are best for announcing big developments to remote workers.
Don’t risk poor morale
What are the risks if you don’t communicate effectively with staffers? Anxiety and poor morale can crush productivity. And although the job market is tight, top performers might decide to seek positions elsewhere at a time you desperately need them. For help bolstering your struggling nonprofit’s finances, contact us.