The Big Picture: What Staff and Volunteers Need to Know

By Sybil F, Stershic
From , Windsor Media Enterprises, 2012, pp. 60-62

To become  engaged, people  need  to be shown  a "line of sight”  that  enables them  to  better understand how their  efforts and actions contribute to an organization's success.  Here's a sample list of what your employees, volunteers, and board members need to know: 

  • Who your organization is and what it's all about   - our  mission, vision,  and  values
  • How  your  organization came to be - your nonprofit's history,  including when  and  why it was founded, its timeline, milestones, etc., as background and  insight  into  your  organization's culture and  operations
  • Where your  organization is headed, how you intend to get there,  and  progress  towards  achieving your goals - your  strategic and annual operating plans, available resources,  and any plan modification or updates
  • Where  they fit within the organization's scope and what  is expected  of them  - job or position descriptions, role clarification, and  work guidelines  that clarify how people  can add value to the organization
  • How effective they are in serving the organization and whether the organization values their individual and collective contributions - feedback mechanisms (formal and informal), performance evaluation criteria, acknowledgment, and recognition. 

Sharing this "big picture" is an ongoing effort that does not start and end with new employee and volunteer orientation. New people brought in are typically introduced to the organization, whereas, long term employees and volunteers may be overlooked because they already know about the organization. Yet these current staff and volunteers still need reminders of the mission, goals, and their respective roles since expectations of their work may become unclear over time; or their job responsibilities may have changed (but not their job descriptions); for they may have just “hunkered down” and lost sight of the big picture.

To keep everyone on the same page, the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI) reinforces  its mission  to "ease the burden of cancer in Northeastern Pennsylvania” by reading it aloud at the start of all staff and Board/Executive Committee meetings. NRCI President, Robert Durkin explained that reciting the mission was suggested by the organization’s chair “as a means to remind participants that the discussions and actions that follow should all lead back to the mission.”  

While an organization’s mission may be steadfast, the world we operate in is not. Nonprofit goals and resources need to the adjusted in a fluid marketplace that brings changes in regulations, population (demographics and cultural shifts), the economy, and the environment.  As the proverb says, “Man plans and God laughs.”  Nonprofits need to continually communicate with employees and volunteers to keep them informed about any changes in strategic direction or organizational capacity.

We’ll explore how you can effectively connect and engage both your new and current staff/volunteers, including keeping everyone on the same page.

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