Motivate Your Team! Spend 15 Minutes Per Month Doing This!
A handful of years ago, I learned a critical (and rare) nonprofit leadership technique that I quickly put in my leadership toolbox. Shout out to my boss at the time, Christine Ross, now CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. She inspired this blog post.
Fast forward to today, where I work with the fabulous Chantal Sheehan, Founder & CEO of Blue Fox, an accounting firm that proudly serves nonprofits and social impact organizations. The stars align! So I want to share this technique with our readers because it really is a gamechanger.
What Is it?
The magic leadership tool I’m talking about is sharing your organization’s financial information (yes, the financial statements) with your staff. Trust me, this data doesn’t just motivate you and (hopefully) your board of directors. Your organization’s financial picture will motivate your team members, too. I promise it works!
Print it. Share it. Discuss it. Teach it. And review it. Do this on a regular basis; monthly at least.
Here’s My Story
Picture this. I’m sitting in my third staff meeting in my new role as Director of Marketing and Communications (responsible for sales too) at one of the top Chambers of Commerce in the state of Florida. Our high-powered CEO sits down and slides the financial statements to each team member.
Hmm, what are we looking at I asked myself? I’m not a dummy… I’m an MBA, and I aced my accounting classes in undergrad and grad school but I’d never had a boss show me the organization’s financial statements. And from what I hear this does not happen often in the nonprofit sector.
I didn’t know it but I was about to be empowered, held accountable, and educated all in one sitting.
Our CEO went through the YTD (year-to-date) budget and income statements line by line. We discussed where money flowed into the organization, where we invested in services, who was responsible for what, and what it takes to keep the lights on.
I left this meeting with my printed statements in hand, went into my office and started making a chart on my whiteboard. I wrote down the line items I was responsible for (sponsorship sales, memberships, renewals, digital ad revenue, etc.) and recorded percentage-wise where we were. And that’s the magic. In an instant, I could see where I was ahead and where I needed to hustle. I updated these numbers after each staff meeting and looked at it every day.
Yes, I know most sales teams have their budget numbers for the year but this approach is different.
Somehow by seeing those big picture numbers in financial statements made it real. Maybe that’s because financial statements show you where your paycheck is coming from and how the organization’s well-being fits together. All I knew is that I had to meet my numbers for the sake of those statements.
How This Promotes Teamwork
As our team continued to review financials together, our bond grew stronger. As I said before the “statements” showed how interwoven our duties and successes really were. Any time a staff member was falling behind we all pitched in to brainstorm how to help. Maybe we needed to talk-up golf tournament sponsorship at our next networking event or cross promote digital advertising. And then there were membership drives - duh, duh, duhhnnn. Kidding, I actually enjoyed them.
The practice of reviewing financial data with the entire staff is not simply a way of assigning line items to the responsible party. It’s a practice that engages the entire team to participate in, and feel accountable for the overall budget together.
Benefits of Sharing Financials with Staff
You can probably already see the many benefits of this oh-so-wonderful nonprofit management practice from my story but there are so many positives that I needed to make a list (plus, I'm a big fan of lists):
Do You Have Hesitations? Well, Don’t!
Are you thinking some of your staff might be too young or inexperienced to understand? Well, then this is a great opportunity to help develop minds and our future leaders’ business acumen.
Is it too much pressure for your department heads? Not if they are already meeting their goals. And, if they are not performing, then this might be the type of accountability, perspective, and motivation they need. We’re not talking about pointing out mistakes or putting failure to meet budget on display for all to see. This is all about positive motivation. Celebrate the wins and troubleshoot the shortfalls as a team.
Do you believe financials are best kept private? Not anymore. Nonprofit leaders find that greater transparency breeds trust and a sense of camaraderie. Here are a few statistics to showcase our point (from our recent blog post, How Nonprofits Build Donor Trust: Be Transparent):
So, Get Going!
I cannot speak highly enough on this practice. Try it and see what happens. Our team at Blue Fox would love to hear the results in comments, or on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
And here comes my inner sales person. It’s important that your nonprofit’s financial data is in order before you share it with anyone. So, if you’re seeking support for your back office and accounting functions (bookkeeping, payroll, tax prep, etc.) give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email Hello@YourBlueFox.com.
We are proud to refer you to ask our clients about their experience with our team. If you would like a contact for a referral, just ask!
If you’re not sure it is the right time to outsource your back office? Here are a few blog articles that might help you make that decision:
Author: Chelsea Clementi, MBA, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Blue Fox
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