Sharing Meals, Group Events, Schedule Flexibility Keep Staff Together And Organizations Thriving – Medium Nonprofits

  Nonprofit work isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the glory or remuneration that allows you to retire early. So, you need a pretty good sense of humor. Take the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., for example, which has a lounge and meetings area they rent out called “Area 51.” It is not used by aliens, at least of which they are aware.

DonorsChoose.org came in No. 18 in the medium-sized organization category.

“We started letting family and friends in and word kind of got out. Now people rent it to watch things like the Super Bowl. It’s a revenue stream we weren’t expecting,” said Kathleen Vinson, vice president of operations. Even though the organization has been in transition at the senior management level, staff still gave the organization high enough scores to finish No. 37 overall and No. 21 in the medium-sized organization category (51-250 employees). One shock was the death of former CEO Elliott Pulham who had planned to do a lot of traveling in retirement. He retired, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died within months of leaving the organization. Much of the C-Suite has transitioned during the past two years. “Change came over us as a tidal wave,” Vinson said. New or somewhat new to the organization are the chief executive, chief operating officer and head of human resources. “Everyone’s commitment to a common mission” is what has kept things moving along, she said. The main unique benefit “is a true work/life balance. There’s one free day per month,” said Vinson. “It’s whenever they want it and it doesn’t go against the PTO (paid time off) accrual,” she said. There’s also a two-week break around the December holidays and flexible shifts. She referred to the team as “space geeks” who are rabid seekers of information. The organization budgeted $125,000 annually for the roughly 60 employees to better their skills. The organization uses LinkedIn Learning and there is access to on-demand training and webinars where staff members “can build a learning path,” she said.

Nuru International encourages “partnering” to get staff working as a team.

Responses to the Best NonProfits study from employees at medium-sized organizations showed common bonds and opportunities were very important, and topped or tied their larger brethren when asked their reactions in eight categories. Those categories were: Leadership and Planning; Culture and Communications; Role Satisfaction; Work Environment; Relationship With Supervisor; Training, Development and Resources; Pay and Benefits; and, Overall Employee Engagement. The lone area where organizations with 50 to 249 employees came out behind larger organizations was in the Pay and Benefits category. Respondents at medium-sized organizations did not score their organizations as well as those from larger organizations did on the questions within the category; “My pay is fair for the work I perform” and “I’m satisfied with the tuition reimbursement benefits,” two and three points behind respectively.

The Space Foundation uses it’s “Area 51” to encourage staff harmony.

Medium-sized organizations tied with larger organizations in two categories – Work Environment and Overall Employee Engagement. Workers at medium-sized organizations feel safer in their environments than at larger organizations. They are also more likely to recommend working there to a friend, according to the data. Under Leadership and Planning, 90 percent of employees at medium-sized nonprofits approve of what’s going on at their organizations when those at nonprofits that didn’t make the list came in at 82 percent approval. CEO tenure averaged 10.1 years at organizations on the list and 11 years at those that did not make the list. Nearly half (44 percent) of medium- sized organizations on the list offer the chance to enroll in healthcare to both full- and part-time employees, with 67 percent allowing employees to enroll within the first 31 days of joining. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of organizations enroll staff on the first day of hire. It was only 6 percent for organizations that did not make the list. When it comes to coverage, 41 percent pay the healthcare premium with another 52 percent covering between 75 percent and 99 percent of it. All of the organizations on the list offered health benefits. Dependent coverage was offered at 11 percent of organizations in the category and 30 percent pay between 75 and 95 percent of dependent coverage. Just 4 percent did not contribute to dependent coverage. Trips to the dentist are also covered in some form by employers on the list, with 52 percent paying the entire premium and 26 percent paying between 75 percent and 99 percent of it.

The Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas works on community projects and finished No. 23 in the medium-sized category.

At least 52 percent of employers on the list contribute between 75 percent and 100 percent of vision coverage. Some 89 percent have flexible spending accounts and offer an average 11 holidays per year. And, 70 percent report having telecommuting options and 56 percent permit time off for community service/volunteer work. Of the top medium-sized respondents, 56 percent reported offering paid time off as a bank of days that includes vacation, sick and personal days, and all offered either a 401(k), 403(b) or Section 457 retirement plan. Of organizations making the list, 85 percent match some percentage of employees’ contributions to retirement plans. While 74 percent provide wellness and fitness programs in the workplace, 70 percent provide cafeteria or meal subsidies, free daily snacks or beverages. Job performance is key to these organizations, with 52 percent conducting annual performance reviews, 19 percent doing them twice annually and 26 percent doing them more than twice per year. Family is important to the medium- sized organizations with all on the list having flexible hours for school events or taking a family member to the doctor. Organizations on the list provided full or partially-paid leave for birth or adoption of a child (67 percent) and 37 percent provide adoption assistance, such as reimbursement of agency fees. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) provide lactation facilities. On-site personal development and/ or stress management workshops, seminars, or classes are offered by 74 percent of those on the list and 85 percent provide an employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which might provide counseling for marital, parental or financial problems, and/or assistance for specific conditions such as substance abuse, smoking or gambling. There’s no overtime or it’s kept to a minimum at 93 percent of medium-sized organizations and meetings and staff-only events are limited to during work hours at 70 percent of the best places to work. Fully 96 percent of workers responded: “I like the type of work that I do.” And, 95 percent understand their importance to the organization’s success while 91 percent responded that they are given enough authority to make decisions. A new strategic plan in 2013 started transforming the atmosphere at American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) in Washington, D.C. “It used to be a group of silos,” said Molly Polen, AACC’s senior director, communications and public relations. The nonprofi t fi nished No. 43 on the ranking and No. 25 in the medium-sized category. “A lot of folks had programs they had been working on a long time,” she said. The strategic plan pushed people to be more open and stressed the “need to all be working together to meet these goals,” said Polen.

The Lord’s Place came in No. 4 in the medium-sized category.

Next came development of core values for the staff. AACC never had codified core values. “We integrated them into the review process,” said Polen. To continue the staff melding, there is an employee-led employee recognition committee. Small recognitions, such as movie tickets, are awarded. On a quarterly basis an employee selected by peers gets a day off.

2019 Medium Nonprofit Employers (50 to 249 US employees)

The benefits package has always been good but more has been added of late. Staff can get two paid days off to work with any accredited 501(c)(3). The organization extended the time off for bereavement but also extended the definition of “family.” It now includes pet leave. Conflict resolution is important at the Space Foundation and AACC. At the Space Foundation, employees are encouraged “as a rule to talk to each other. There seems to be more impact to talk it through and resolve it themselves,” said Vinson. Of course, human resources and an open door policy of the chief executive can also resolve differences. As Polen said, attention is valued at AACC. It means “their work is visible and people appreciate it.”