5.We encourage our Board to promote unrestricted giving when speaking with their peers about supporting JFCS.
I recognize we have not yet found the secret sauce to this growing concern amongst nonprofits, and that our efforts do not erase JFCS’ own set of challenges when planning and dreaming for the future. Because of that, I would appreciate my colleagues sharing with me (and all of us) the ways you address diminishing unrestricted funds in your organizations.
Complicated and Unclear Messaging
As a large social service agency with a breadth of programs and services that support people of all ages and denominations, it is very difficult to communicate what JFCS does in one concise, yet emotional and inspiring message. Because of this challenge, even our staff and Board members cannot clearly and succinctly articulate what JFCS does and why we exist. Additionally, having “Jewish” in our name, perpetuates the myth that JFCS only supports the Jewish community. This external communication constraint presents a number of issues for our agency: a lack of understanding in the Philadelphia region about JFCS, mixed and siloed messaging from our staff, a lack of confidence within our Board to promote JFCS, and an ineffective brand that is not part of our culture.
Understanding that our communications constraints affect our day-to-day work and adversely impact our long-term sustainability, JFCS is committed to investing time and resources into marketing. In recent months, we hired a marketing firm to simplify our brand, engaged a PR firm to manage our public relations needs, and retained a social media company to take over our social platforms. Additionally, we formed an internal marketing committee comprised of representatives from our programs so that we have buy-in from our internal stakeholders, thus ensuring that our brand is communicated from the inside out. While we are still in the midst of this revamp, we are hopeful that addressing our external communications constraints will lead to better understanding about JFCS and increased engagement from the community at large.
In the case of La Salle, I believe that there are a few constraints that may be barriers in terms of successfully conducting an assessment of the University’s internal environment. One barrier is connected to compensation and rewards under the category of people strategy and support. From my perspective, La Salle appears to have been experiencing a higher rate of staff turnover in certain departments over the last few years as compared to when I first began my role here in 2010. As I have recently been part of several search committees who have been tasked with recruiting and selecting new hires for vacated positions, I have become aware that there are a number of positions in which the pay/benefits that La Salle offers is considerably below what an individual could earn at many other organizations in a similar role. I believe that these low compensation rates have become a barrier for recruitment of quality candidates in some cases, as well as the retention of individuals who would be an asset to have on campus for the long-term; while compensation policies may not be the only issue driving heightened staff turnover rates, this factor does appear to be part of the equation. Frequent staff turnover has the potential to derail consistent service delivery and strategy implementation and serves as a hurdle for collecting cohesive data for which to use in an internal assessment. In order to lessen this constraint, La Salle would need to improve its overall level of capital and operating budget through increased revenue of some sort, reassess its current salary and benefit offerings, and offer updated compensation plans that could be used as a tool to promote better recruitment and retention moving forward.
Another issue that may derail a successful internal assessment falls under the spectrum of toxic workplace behaviors. While I am fortunate to never have experienced this with my supervisor, I am aware of several colleagues in other offices who feel bound by a number of inflexible restrictions placed on them by managers that they perceive to be constantly micromanaging their every move. As mentioned above, I perceive there to be an increase in staff turnover over the last few years and anecdotally-speaking, I would not be surprised if negative morale created by micromanagement is another related factor to this trend. Again, as previously mentioned, I also believe that staff turnover, gaps in staffing through open positions, and a lack of continuity among staffing can lead to incomplete data collection in correlation with an internal assessment, as well as poor service/mission delivery for the organization. One potential idea to lessen this constraint would be for La Salle to invest for time and resources into professional development for all levels of leadership. As a newer supervisor myself, I have been invited to or seen advertised many workshops aimed at cultivating my leadership style – but I don’t think I have come across one marketed for more experienced managers. As many facets of society are ever-evolving, so too should the approach that supervisors or managers take in order to avoid creating a workplace that feels outdated, suffocating, or toxic. I believe there would be a benefit to La Salle offering workshops or seminars related to promoting the ideas of servant leadership and more democratic, two-way coaching, in order to steer some individuals away from what sounds more like one-way, almost dictatorial leadership, in an effort to promote staff retention.