Staff Morale – Is it a reflection on the Organisation?

When was the last time you took a helicopter view of your organisation, taking particular look at your staff?

The way staff interact with each other, the way they speak about the organisation can indicate how they feel about the organisation. Not their job, but about the organisation as a whole.

Staff who don’t speak highly of the organisation may have reasons for this, are they feeling under valued, have they been passed over for promotion?

It is important to look at the picture your staff are painting, if they’re painting an unfavourable picture about the organisation and sharing this with colleagues; they could be “poisoning” others and, there’s also the risk that they’re sharing this outside of work.

If staff are poisoning others, it won’t be long before their negativity rubs off on others, the sooner you spot something and act the better.

Unless you’re in touch with how staff are feeling you’re lost in the dark, you need to be speaking with your staff to hear their views, their opinions about their job, their worth within the organisation and, their overall view about the organisation and the work being it does.

If you’re staff are at the front of the organisation, it may be more important to be listening to what they have to say, if they’re feeling disenfranchised this could come across in their interactions with those they deal with – potentially negatively impacting on service delivery and funding opportunities.

When new staff join an organisation, if there is negativity among staff this can have a detrimental effect on the way new staff interact and perform in their role. If they’re feeling “out of place”, feeling as though they’ve made the wrong choice, it could impact on the employment costs of the organisation; and could even result in action in employment court.

Many companies and, organisations conduct regular performance reviews which is important, however unless these are a two-way process they can miss opportunities, miss indications of low morale in the staff.

Staff reviews should be conducted at least annually, some are conducted every six months; but as a rule, don’t conduct them less than once each year.

And, in between – always – keep an eye and ear out for what staff are saying.

What they are saying could be just what you hear to make changes you’ve been pondering, even negative comments can create valuable opportunities for an organisation to grow and flourish.

Do you conduct staff reviews, if so has there been anything come to light from these that has helped your organisation grow and perhaps change they way things were done?

What gems have you learned from staff reviews?

A: Hell Yes

If that’s the answer, what’s the question – simple “Are Kiwis Givers”.

With over 2.9 billion dollars (2011) given to charities in New Zealand that puts us almost at the top of the global giving index.

This isn’t a small feat for a country the size of New Zealand, the only countries ahead of us in the global giving index are, England, Australia and the USA.

Individual giving is high, but there is also philanthropic trust giving, and anyone who saw Seven Sharp recently would see that Philanthropy New Zealand and trusts like the Todd Foundation are doing extremely well to help causes throughout the country.

Watch the Seven Sharp piece here

But, it’s individual giving that is, and I believe will remain the mainstay of charitable giving in New Zealand.

What are your thoughts?

An email Doesn’t Always Cut It

Q: Are we relying too much on emails to communicate with our donors?

A: Yes

What I hear you say.

Simply put sometimes an email isn’t the best form of communication, yet many organisations are relying on email as a quick way to communicate, but often something is lost in translation and, true communication can be lost.

As a way to keep supporters aware of what your organisation has been doing, there’s quite often no better way, especially when cost is taken into account, but a personalised message can mean a lot more to your supporters than something that can be perceived as mass produced, something for the masses.

Every donor is different some are happy to receive no updates; others have higher expectations.

Some organisations have a rule that they make a personal call to donors who contribute above a certain amount, this is great, it can show to the donor that their support is appreciated.

Other organisations are quite content to stay with what they have been doing for years … post or email a receipt that gives some updates, but nothing that show that if it weren’t for Mrs Brown, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they have done.

By personalising messages, donor retention has more certainty, picking up the phone and calling the Mrs Browns who support will have the potential further grow support.

It’s a known fact in business that were there is personal interaction customers come back; it should be no different in the charity sector.

A recent post on 101Fundrasing had some great pointers from the “business world” that are easily adapted to the non-profit/charity sector.

“I am calling you, because …” 10 reasons to give your donor a call

Is well worth a read … perhaps you’ll see how you can better engage with donors and keep them as not only donors, but as advocates for your organisation.

How often are you communicating with your donors?

Do you have a communication strategy that shows when and how you communicate with supporters?

What have you learned from picking up the phone and speaking with supporters?

Celebrity Endorsement

It seems this subject will keep coming up, the recent piece on the NZHerald website Famous faces don’t help charities – studies, raises this subject yet again.

In June 2012 I wrote Celebrities and Charity Endorsement, in it were figures from research – in summary;

A poll of 2,842 people found about half took no notice of the celebrity’s message and a further 14 per cent were put off it. A third said they became more aware of the problem or charity and a small number were motivated to support the cause or change their behaviour. 

The research, commissioned by the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University and the University of Guelph in Canada, found that 79 per cent of respondents had never been prompted to do anything for a good cause by a famous person’s message. Of the 21 per cent who had been motivated to act, 44 per cent had tried to learn more about the cause and 43 per cent had visited a website or clicked on a link. Read full report

In 2011 The Guardian ran Are celebrities a help or hindrance to charities?

In this interview piece the issue is well discussed and worth a read.

Peter Stanford is a journalist, and on the board of several charities

“Never say never but, in my experience, the fabled benefits of celebrity support have rarely lived up to the hype, because to achieve that dividend requires the sort of additional organisational muscle that is beyond the stretched resources of most small- and medium-sized charities. I have lost count of the number of charity chief executives and chairs who’ve told me that they pinned their hopes on a bumper payback because they had a famous face at a fund-raising event, or fronting a campaign, and then been disappointed. I believe they would have done better to concentrate their effort instead on fine-tuning the mechanics of the event, or honing their campaigning message so it genuinely touches a nerve with the public. We may live in the celebrity age but to imagine that a big name will automatically open wallets and hearts is to underestimate our potential supporters”.

Justin Forsyth is CEO of Save the Children

“In my experience, the benefits of celebrity are not fabled but real – and can produce very concrete results. Without the campaigning energies of BonoBob Geldof and Richard Curtis, for example, I don’t believe 46 million more children would be in school today in some of the world’s poorest countries. The combination of their creativity, tenacity and appeal transformed the Make Poverty History and Drop the Debt campaigns. I remember just before the Gleneagles G8 in 2005, Bono came into No 10, met with the key negotiators from each country, and after a stirring pitch, asked them how they will want to be seen by their grandchildren in years to come – as leaders who changed the world or who missed an historic opportunity.

“Of course the celebrity touch isn’t everything. Every charity – however big or small – needs to have a clear and convincing message about what it’s trying to achieve. But the support of an impassioned celebrity for that cause can help reach new audiences with that message”.

Full article here

In the piece on it was stated “Two pieces of research say “the ability of celebrity and advocacy to reach people is limited” and that celebrities are “generally ineffective” at encouraging people to care about foreign causes.

Two-thirds of people could not link any celebrity with a list of seven well-known charities and aid organisations, one paper found”.

And further “Our survey found that while awareness of major non-government organisations’ brands was high, awareness of celebrity advocates for those brands was low,” the professors wrote in their article, published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies.

“Instead it was plain from the focus groups that most people supported the charities because of personal connections in their lives and families which made these causes important.

“The evidence suggests that the ability of celebrity advocacy to reach people is limited.”

Read the full NZHerald article from the Independent here

So, are celebrities a benefit to charities – what do you think?

Disaster Recovery

There are risks in any business operation and a non-profit is no different. There may be occasions when you may not be able to continue your work due to events taking place – think, storms, earthquakes, fire.

Having a plan can mean you’re up and running quickly, for a good guide on continuity planning, read Why your business needs a disaster recovery plan.

From the guide:

Why your business needs a disaster recovery plan

Would your business be equipped to deal with a significant disaster if it were to occur tomorrow? Unfortunately, too many small businesses wait for a crisis to happen before they think about their response, which can prove to be a costly oversight.

By identifying the risks your business faces, you’ll be able to put contingency plans in place to help you mitigate or prevent the likelihood of a disaster affecting your business. It’s peace of mind for you and your staff.

Business continuity planning

It’s vital that your business has a contingency plan in place to help you get back on your feet following a disaster. Think about how your business might be affected by a range of scenarios and jot down a number of ways you might be able to work around these problems.

Start by drawing up a basic list of possible crises that could affect your business. Some obvious risks include natural disasters such as earthquakes and storms with threats of property damage, asset loss, and restricted access to your premises.

Read full article

Next steps

Start protecting your business straight away, by using these useful resources:

Fundraising Disclosures

Part of ethical fundraising is be open, showing your costs, overheads and being open about how your services are being delivered. If you need to hide or ‘fudge’ anything, then are you being ethical?

Some organisations disclose their Fundraising Principles on their website or other collateral, this is good to see, not only does it make donors feel more comfortable, but it also shows that these organisations have a strong belief in transparency in the sector.

Are you prepared to state your fundraising principles on your website etc? If you do, how about also including a ‘statement’ such as

We are committed to ethical fundraising and the below (your statement) reflects our respect to our donors and clearly puts the onus on us to be open, honest, and transparent in the attracting, investing, and disbursing of donated funds. 

You could go further and clearly state your policies across areas such as Fundraising, Administration Costs, Financial Statements, Governance, Confidentiality and more.



  • Every reasonable efforts are made to ensure all personal information we collect is complete and accurate
  • All donor records are kept confidential and not shared with any third party, all donors have a right to see and update their personal record at any time
  • No donor information will be released without written authorisation specifically agreeing to such release

Financial Information

  • All financial records are available on request
  • Financial records are maintained and available to ensure ongoing confidence in your dealings with us
  • Financial statements accurately represent the financial activities and overall financial position of our organisation
  • All fundraising activities contacted by us are accurately portray our activities and the intended use of funds raised.

Fundraising Costs

  • All overhead costs, administrative and fundraising, are kept low while still ensuring we meet our objectives

Do you have principles like the above you share with your donors etc; is it something you would consider?



Refunding a Donation

Yes, shock horror, there are times when a donation may have to be returned; and the reasons could be many.

As I’m not a legal expert on this, if you need anything clarified do seek legal advice.

Here’s a scenario, someone donates to your organisation – perhaps it was a vehicle, there were certain provisos made when the donation was given; for some reason the donor feels that these have not been met and requests the return of the vehicle. How do you deal with this?

Requesting the return of a donation is a serious matter. For example, if the vehicle donated has to be returned – but the charity has already sold it – how will the charity make good?

More common though is likely to be when someone has made a donation, perhaps forgotten and made a second donation; they want the second one refunded.

This can be tricky on a number of fronts, accounting, legal, administrative and like the potential return of a vehicle or other, there’s a PR perspective to take into consideration too.

I guess the first thing to do is take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and not make any knee-jerk reaction. A clear head is what is needed.

My first action would be to pick up the phone and call the person requesting the refund; a letter or email just won’t cut it. A personal call could reverse the donors request.

Perhaps there’s been some misunderstanding, perhaps you could help them to see how their erroneous donation could help right now. It’s important that you don’t come across pushy or desperate, be genuine at all times.

When was the last time you were asked to refund a donation, what did you do?