Often in nonprofits there is a need for creative solutions. With professional experience working in projects with nonprofits, local governments, and businesses, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that relationships and communication go a long way.
In fact, communication and relationships can impact three main areas for part-time staff; turnover rates, employee satisfaction, and investment in the work or mission of an organization.
I know that you’re probably thinking that sounds way too easy. Well, you are likely a determined individual if you work in nonprofits, so no need to fret. Part-time staff are an incredible asset when communication and relationships exist.
Keep reading for more about how to build investment with part-time staff.
In my current professional position, I am a Grant Program Coordinator at both a middle school and high school in Pacoima, California.
The grant follows a cohort model, in which staff follow students over the course of their middle and high school careers, then through their first year of college. Students and their families (all 8th and 9th graders – no exceptions) are supported with free college access workshops, in- and after-school tutoring, four educational and college field trips yearly, 1:1 and/or small group academic advising, and connections to community resources for any services we cannot directly provide.
For the last two years, I have had the incredible opportunity to see first-hand how building relationships and communicating regularly with part-time staff has added to the success of our programming.
Within a school environment, things are ever-evolving. When predominately enter part-time staff into this environment, there is the potential for high turnover. In nonprofits and educational environments alike, schedules must revolve around the client (student). This means when there are events or special trips, part-time employees are asked to mirror their schedules with clients' schedules. If addressed up front by creating open-communication channels, part-time staff can benefit from a changing schedule.
During both the hiring and orientation processes, this is addressed. Additionally, we ask staff to sign a commitment agreement for up-front availability between the hours of 8am and 8pm, Tuesday through Thursday, and open availability between 8am and 5pm Mondays and Fridays. Being upfront about time expectations during weekdays helps eliminate confusion.
Clear policies were created by staff and agreed upon by management, to allow for unlimited exceptions to these requested open hours, excluding sick time/emergencies, so long as there is a 48-hour notice. Involving on-the-ground staff in the process of policy-making is a critical way to gather staff feedback and improve satisfaction. Of course the caution is to allow for employee voice on issues that have a high impact on their satisfaction, but do not negatively impact the client.
Employee voice is also important to relationship-building, lower staff turnover, and investment in the work or the mission of a nonprofit. Allowing for regular staff feedback and structured time to socialize creates greater buy-in among staff. What this can look like varies; in our schools, there is earmarked time for both a solutions-circle and time for staff to interact informally with one another.
This feedback method creates a space where staff can share their challenges and best practices with one another so that all can benefit. After a volunteer staff member has the opportunity to explain their situation, what actions they have tried, and where they are stuck in a particular issue, each staff member has an opportunity to ask clarifying and probing questions that are followed-up with proposed solutions.
This activity follows our updates, and our meeting concludes with open collaborative work-time. During this time I check in briefly with each of my staff 1:1 and offer support to their current endeavors. In-person weekly meetings create a connection between staff which increases their commitment to the work or mission of a nonprofit.
Amanda is a Grant Program Coordinator for Youth Policy Institute, working in Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. She studied Latin American Studies, Spanish, Multicultural Studies, and Business at the University of Missouri, Columbus. After serving with an AmeriCorps in New Mexico, she earned her Master's in Public Policy at the University of Missouri's Truman School of Public Affairs. When not working Amanda loves hiking, concerts, and spending time with family and friends. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn!