It’s special to write a post inspired by the new book by my friend, Sybil Stershic, a champion of the key role employees play in the success of any organization. Sybil gives voice to the intimate connection between marketing effectiveness and the engagement of employees who deliver on the organization’s promises.
Her first book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care framed her message for business. This book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, aligns marketing strategies with employee engagement essentials tailored to the challenges faced by nonprofits. The book’s concise principles and guide format will help you frame a plan. It’s rare to have a marketing guide specific to the needs of nonprofits. Sybil has filled the void.
It’s a downer when we murmur to ourselves at work, “My heart’s just not in it today.” It’s even worse when we realize we feel that way most days.
Explaining away malaise may be easier when we’re doing work that feels mechanical without an “I’m making a difference” dimension.
What’s not so easy is feeling de-energized even when the work we’re doing, either paid or unpaid, fills an important human need in the community through a nonprofit organization.
I’ve been there myself. Years ago I worked for Head Start where my job included all of these duties: grant writing, coordinating volunteers and parent programs, supervising cooks and bus drivers, and schlepping government surplus food. Yes, there were many days when my mind knew how important the work was but my heart couldn’t overcome the weariness.
Nonprofit jobs are just as demanding today, maybe more so. Employees in nonprofits are the mission’s engine. Most aren’t there to get rich but to enrich. Nonprofit leaders need to recognize that their jobs include being in service to their employees.
The essential link
Most nonprofit leaders face challenges to sustain their organizations, meaning they need to bring in the revenues that keep things going.
What too many leaders forget is that they need to invest considerable time and attention in their employees, the very people who are the real faces of the organization and the credible voices “marketing” the good work being done each day.
Sybil Stershic’s new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, provides nonprofit leaders with a fresh and practical approach to marketing their organizations with an inside-out strategy.
She starts by reminding us that:
Proactively marketing your nonprofit enables you to:
- create an effective presence in the marketplace that helps differentiate you from competing organizations, and
- pursue your mission through positive relationships with your stakeholders (consumers, members, volunteers, donors, referral sources, influencers, etc.)
Then she quotes marketing professor Philip Kotler who posits that: “‘marketing is supposed to build up…share of mind and share of heart for the organization.'”
Further defining this concept, Sybil writes that:
- share of mind “is about creating and maintaining public awareness of your organization”
- share of heart “is creating and maintaining an emotional bond with people who are important to your organization.”
Leadership is the mission within the mission in successful nonprofits. Executive directors and all others managing operations need to balance their marketing outward look with an internal one.
The employee as marketer
Taking employees for granted or inadvertently making them feel that way invites an organizational downward spiral. It’s like shooting yourself in your marketing foot.
Sybil reminds us that:
Engaged employees stay for what they give–they like their work and are able to contribute, whereas disengaged employees stay for what they get–a comfortable job, good salary, and decent job conditions. Who would you rather have work in your organization?
She makes this essential point:
An “inside-out marketing” approach enables you to take care of …internal stakeholders so they can take care of your external stakeholders….”
Many nonprofit leaders then ask: “How do I do that?”
Sybil’s answer is straight-forward:
To gain employee and volunteer commitment and facilitate their engagement with an organization, internal marketing strategy is based on what I call ‘The Three Rs Formula':
- Respect–ensure your staff members and volunteers have the necessary tools and support to do their work.
- Recognition–catch them doing something right.
- Reinforcement–continually support a mission-based, customer-focused culture.
She drives home her point writing:
The difference in how volunteers and employees are treated on a daily basis depends on the management style of the…people in charge. Are employees and volunteers recognized and respected for their roles in fulfilling the mission or are they considered disposable commodities?
Minds and hearts
Nonprofit employees are the faces and voices of the organization and its mission. They need to have their hearts and minds fully engaged to feel fulfilled.
Nonprofit leaders need to pay attention to what employees need and listen when they provide feedback, verbally or by their actions.
Marketing needs to be an organic function that starts with a strong internal message voiced by engaged employees. When the heart and mind work together, we can make big things happen.