Transforming nonprofit teams is easier than you think

I work with nonprofits and there’s something I see teams struggle with over and over again: lack of capacity and chronic burnout. As a sector, we need to do better. If we want to make change in the world we need to start at “home” by supporting our teams and providing staff with opportunities to learn, grow and take bigger risks for more impact.

At Capulet, we work with teams to design and run organization-wide, often highly-technical, digital campaigns. The more we do this work, the more we see that the determinant of a successful campaign is a strong, collaborative team.

To make sure teams have what’s needed to succeed, we begin complex projects with a data-driven workforce assessment. The Knowledge Silo Matrix (KSM) produces team insights in the form of a visual and actionable dashboard. The KSM was developed by Steve Trautman Co., talent risk experts that work with Fortune 500 companies, but the framework works equally well for nonprofits.

A map of team skills, strengths and gaps documents a team’s capacity – or lack of it. It reveals areas where team members are overfunctioning. And, overfunctioning equals burnout. For a national Canadian environmental nonprofit, the team insights process surfaced these concerns:

  • A gap in CRM technical knowledge, despite that infrastructure being critical for the organization.
  • Missed opportunities to nurture and reactivate online supporters because that activity wasn’t explicitly documented in anyone’s job description.
  • No one was responsible for managing fundraising campaigns across teams despite integrated campaigning being a priority for the Executive Director.
  • Just one staff member held all the donor relations expertise. She was teetering on the brink of burnout and was considering leaving.

After seeing these eye-popping issues on the KSM map, the organization:

  1. Added a new role: a marketing engagement specialist with the digital skills to nurture donors, grow online fundraising and learn from and support other fundraising staff.
  2. Made CRM training a professional development priority.
  3. Added project management of integrated campaigns to a team member who had capacity and expertise for this activity.

Is it hard to surface insights that can transform a struggling team? It’s easier than you think. In just a few days, a nonprofit can learn which team members are working – or over-working – in a silo, without any redundancy or support; whether or not you’re missing expertise in key skills; and where more capacity or expertise would make the biggest difference for your organization. Talent knowledge like this transforms and re-energizes your staff and leads to high-impact teams that are ready to take on bigger, riskier challenges.

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