On one side of the mid-sized nonprofits honored in NPT Best Nonprofits to Work For competition sits their smaller counterparts, those with 49 or fewer employees. They are small enough to give outsized operational roles to staff but might not have the funds for major initiatives.
On the other side is the large Best Nonprofits — those with 250 or more employees. These behemoths are better able to provide richer resources for their staff, but individuals are more likely to get lost within the enterprise.
This leaves medium-sized Best Nonprofits in the sweet spot.
“We rely heavily on cross-departmental teams,” Prison Fellowship CEO James Ackerman said of his 243-employee organization (No. 6 overall and 4th in the medium-sized category). “I’m talking about situations where you might have somebody who’s not a member of the senior team but is playing the role of quarterback on an initiative.”
That’s a break from the siloed approach the Washington, D.C.-based organization took before Ackerman joined in 2016. Ackerman is a relatively new leader. By contrast, CEOs at other medium-sized Best Nonprofits have been at their posts for an average of just more than 11 years.
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The mid-sized Best Nonprofits rank between their two “best of” counterparts when evaluating supervisor/employee relations, work environment, culture and communications, leadership and planning and many pay and benefit issues. That said, their scores lean toward the best of the larger organizations.
In Prison Fellowship’s case, this tendency seems to have worked: The organization’s 8% voluntary turnover rate was among the lowest of the category.
Where mid-sized Best Nonprofits overall fell short — among the best of the best, to be sure – was in some pay and benefits issues, and most training, development and resources matters.
Take ongoing training, where at 90% satisfaction mid-sized Best Nonprofits lagged their two counterparts. It’s not that they aren’t trying. Several leaders mentioned using the training resources available through online platforms such as LinkedIn Learning. Organizations might provide guidance in which courses are part of a directed development plan, but many allow wide latitude.
Part of creating a good organization also means a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Overall, 92% of employees at the mid-sized Best Nonprofits responded that their organizations enable a culture of diversity, lagging slightly the levels at the best small and large nonprofits.
At Prison Fellowship, a Diversity and Inclusion Council launched in July 2020 has already surveyed employees regarding their perspective on race issues. Results are used to help set the course for the organization’s next steps regarding employee training, hiring practices and other considerations, according to Senior Director of Human Resources Daniela Gleason.
Leaders at Capital Impact Partners (No. 19 overall and 8th in the medium-sized category) in Arlington, Va., which provides credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations, have a commitment to DEI efforts. “We’re on a journey that has neither a beginning nor an end,” said Chief Human Resources Kim Dorsett. “We have facilitated formal training in regards to unconscious bias, emotional intelligence and race relations, and we’re developing a glossary to assist employees.”
Dorsett incorporates inclusion-based metrics alongside other considerations when evaluating organizational culture. She said that she has embraced the theory of eight dimensions of personal wellness, which usually include emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and vocational wellness.
The physical threat of the coronavirus pandemic during the past year, alongside the frustration of isolation, have brought emotional wellness to the forefront. Capital Investment Partners responded by offering online yoga and organization-wide virtual meditation classes, as well as physical fitness offerings. The organization also provided ergonomic assessments of home offices.
“We did [the meditation classes] first together so employees know this was a priority supported by the organization so they would then feel comfortable later when they felt they needed to take advantage of that benefit,” Dorsett said.
Several mid-sized Best Nonprofits have taken online wellness fairs previously hosted on-site, and more than a few of those stressed new or an increased focus on mental health offerings.
Even if organizational leaders don’t embrace the eight dimensions of personal wellness, managers have instinctively embraced some of the tenets. Mid-sized Best Nonprofits were most likely to offer financial education opportunities, with the 83% doing so outpacing the best small (45%) and large (67%) nonprofits.
If all this fails, Capital Investment Partners is among the 96% of mid-sized organizations that offer an employee assistance program that includes counseling.
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