31 Mar

For Values "Show, Don't Tell"

Many organizations, in addition to their mission and vision statements, have a values statement. A values statement is a set of beliefs and principles that guide an organization’s decision-making. If the mission answers the “Why” and the “What”, a values statement answers the “How.”

Truth be told, most values statements are generic in nature and infrequently read after they are written. If an organization truly wants to demonstrate their core values, it goes back to what your writing teacher told you in school, “Show, Don’t Tell.”

In my twenty years working with non-profits, the most revealing glimpses into an organization’s true values come from observing the following:

1) How are employees treated? Are they given job descriptions that accurately reflect the work they are expected to do?  Are realistic goals set and agreed upon together? Are employees reviewed and evaluated regularly and in a meaningful way?  Is communication open and ongoing? Area all staff treated with respect and fairly? When a member of the staff needs to be let go, is it done in a dignified way?

2) What is the culture of the organization? Does the organization promote learning and development for its staff and volunteers? Does it invest in its people? Does it value and thank its people? Are people who work there happy?  Is everyone’s voice heard?

3) Do the leaders “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”? Are the professional and lay leaders of the organization driven by and living in accordance with principles, morals, ethics and values consistent with the organization’s? When leaders behave inappropriately or in a manner not exemplary, how does the organization respond?  Do the organization’s leaders mentor younger employees?

4) Is everyone’s contribution valued?  Does the organization truly value all donors regardless of the size of their gift? Does the organization recognize and appreciate the efforts of all volunteers regardless of their social standing? Is everyone who works at or with the organization – management, program staff, support staff,  contract employees, consultants, vendors – valued and appreciated for their contributions?

5)  Are alumni still connected?  Do alumni staff and/or participants of the organization’s programs stay connected to the organization? Are staff proud to have worked at the organization? Do participants feel proud of their involvement with the programs?

Value statements are nice to have, but if you really want to get a feel for the core values of an organization, dig a little deeper both through questions and observation.

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