Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Stronger Team in a Weak Economy

I can't say it enough, these are tough times for nonprofits. Recently a nonprofit executive told me how she had to lay off a couple of employees due to lower conference income and membership renewals. Those layoffs are straining her remaining staff. Re-examing every aspect of your organization is vital to survival. Here Brian Brandt discusses what steps you might take to make sure your organization can not just stay afloat but survive. Bunnie

A Stronger Team in a Weak Economy

By Brian Brandt, Summit Solution Group

Pick up any newspaper or watch any newscast and you’re certain to hear about layoffs, business shutdowns and dwindling stock portfolios. Unfortunately, the trickle down impact of these economic woes on most non-profits is an increase demand for services and a reduction in charitable gifts. Many non-profits are being forced to reduce their team resulting in an increase in work load and stress without a raise and perhaps even a pay cut. What are leaders to do?

The good news from all the bad news is that many non-profit leaders are rising to the occasion. Strong leadership that examines the organization with surgical precision, pours into the development of the current team, and optimistically leads the organization to fulfill its mission is demanded.

Examining the Organization

In the first half of this decade, there was a great addition of programs for many non-profits, despite their weak connection to the organizational mission. Now is the time for non-profit leaders, in conjunction with members of the board and staff, to take a step back and consider all of the programs and services that are offered.

Does each program really fit with the mission and vision?

Is there a duplication of services with other non-profits?

Are other needs more pressing considering the economic situation?

Are there more efficient ways to get our message?

Is now the time to make a drastic change to prepare you better for the future?

Do the board and staff have a clear vision for the future?

As I’ve taken groups through this process, inefficiencies are often found that free staff up to be more effective. This pruning process not only helps staff to be more fruitful, but also conveys that their time is valuable. Allowing them to be a part of the process is meaningful and also contributes to their professional development.

Pouring into Your Team

Developing your staff is integral to keeping up morale. Unfortunately, the training or conference budget is often the first thing to go when finances get tough. This is the time for non-profit leaders to get creative with their training and development.

Partner with other companies or non-profits to bring training in-house.

Give every member of your team a book and have weekly or monthly discussions. Have various team members lead the discussion.

Have various staff members conduct brief seminars on various subjects like public speaking, new media, and customer service.

Consider personal and family enrichment through family activities, personal finances training and one-on-one casual conversations.

Just have some fun. Take a break and bring in ice cream to make sundaes or take everyone to a local college baseball game and enjoy some spring time weather.

Lead from the Front

This is a time that demands that leaders truly lead through serving. While it is important that leaders stay focused on high level activities like vision casting, strategic planning and donor development, it is also important that staff see leaders willing to engage in the trenches.

Despite the current economic crisis, this can be a time where your people and your organization thrive instead of just survive. Take advantage of this season to reexamine every aspect of your organization and to reconsider how you are developing each person on your team. Then, you and your team will look back on this era and remember a time where all became stronger in the midst of turmoil…and your organizational story and mission will prosper for it.

Brian Brandt has over two decades of leadership experience and has served in numerous roles including C.E.O., Public Relations Director, National Sales Director, and College Tennis Coach. He is passionate about leadership development and regularly coaches executives on effectiveness, strategic thinking and leadership. Additionally, he speaks, writes and leads trainings on a variety of topics including: leadership, personnel issues, mentoring, behavioral styles (DiSC), team building, effective communications, delegation, parenting, media relations, marketing, community relations and bringing a vision to fruition.

Brian holds a Masters Degree in Global Leadership as well as a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. He lives in Tyler, TX with his wife and three children where he leads Summit Solution Group ( and serves on the board and volunteers with several non-profits. Contact Brian at

1 comment:

  1. Companies who have a strong team of employees could definitely overcome a weak economy. These companies must already have taken advantage of tools such as DiSC profile assessments so that their employees could understand each other better.