Inspiring a positive and open working culture

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This page covers guidance on how to inspire a positive and open working culture.

Every organisation will have its own identifying characteristics and approach to working life and how best to support their employees and volunteers at all levels of the organisation. A positive and open working culture will lay the foundations of a committed, trusted and engaged working relationship, nurturing employees’ well-being and performance. And, while there may be no singular strategy for success, positive working cultures typically feature the following elements:

A shared goal or vision

When people are united with a shared and unambiguous purpose and/or vision, it gives the organisation a clear identity and focus, building a sense of belonging for all those who work there.  With charitable objectives already in place and employees that share a deep-rooted commitment to the cause, your organisation will likely have a strong connecting force already at its core.  Not only will this common vision and related values strengthen fundraising teams, it connects everyone across the organisation, as well as supporters, beneficiaries, stakeholders and third parties.

Questions to consider

• What is your unifying goal or vision?
• Do all employees, volunteers, stakeholders and partners know what this vision is?
• Are there any values or policies the organisation should develop or review to support this?
• How do you continually engage trustees, employees and volunteers with this?
• How do you monitor and communicate progress towards your goal?
• What does this mean for any third parties?

Being clear and transparent

Unless employers communicate openly, well and clearly with staff and volunteers, fundraisers cannot know what is expected of them and where they can get support. Right from the outset, job descriptions and contracts must all be clearly-worded, organisational policies establishing the charity’s approach to any particularly important, sensitive or controversial aspect of its work, with training and induction processes reinforcing those messages. This will help to define the approach and professional conduct expected of all representatives of the charity, along with what to do and who to speak to if things go wrong. 

Employees and volunteers need to know that they are working in an open and accountable culture, where they can raise any concerns and know that they will be dealt with fairly and appropriately. This means understanding their rights and what processes are in place for handling disputes, claims of bullying, harassment and whistleblowing.

Questions to consider

• How do you keep all your workforce fully informed about the charity’s work with beneficiaries?
• Do all your job descriptions, contracts and working agreements make it clear what is expected of people, including professional conduct in and out of the office?
• Are your HR/employment policies up to date and regularly reviewed?
• Do you have a safeguarding policy and, if so, what does it cover?
• What additional policies do you need for fundraising and other areas? (This is likely to include the acceptance and refusal of donationscomplaint handling, financial processes for donations, working with vulnerable peoplethird parties, commercial partners and volunteers.)
• What processes are in place to handle complaints, grievances, disputes and whistleblowing? Do your fundraisers know where to go for support?
• How is the charity held to account for adhering to these policies?

Recognising and rewarding success

Everyone should feel valued in the workplace and confident in delivering in their role. A transparent and honest approach that focuses on positive reinforcement will help create a supportive environment that builds confidence across the workforce. 

By celebrating and rewarding success, managers can inspire an atmosphere of positivity, respect and pride, motivating individuals to perform to the best of their ability and to focus on each other’s strengths, fostering a stronger team spirit.  At the same time, a healthy and positive workplace will recognise that mistakes happen, encouraging people to raise any such issues, to ask for support in dealing with them and to learn from the process.  

Questions to consider

• How do you reward and recognise individual or team success?
• Do you offer performance-based rewards schemes, either at an individual or team level (this may be pay related and/or feature other motivational drivers)?
• How do you handle mistakes?
• What support do you offer employees when mistakes have been made?
• What policies do you have in place for addressing more serious matters?
• How do you communicate the impact of successful fundraising in meeting the charity’s objectives?

Nurturing and encouraging a desire to learn and improve

When organisations encourage and facilitate continued learning and development, they will not only bring in new skills into the organisation and help keep pace with a rapidly changing marketplace but give fundraisers greater confidence in their work and nurture a thirst for improvement and progression. 

Learning can come in variety of different guises from training coursesqualificationsconferences and events, to shadowing colleagues, mentoring programmes, networking, third party consultancy services, reading the Code of Fundraising Practice, trade news and views and more. Training will also need to cover the practical skills required, together with any particular risks or demands of the role, which might include safeguarding, first aid, equality and diversity training, dispute resolution etc.

Questions to consider

• What training is needed by each individual and for each role?
• What is the training and development budget and who is responsible for ensuring individuals will have the training they need?
• What HR procedures are in place to support a continual approach to learning and development?
• What progression opportunities are there for available?

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