Non-Profit Leadership Success: A Study of a Small, Non-Profit Organization's Leadership and Culture through the Lens of Its Volunteers

Non-Profit Leadership Success: A Study of a Small, Non-Profit Organization's Leadership and Culture through the Lens of Its Volunteers

William L. Boice (U.S. Army (Retired) Ft. Lewis, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch035
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Abstract

While leadership has been studied extensively, non-profit organizational leadership has received little attention. The attention received mostly looks at senior executives and managers within the organization. As these organizations have small staffs and a large volunteer workforce, it would seem prudent to understand if what the leaders espouse is understood and followed by those that work in their organization. This chapter will look at a small, community based non-profit organization and discuss the role of a non-profits' leader in providing a vision and mission for the organization. It will utilize a volunteer satisfaction survey conducted by the organization, observations and interviews to understand workforce perceptions of the organizations vision, mission and culture. The results indicate that the volunteers have knowledge of the vision and mission statement, and easily assimilate in the culture of the organization.
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Introduction

To be noble is to give to those who have less. It is an issue of service and leadership- Native American proverb (Leader 360, p.1).

While observing local non-profit volunteer coordinators at a recruitment fair, one of the elder leaders stated to a young upstart non-profit leader: “Your volunteers are loyal to you. What you have to do is figure out how to get them loyal to the organization.” Is this what a group of local community members thought when they began feeding homeless people in their community in 1984 from the back of their garage? This organization of people grew, became a non-profit, moved from garage to church to a community building with a small staff and large pool of volunteers providing hope for the needy in their county. The transformation did not happen by chance. There was a small group of people that observed a need in their community and wanted to do something about it. Thirty years later, the organization is thriving. While not the largest non-profit in the county by a long shot, they are able to provide food for the hungry more than any other organization. This success is one of the goals of their vision and part of their mission.

It is widely believed that an organizations vision and mission statement guide its performance. A vision statement focuses on what the organization will do in the future, not what it is doing today. “It is a statement which the employees of the organization need to embrace” (Kaushik, 2011, p. 1). Embracing the vision should motivate the employee to work energetically to ensure success through their performance. “Vision statements give direction for employee behavior and helps provide inspiration” (Hawthorne, 2015, p. 1). Inspiration leads to worker motivation and overall success for the organization. The vision, combined with the mission statement, provides a focused sense of purpose for the employee.

A mission statement describes, in brief, the fundamental purpose for the existence of the company. “It focuses on the purpose of the organization, its activities, its capabilities, customer focus, and the business makeup. It is a combination of why and how your company does something and what it does” (Kaushik, 2011, p. 1). Mission statements are used by most successful organizations.

In fact, in a study by Bain & Co. conducted in 1996, of the top 25 management methods and techniques deployed by senior managers all over the world, mission statements consistently show to be the top-rated management tool during each of the prior ten years (Bain et al., 1996; Bart et al., 2001, p. 19).

Leaders should emphasize the current mission statement to employees, which clarifies the purpose and primary, measurable objectives of the organization. A mission statement is meant for employees and leaders of the organization (Hawthorne, 2015).

For example, Bartkus et al. (2000) state the organizational mission statement should be a communicational tool that allows current and prospective stakeholders to determine whether they would like to be involved with the company. Therefore, the use of the mission statement as an external communication tool seems to be beneficial to companies. (van Nimwegen et al., 2008, p. 63).

If, as stated earlier, vision and mission provide a focused sense of purpose for the employee in an organization; culture represents the shared expectations and self-image of the organization. The mature values that create tradition or the “way we do things here.” (Clark, 2015, p. 1)

Defining culture is hard to do as it is an abstract term. While there is universal agreement that (1) it exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is, never mind how it influences behavior and whether it is something leaders can change (Watkins, 2013, p. 1).

For the purpose of this study, culture is defined as: “the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions that are common to a group of people. It is these shared qualities of a group that make them unique” (Northouse, 2006, p. 302).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Vision Statement: The strategic (long term) direction of an organization that describes what the organization wants to achieve in the future.

Volunteer: To offer one’s services freely, without expectation of compensation.

Satisfaction: A feeling one gets when they have fulfilled a need or desire.

Mission Statement: Describes the purpose of an organization and provides direction for its members.

Vol (Volunteer): An employee at the HoH that provides services freely, without expectation of compensation.

Performance: The level of accomplishment of a task that is measured by a standard.

HoH: Small, community based Non-profit organization.

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