The Two Sides of Telecommuting

Time is critical at every nonprofit we’ve ever seen, so we understand that managers and front line staff often don’t have time to keep up with the latest, newest, and most recently groundbreaking changes to the sector.

But falling behind can mean you miss valuable ways to help meet the needs of those you serve.

In fact, our guess would be that everyone at your organization probably agrees that staying up-to-date is important for the continued success of your agency. But how do you manage the flow of information while still being waist-deep in meeting the ever-growing needs of your nonprofit community?

Bridgestar suggests starting a professional reading group. A suggestion UST’s whole Division of Nonprofit Research heartily agrees with.

But, simply starting a professional reading group doesn’t guarantee its success. And, if you’re not sure of the reaction that managers and front line staff will have to a reading group that requires them to read and digest more information than they already are, start with small steps.

  1. Send interesting articles to those that they are most relevant to. If you read an article about new nonprofit hiring trends, don’t send it to the entire staff, send it straight to those who work on your hiring staff or have a vested interest in sector hiring trends. If you send an article that’s only relevant to one part of your organization to everyone, people will stop paying attention to the articles you send. It’s like crying “wolf.”
  2. Offer a weekly reading list that compiles information about your nonprofit sector to those that indicate an interest. An optional reading list is a no-pressure way to get people in the habit of reading professional materials on a regular basis, and is a great step toward building your reading group. It also sparks discussion among your staff about the included articles which can lead to greater group productivity and knowledge.
  3. Offer incentives to employees who are reading a relevant book and are willing to share their new knowledge with the group. As straight forward as this is, it might be one of the most difficult steps to achieve since it requires reading longer, and often more complicated, material that must then be shared with the larger group. But if you find people willing to do it, capitalize on it. Even if they’re too busy to come in and share with a large group all at once, ask them to write out their thoughts and include them in the employee newsletter or at a regularly scheduled meeting.
  4. Ask employees to contribute articles and information they think is valuable! This again capitalizes on your employee’s involvement, and encourages them to become involved in the continuing education of your agency. By asking for their input you also interest a larger group of people and expose yourself to new reading materials and sector news without having to continually hunt things down.

If these steps show promise and you’re getting a good response from enough people, suggest to your employees that a reading group should be formed to help your nonprofit stay on top of new developments and innovations.

If scheduling is an issue and causes your employees (or volunteers) to balk, offer several different reading group times that allow employees with different schedules to still meet with each other once a quarter or more often if there is time. Or try pre-recording group input and making it available online. This is the time to be creative in getting people on board and involved because the more your employees invest, the more they’ll be able to tout the strengths of the reading group to employees who haven’t joined yet.

Bridgestar suggests that when you finally start your professional reading group you:

  1. Gauge interest before springing a reading group on your employees.
  2. Keep the group small; aiming for only 5 to 8 people at each meeting. Think about recording the meetings and making them available to people who didn’t attend the meeting.
  3. Have group participants report back on what they’ve learned. And how it’s impacted their work.
  4. Build your organizations library and refer to it often. Even if you save everything on a bookshelf in your break room, make sure that your employees are able to access the information library. If it’s kept up-to-date, you’ll make an even bigger impact on your staff.
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09/20/17 1:10 AM

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UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

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