of clients receives all of the services.
For the past five years, Big
Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern
Missouri has conducted a simple
survey of employees four times
a year, which Becky James-Hatter, the group’s leader, says has
yielded insights the charity has
used to improve both its programs and its work culture.
For example, several months
ago the survey turned up concerns about employee workloads. Ms. James-Hatter says
that in follow-up conversations
it became clear that workers
were so focused on procedures
that it made them feel like
“cogs” in a machine and made
it difficult to think about the
Making a few changes and
discussing the problem with
workers, she says, has freed
them to spend less time in front
of their computers and more
time with volunteers, children,
and their families.
While the surveys have become an important management
tool, Ms. James-Hatter warns
that charities that seek employee opinions need to make sure
they’re ready to make changes
based on what they hear—and
that they can handle potential
She says the first time her organization conducted the survey, she wasn’t prepared for the
Ms. James-Hatter says it
was two weeks before she could
share the results with her se-
nior managers and start to deal
with the criticism constructive-
ly: “The last thing you want to
Year Up, a nonprofit that
helps low-income young adults
gain skills and entry-level jobs,
tries to make difficult topics
easier to broach by giving em-
ployees “risk chips”—literally,
poker chips—they can use dur-
ing the group’s twice-a-year “in-
Gerald Chertavian, head of Year Up, sees his role as “a
synthesizer of good input” from employees.
Your mission is to have a
positive impact on the world.
Our mission is to have a
positive impact on your assets.
“The last thing
you want to do
is get mad
do is get mad about the feed-
back and create an us-versus-
Charities must create a cul-
ture that values good ideas
from throughout the organiza-
tion and encourages people at
all levels to speak up, says Ben
Hecht, chief executive of Living
Cities, a coalition of grant-mak-
ers and financial institutions
that seeks to foster innovation
in metropolitan areas.
“What you’re saying is this
22-year-old may have ideas and
approaches that are better than
the 50-year-old’s,” he says. “The
22-year-old has to believe that
they can say it with impunity,
and the 50 year-old has to be
able to not say, ‘Who the hell do
you think you are?’”
That kind of openness is diffi-
cult for groups with a top-down
leadership structure, says Mr.
Hecht: “Hierarchy just squash-
es that because hierarchy says
the people at the top know more
than the people at the bottom.”
The environment has never been more challenging for nonprofits. Which is why talking with the experts at
Northern Trust Foundation & Institutional Advisors makes sense. Our investment advice is driven by your
goals. Accountability is defined, conflicts of interest managed and your interests come first. What’s more,
you’ll have access to an award-winning custody and technology platform that can support organizations
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