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Motivating direct-service staff

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Question:

What are four tips for getting the most out of your nonprofit’s direct-service staff?

Answer:

* Set clear goals for participation.

Set clear goals and routinely monitor progress towards those goals. On the first level, you need to set basic participation-type goals.

These could include how many people are contacted or served at what frequency.

Then make sure all staff members have a clear understanding of these goals.

It’s important to involve staff in every aspect of this process. Allow them to articulate what the metrics of success should look like.

If they feel as though they are being evaluated by standards that are achievable and applicable to their work the entire process works better.

* Measure progress toward goals.

Next you should measure each staff member’s activity towards their goals.

How many people did they see? How frequently did they visit each person? How much time did they spend at each visit? How many appointments did they miss?

* Measure effectiveness.

Most direct-service organizations measure activity, but fail to compare these numbers with their more meaningful counterpart — effectiveness.

Measuring effectiveness entails figuring out a way to differentiate and measure productivity.

For example, if a staff member meets with the same client for three months, your organization should ask the questions, “What changed or improved in the client’s condition? Are some direct-service workers getting better results on a regular basis?”

Evaluating the success of direct-service work should be based not only on “how many, how often,” but also on measuring actual change in a client and how direct-service staff contributed to that change.

* Pay accordingly.

In addition to being incredibly dedicated to the causes they support and the people they touch, direct-service staff are motivated by the same things as everyone else.

Therefore, those who are doing better work, assuming it is clearly measurable and demonstrable, should be rewarded for it.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd


Stephen Butz is founder and president of Social Solutions, a software company that provides solutions for service delivery, efficiency and fundraising for the human-services industry.

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