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Welcome to the summer 2011 edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly.
This issue covers topics having to do with the nonprofit sector’s workforce, and our workforce is different from the other sectors in a number of ways—the most notable being that it includes unpaid labor in the form of “volunteers”: people who care enough about an issue, a group of people, or the community’s well-being to work for free.
I’d like to use this as a lead-in because I believe that if we thought a little more about approaching paid and unpaid labor with the same mindset, we might actually see better results on both fronts.
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For instance, if we put some thought into developing a community of practice where people felt valued enough to bring their full creativity and intelligence to the fore, both groups would undoubtedly benefit. If people were brought into decision making such that their expertise and perspectives were heard, they might bring more innovative energy and take more risks. If we supported people in developing their skill sets and broadening their networks, it would build the organization and its people all at once. These practices are at the core of developing intelligent and adaptive organizations— organizations that seem larger than their budget size or number of paid staff might suggest.
As I read through the recent literature about “talent” in the for-profit world, I saw many references to an unusual dynamic called the “talent paradox,” wherein, despite the apparent employers’ market, many corporations were experiencing problems finding the right kind of talent to replace people who were moving on. I talk more about this in the article “Does Your Nonprofit Need an Attitude Adjustment?,” but, long story short, nonprofits (along with other organizations) will need to pay ever closer attention to the kind of work environment and foundational supports they offer workers—both paid and unpaid.
What is your organization’s commitment to excellence? That commitment should be reflected clearly in your workplace practices. And if you have neglected that enormous strategic advantage uniquely available to nonprofits—volunteers—you are voluntarily antiquating yourselves. Volunteers can mean everything to an organization trying to negotiate this turbulent environment; think of them as your expansive circles of influence.
We hope that you enjoy the articles in this issue—and, as always, we ask for your thoughts.