Build better communication in your not-for-profit

4 minute read – Business growth series – Internal communication in not-for-profit organisations

Over the last few decades, our approach to leadership and business culture has changed.

As the day-to-day has become more demanding, we have expected employees to give more, and good leaders have learned their teams need to feel safe, supported and heard at work.

But we still have so much more to learn, and the best way to learn, is to listen.

In 2020, VisiCase asked not-for-profit frontline workers to identify workplace challenges that make it difficult or impossible for them to do their jobs properly.

Of the issues listed, poor workplace communication was marked at the highest level of challenge; considered a blocker to completing required tasks.

As organisational leaders, creating channels for clear, two-way communication is crucial to building a well-functioning and successful business.

Here are five ways you can improve your internal communication so your employees feel more valued and more aligned to your company.

1. Make leadership accessible

When new employees are inducted, so often, they hear the words, ‘we have an open door policy, come see me whenever you want to talk.’

Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, a lot of the time, those promised open doors are actually closed, and senior leadership only wants to hear from employees who directly report to them.

If you promise an open door policy, deliver. Ensure roadblocks like a full diary can be overcome with set open times for employee meetings.

For those of you who can’t deliver due to the volume of other leadership obligations, make it clear that while employees may not be able to come directly to you, they can pass on feedback through their manager or HR.

One way or another, make leadership accessible for real dialogue.

2. Introduce two-way digital communication platforms

While Covid clearly had a lot of negatives, one of the positives to come from it, was our commitment to making it easier for geographically dispersed employees to remain connected.

In doing so, we integrated Zoom into our daily lives, and many not-for-profit organisations even started to establish internal social media-style platforms, update their intranet, and make available shared project management spaces online.

The end of Covid should not mean the end of inclusion for employees who don’t work in head office, or perhaps don’t work in an office at all.

If your organisation did introduce these great measures during in Covid, commit to keeping those channels up-to-date and cutting edge, so they are useful and accessible.

If your organisation didn’t enhance its internal communication options during the pandemic, it’s not too late to do it now!

Dive into sites like Slack, Yammer and even Facebook for business, to see what is on offer.

3. Make feedback possible in your not-for-profit

Recently, in a client meeting, a not-for-profit CEO said it best when he stated, ‘hearing from our frontline staff is crucial, they are closest to both the problems and solutions that can help our business grow’.

Enabling your employees the opportunity to openly provide feedback on everything from how the business is running in their space, to how leaders are performing, without fear of judgement or malice makes for a truly strong business.

Employees – especially frontline workers – see the business from a different angle to leadership, so hearing their thoughts and insights might just lead to your organisation’s next great service, campaign or award!

4. Mandate regular contact between managers and reports

One of the challenges with being a not-for-profit manager is we all think we are very nice people (well, most of us think so!).

With that, comes the strong belief that if an employee has a problem or concern, they will feel comfortable approaching us to raise it and discuss it.

The fact of the matter is, even if you are nice, employees don’t always feel safe raising an issue. Or alternatively, they are looking to you to bring up the topic, or strike up conversation with them, so they can work their way into the discussion they need to have.

Unfortunately, if managers don’t regularly meet with their employees, or talk to them one-to-one, these opportunities may never arise.

An employee may never find the courage to book a meeting and bring up something that is bothering them.

Mandating regular one-to-one conversations between managers and their direct reports can ensure the opportunity for a crucial conversation is never missed.

Making sure managers are well-trained in supporting employees and communicating with them, will also help provide a safe and comfortable environment.

5. Do regular pulse checks in your not-for-profit

If yours is a medium or larger not-for-profit organisation, employees can feel like it is a challenge to be heard. Like their voice or their ideas or their feedback gets drowned out in the noise.

Regularly checking the ‘pulse’ or ‘temperature’ of the employee body, through short surveys and polls can help you better understand the REAL company culture, and any challenges your employees, and in turn your business, may be facing.

Surveys are incredibly simple, with up to 10 questions free on platforms like Survey Monkey and Online Surveys.

When creating the survey, try to have a mix of open and close-ended questions, so you get both clear feedback, and creative or insightful ideas.

Ensure question framing and language is not leading or intimidating so you don’t skew results and only end up with what you want to hear.

A robust and open approach to internal communication and feedback, from all levels of the business, is a foundation for growth and success.

If you’re in doubt, and you’re wondering if your organisation might be one of those struggling in this area, the best course of action, is to ask your employees.


VisiCase provides an NDIS-ready business automation platform, built on powerful workflows. It helps you manage, streamline and optimise every component of your business, and its modules empower a positive employee and client experience.

Image by Rusty Watson

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