How do Non Profits handle Distance Mgmt?

How does your non-profit handle distance mgmt? How do you interact/manage/meet/discipline employees that work from home or even work across the globe?

Does your non-profit even have remote employees? I’m starting the conversation and I hope you join in. The fist commentors will win a prize from the FISpace prize closet.

8 comments

  1. Well as a consultant I have worked remotely with clients, and my anchor client has been my former employer so it felt like an extension of my work with them necessitated by a cross country move to TX. The best situations involve someone on site, in the office, that is dedicated to meting with me regularly to keep me in the loop. (This is for an ongoing, not project basis.) I find meeting at least bi-monthly just to hear what’s going on in the rest of the organization helps me to plan and organize grants and other fundraising ideas for new projects and programs. I wish technology was further embraced by the small to medium sized nonprofits. Those ph. meetings could be cut down to once a month just to discuss priorities and projects I am assigned and progress. I think a solution like yammer would be extremely helpful in managing long distance reports, whether employees or contractors. I can’t wait to learn more about it tonight, and thanks for the heads up on the mtg. Dave!

  2. The nonprofit I work for, C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition was started 4 years ago by folks who wanted to start a nonprofit in DC, but none of the founder lived there. So we have always been very telecommuting-friendly.

    Now we have 5 staff members in DC, but I’m in NJ, one is in NY and the Board is spread out all over the country.

    I think the key is that everyone works as if they were working remotely. Even if folks in the office have a conversation, everyone is very good about documenting next steps in email or in some digital format. We use IM a lot. I make sure to work a day in the office at least once a month. We also use a variety of cloud services…Salesforce, Google Apps, Box.net, Basecamp. And finally, we have a staff meeting once a week by conference call where we all talk about what we’re doing and strategize for the week.

    Reviews and discussion of goals and objectives are done face-to-face, though, if possible.

  3. Hi. I am a contractor that actually works at a distance with close to all of the non-profits I work with. I write and research grants and most of this can be done completely without the need for face-to-face meetings. Add Skype video into the mix or Go-to-meeting and the face-to-face need becomes that much easier.

    This relationship boils down to trust. Once in place, it is much cheaper for the non-profit for obvious reasons. Only downside I see is getting physical bodies in place for things like annual fundraisers where attendees want to meet and greet. As far as accountability, again there is the trust factor, but I’ve seen instances where video is utilized to make sure so-and-so is actually in the room and on the job.

    We’re fans of non-profits taking that leap and with the crisis taking its toll I think we’ll see more of this.

  4. These are some really great questions and issues to be asking, David. I know in my job where we have three offices and numerous remote employees across the country as well as with our nonprofit clients who often work in similar situations, communication is key. Making sure that every employee has an equal voice in conversations (whether that be over the phone, in person, or via a Skype video session :)) is crucial in forming a working environment where everyone feels involved and where everyone is given a chance to thrive.

    I agree with Peter on the fact that this issue requires extreme trust on the part of an employer, but I would also point that this requires more disciple from the employers themselves. Giving clear and concise direction is much harder when your face-to-face time is limited and walking to someone’s desk to ask a question is not an option. For this reason, I love tools like IM, intranets and yes, even Yammer to help everyone have easy access to one another and current work.

  5. NTEN has almost always had some remote staff (and for a while, we were ALL spread out). In fact, Ive only had one “adult” job where everyone worked in the same place. Being remote does make it tougher to communicate, but that’s not my central concern.

    For me, the big issue is trust, as Peter points out. With such a small staff, I have to trust that my staff are not only going to stay on task, but that they will be able to make judgement calls. I don’t hire folks I don’t think will stay on task, so you know, that’s not my issue. If a new staff person isn’t from the NPTech community, I can’t expect them to know enough about our community and culture to make decisions independently. I want to guide them through that process, and that’s extremely difficult to do remotely. The “work” is easy. The community and culture are not.

    The staff that work remotely for us know were in the office with us for a long while before life took them to other places. I would almost always hire new staff in our Portland office rather than hire a new person to work remotely.

  6. My current and former Deputy Directors, both Al(l)isons, spoke about this topic at the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant Conference. You can find their materials posted here: http://tig.lsc.gov/tigconferencepresentations.php.

  7. David. I’ll share a more positive aspect of having office locations in different timezones. We can say that we work 24/7 and thats our advantage. You never know when a non-profit would have a donor coming their way or an emergency cause arising to be addressed immediately. So, to have someone online (like in a help-desk) gives support to our non-profit clients round the clock. The important aspect is to maintain an equally skilled and culturally trained workforce all across the locations of the firm. About trust, I can say that it depends on the level of transparency carried out in an organization. So, its basically a two way affair. I need of urgency created and properly delegated by the management can also help the staff to be on their toes and make them feel important in the organizational operations.

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