We are in the midst of evaluating the articulation of our organizational values. While our values hopefully never change, as we mature we hope that we are increasingly self-aware and able to better articulate who we are at the core.
It is really hard, despite the fact that we do this work for dozens of nonprofits every year.
As part of this process we had a veteran volunteer interview our team and solicit their input on our values.
Auditing our values
The volunteer reported back some concepts that were very aligned with our earlier articulation as well as some that resurrected some of the debates we had the first time around.
There is one issue in particular that remains a riddle to me. What is a value of the Taproot Foundation vs. a value of the nonprofit sector?
For example, several members of team suggested values like ‘compassion’. Coming from corporate environments the Taproot Foundation feels like a very compassionate organization. It probably stands out. If, however, you join our team after working at a homeless shelter it would likely not even make the top 25 list.
For a nonprofit, is listing ‘compassion’ as a value the same as a company listing ‘creating shareholder value’ or ‘profitability’ as a value?
Are there a set of values that should be made off limits to nonprofits for failing to be descriptive – for being redundant with their tax status? Or, is it the very obviousness of these values that makes them core and important?
Here is where my head is today. The nonprofit sector itself has a set of values that nearly all nonprofits share at some level – like ‘compassion’. The core values of a specific organization emphasize a different subset of those common nonprofit values. The organizations need to demonstrate their ‘compassion’ beyond their mission and programs. It needs to be core to how it treats staff, volunteers and all their stakeholders. Using this test, far fewer nonprofits are ‘compassionate’ at their core.
The Taproot Foundation is compassionate, but not enough to pass that test.
So what are the other common nonprofit values? Help me brainstorm other common social benefit values to find the one that can pass the test.
Share the values of your nonprofit or pro bono client. Perhaps we can recycle one.