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May 29, 2015

On living out your nonprofit’s values

Anisha Singh, Manager of Strategy, GuideStar

This piece was originally published on May 6, 2015 on the GuideStar blog here.

I’ll be honest- I’ve always been a little leery of organizational values. Frequently, these seem to be HR-driven campaigns to increase employee excitement, and, to be honest, they can sound more than a little cheesy. After all, who has time to spend thinking about what we value internally as an organization with pressing time-sensitive projects to complete?

After a couple of months working at GuideStar, however, I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong! GuideStar’s values are what we refer to as the “4 Cs:” Clarity, Compassion, Courage and Collaboration. They are a core piece of how, what, and why we do the things we do. These “4 Cs” reflect the common beliefs of those of us who represent our organization, and also play a key role in our overall brand and brand platform.

Organizational values are incredibly helpful when presented with tough work situations. Here are just a couple of ways that I’ve used the GuideStar values of Clarity, Compassion, Courage, and Collaboration to help me in my work life:

1. To deal with tricky personal issues 

Personal issues, such as personality mismatches, are both extremely common in the workplace and hugely detrimental to productivity. For the times when people vehemently disagree on how something should be done based on their own perspectives, it can be quite useful to point to your organizational values as a framing device for curbing unruly or disruptive behavior that hinders moving projects forward. For example, it is much easier to talk to someone about their inappropriate sarcasm in meetings by mentioning to them that one of your core organizational values is compassion. This way, both the offender and offended can discuss sticky situations with a common language that is neither personal nor attacking, but rather solutions-oriented and positive.

2. To bring up a new point of view 

When bringing up a new or unpopular point of view on a project, your organization’s value system can be a really helpful tool. For example, if I disagree with my supervisors at a meeting, I can always lean on the assurance that our organization supports showingcourage when explaining my point of view. This empowers me feel like I have permission to always speak my mind to superiors– our values encourage us to do so!

3. To make strategic decisions 

Recently, a colleague and I were trying to decide whether to include more people in several feedback sessions we were hosting. She correctly pointed out that at GuideStar, we strive to collaborate. As this is one of our organizational values, the answer was clear – invite them in! The more, the merrier.

Of course, there are much larger implications that can come from adhering to our organizational values. Should we enter a partnership? Should we do business with this or that company? All of these questions are more easily answered by referring to our values, and whether this decision fits into them.

Does your organization have internal values? How do you think about your organization’s values when making decisions at work? Let us know!

Anisha Singh is Manager of Strategy at GuideStar. She splits her time between the Strategy Team, Finance Team, and Office of the President/CEO. Anisha is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in International Studies and Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding the best restaurants in town, and annoying her brother with her philanthropy chatter. You can reach Anisha at [email protected].