Guest Blog: The Hallmarks of Excellence in Voluntary Organisations. Quality and Performance Management in Charities

This blog is part of a series that focuses on the ‘Hallmarks of Excellence in Voluntary Sector Organisation’. It draws upon experience, learning and research (that you don’t have to read because it’s been done for you.) and focuses on four simple approaches to improve quality and performance management in charities.

Are you feeling motivated? Then let’s go!

Managing under performance through performance management encourages learning, accountability and improves quality.

The implications of poor performance management is damaging to a charities reputation, their ability to get further resources, their high staff/volunteer turnover and the impact in moral which in turn has a damaging effect on a charity’s performance, quality and effectiveness. Trustees and Senior Management should be investing time, money and human resources, hard in a resource strapped voluntary sector. So work together, share best practice, offer mutual shadowing and coaching, share benchmarks and by improving the quality of staff and volunteers, an expectation of quality and continuous learning will be the benchmark of the sector.

Four Hallmarks of Excellence: Quality and Performance Management in Charities. Practical steps CEOs can take right now.

  1. Performance management of your people.

Charity leaders will be familiar with Armstrong’s cycle of Plan-Do-Review, the characteristic of successful performance management that fit into any good charity, business or social enterprise. Regular supervisions and reviews with staff, volunteers and trustees will provide a framework for personal development and are vital for what Peter Senge calls ‘Learning Organisations’. Charities who say they are too busy because of the extreme demands to deliver more services, campaign for change, respond to opportunities and resolve crisis after crisis, are failing to learn.   By not doing so they fail to make the improvements necessary to help deliver the quality and excellence needed fulfil their missions.

  1. Understand what motivates your people?

Do you have a great cause but struggle to keep staff or volunteers? Understand how you can get the best out of them. Frederick Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene theory focuses on job/role design. Employees and volunteers are more motivated if they feel personally responsibility for the outcomes of their work, the work done must be meaningful and your people must be aware of how their effort impacts on organisational performance.

It is a powerful motivator for your people to feel they are playing a part in the delivery of your charities core objective whose cause they already support.

Andy Cook, Managing Director of Twenty Twenty- Bright Futures for Young People, emphasises that everyone at the charity works as one, everyone’s role is seen as ‘vital’ and the staff and volunteers felt they were building the charity together.   By building a community with authenticity, autonomy, learning and respect, people gave more of themselves which has ultimately led to a more effective organisation.

Remember your volunteers training and motivational needs: Happy volunteers are a huge asset to any organisation, they don’t just provide an extra pair of hands but often become lifelong donors. They can be a charity’s biggest asset because they offer something unique. They provide credibility in the eyes of beneficiaries, donors and funder; a fresh perspective as an ‘insider/outsider’; they can expand a charities sphere of influence in a community and to potential donors; they act as pioneers in creating and testing new services.

  1. Measure quality and instill best practice and learning

Funders such as commissioners of services and governmental agencies have been increasingly demanding the adoption of a recognised quality systems to establish organisational effectiveness and standards of services. Whilst there is a lack of tangible evidence that quality standards improve outcomes for beneficiaries charities can hope for improved systems and improved longer term outcomes for their beneficiaries.

The Centre for Voluntary Action Research suggests three factors that influence the successful implementation of quality measures; the focus on the ability to choose or negotiate the use of a system that complements a charities existing organisational culture and systems; the allocation of dedicated resources to implementation; driving best practice and shared learning.

  1. Gain the competitive advantage by supporting great team work.

Great team work can bring about many benefits. The mix of skills within a team is greater than that of one individual therefore increases the ability to solve complex problems. Teams can generate new ideas and provide support and help to each other whilst increasing a sense of belonging and commitment. People learn from each other thus generating a learning organisation in which quality and excellence are at its core.

So why do only one third of charity CEOs think they have effective leadership teams?

Jim Collins tells us to ‘Get the right people on the bus.’, but charities also need to increase the impact of team performance by;

  • Leaders modelling desired behaviour
  • Being open about mistakes and weaknesses
  • Listening to each other
  • Focusing on strategic issues
  • Investment on team development

(Compass Cass Model of Outstanding Leadership Team Performance, 2014)

These help mitigate against Lencioni’s well documented, ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ which identify; Absence of Trust – people not showing vulnerability; Fear of Conflict – leads to artificial harmony; Lack of Commitment – no ownership of decisions and creates ambiguity; Avoidance of accountability because of the lack of ownership people aren’t held to account for delivering their actions which leads to low standards and targets not being met; and inattention to results because people more concerned with their status and ego.

Barbara Frost, CEO Water Aid and winner of the 2015 Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement tells us, “For us, effective leadership behaviour involves demonstrating, promoting and talking about our organisational values, and ensuring that we talk about those at our inductions and when we carry out six-monthly reviews or annual appraisals.”

Rosie Ferguson at London Youth puts a big emphasis on investing in the right team. She says, “Be prepared for big investment of time, resources and commitment for all because the benefits of doing so are important for organisational effectiveness and success.”

Emily Martin is a freelance voluntary sector consultant and MSc student in Voluntary Sector Management at Cass Business School. She is a senior communications expert with over 20 years voluntary sector and commercial sector experience.

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