Values are the fundamental beliefs of an organisation. They support your vision and culture and reflect what your organisation holds dear. Your values should be authentic, meaningful and lived but so many organisations create diluted and flippant values which go on to communicate just that: fluff.

5 questions to ask yourself when determining your nonprofit's core values

Authentic values enable growth, transformation and revitalisation. They can increase engagement, change perceptions and strengthen relationships. More than any other sector, nonprofits must form a deep connection with community, and their value quality is intrinsic based. Read more about intrinsic values here.

Shared values are key to this connection.

In order to define your authentic core values, ask yourself these five questions:

1. Who decides what our values should be?

Many organisations define their company values by what leaders think the values should be, rather than what they really are. The top-down approach doesn’t motivate people on what matters to them.

So then, an alternative approach that elicits and reflects the values of people in an organisation will better serve everyone involved.

We suggest to set up a dialogue by bringing groups of people together. This increases a sense of ownership and involvement.

When people emphasise actual core values to drive the company culture, strategy and activities, they become connected to their work, which improves enthusiasm for their work and therefore productivity. It makes them happy.

2. How do we go about defining the values of our organisation?

There is alignment between an individual’s values and an organisation’s. This is why organisations with strong values have people who fit them.

Prepare those who will be generating the values for an organisation with a guide for them to start thinking the values for the organisation. And there are many workshopping tools to help a group get aligned with what is important. Watch this space, as we will distribute an values action making workshop document for you to use.

3. What do well written values look like?

Many organisations use single words to describe their values. Here is an example:

  • Dependable
  • Adventurous
  • Optimistic
  • Creative
  • Open-minded
  • Committed

We don’t think single words are that compelling. Your people deserve something richer. No single word sums up the experience or direction without an explantation.

Here are Google’s. There are 10. They give exceptional meaning to their values.

And this is what Freerange Future’s core values look like.

4. How many values are enough? Or too many?

Generally 5 – 8 really well targeted, authentically expressed values give a solid foundation of what is at the heart of an organisation. Any more and you’re watering them down or reaching too far.

5. How do we use our values now that they are established?

You will need your values to be recognised and seen by every touch point of your organisation. Grind your values into your organisational DNA.

This is a very important leadership activity. Be the message by living it.

‘People listen to what we do more than what we say’.

Here are some suggestion to make them rich in your organisation.

  • Create a piece that announces what your values are. An example of this is a poster or banner in your organisation where people can read them daily.
  • Include your values within your communications and marketing. Pull them out in blogs, reaffirm them in printed material, such as brochures and annual reports. Find a page within your site dedicated solely to your organisational values. External enterprise will quickly recognise a good or bad fit between you and it.
  • Use your values to express policies and procedures.
  • Look at the overall impact. See how the values are being used to make a difference in the organisation. Publish these findings.
  • Frame goals around values. When ensconced in strategic planning for example, use values in order to define and imagine goals. This alignment creates power in consistent messaging and affirms the mission.
  • Reward people for living the values. This is an incentive to be aligned with the organisation and what it represents.
  • When leaders are together perhaps start the confab with a reflection where you can discuss how the values are working with real life execution. Look for examples and share. Publish these findings.

It is a priority that well targeted and authentic values be one of the strongest assets in any organisation. They are a source of moral fibre, and much internal activity is driven by this deep understanding. Spend time making them right for you.

Values are a key component in creating a brilliant brand for nonprofits. See where they fit by downloading this book.


Topics: Brand, Nonprofit