Disorganization in the Non-Profit Sector

Disorganization within an organization. Most likely this is not strictly a non-profit problem, but I work in the non-profit world, so I’m going to write about it from my point of view.

I have seen a lot of disorganization in the non-profit world, and the worst thing about it is that nothing seems to be done to try to correct it. Whether it’s an older employee who does not understand new technology well enough to do his/her job efficiently but is still retained (most likely at a high salary because s/he has seniority), or it’s a high-level employee who is completely disorganized and causes more work for his/her colleagues because s/he does not take the time to give clear instructions … it’s a problem. And it’s a problem that no one seems to do anything about it.

I have also noticed that in the non-profit sector, often too many people are pulled in to work on a project, and it becomes counterproductive. Often this occurs when the project is at the request of a lay leader, who gets involved and doesn’t understand the most efficient way to work.

I would be happy to hear suggestions on how to improve organization within NFPs. I think it would benefit the sanity of us all 🙂 

Chava Ashkenazi

Jerusalem, Israel 

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4 Responses to Disorganization in the Non-Profit Sector

  1. Tamara says:

    My fantasy fix-it is an administrative staff person whose job is to be an organizational problem solver – someone who will create work plans and protocols that everyone involved in any project, no matter what level, has to abide by, so that there is one thing going on and everyone knows his or her role. Essentially, it’s called a manager. But budgets are tight, blah blah… except that NOT having a manager inevitably slows everything down, since the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, etc. So money that could be well spent on a manager IS saved by not hiring one, but then is squandered on all the extra hours of work that are created when non-managerial types are forced to try to solve organizational problems, but without having the problem-solving skills to do so effectively.

    So, in short, I know what you mean.

  2. chavaleh1127 says:

    Thanks for your comment, Tamara! I think another problem is that sometimes a person rises the ranks within an organization, and eventually becomes a manager. However, being (for example) a good fundraiser does not necessarily mean that a person will be a good manager- they are very different skill sets. I agree; NFPs should really consider having a managers whose sole job is to manage their department.

  3. Aaron says:

    Chava, the two examples you provided, both, sound like skill set issues. I wholeheartedly agree with you, that disorganization can have drastic impacts on any organization (NFP and FP); but identify the root cause can be a little more complex. In the first example, it is incumbent upon the employee’s supervisor to recognize the deficiency in the skill set of the team member. If the individual is having difficulty with new technology/processes, assistance needs to be provided to get their skills up to par. If it comes about that the individual has no interest in learning the skill, and it is necessary for the job, then it becomes a crucial conversation to assess on how to overcome the barrier (assuming the team member wants to overcome the barrier).

    That same concept applies to the high-level employee disseminating unclear instructions to a team. Be it lacking communication skills, project management skills, time management skills, etc. Now yes, every manager has a manager, and ultimately you can end up at the top of the ladder and the issue then becomes the person at the top is source of the confusion. In that instance I’ve found that there are typically a few subordinates that can interpret, which is great for the interim; in the long run, someone ultimately has to give the feedback that they are not communicating effectively.

    In both cases, the organization has to culturally become comfortable with giving/receiving constructive criticisms. If one of my team is falling behind in a skill, I must talk the situation over with the person; there could be a variety of factors at play, and I’m always willing to help the team member get back on track, but at the end of the day we need the person functioning as optimal as possible. On the flip side, if I am distracted and not disseminating clear instructions I truly appreciate it when one of my team approaches me and tells me. We all want/need feedback to get better, and it needs to be honest feedback.

  4. chavaleh1127 says:

    Aaron, thanks for your great feedback! Something that I have heard of recently is a “360 degree review”. For those who don’t know, it is a review in which each employee is evaluated by not only his/her manager, but by those under him/her as well, for a more comprehensive review, as well as a more honest look at how the employee relates to his/her manager, peers, and “subordinates”. I think that if more organizations instituted this type of review, it would open the door for more honest communication, and hopefully lead to positive changes. It might mean more effort, but theoretically if problems can be addressed and solved then employee retention will be higher, which is certainly to the benefit of every organization.

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