Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: Today, we’re going to drive up to Interstate 95 to Fairfield, Connecticut in the offices of Save The Children. It is often to difficult for legacy organization — and Save The Children will be 100 years in 2019 — to create modern and nimble work cultures to engage their employees. But as you’re about to hear, Save The Children had done just that. We’ll begin with their President and CEO, Carolyn Miles, and then hear from members of the staff.
Brad: But also we have a culture here that it’s ever-changing work. If you’re interested in something and doing something new, the opportunities are here. In the 11 years, I can’t think of one day I’ve been bored in my job
Michele: So, one of my favorite events that I think sets Save the Children apart from other organizations is Founder’s Day. Every year, we celebrate our founder Eglantyne Jebb by bringing staff all over the world together. We celebrate through our service award milestones. We celebrate our highest achieving award called the President’s Award, but more importantly, we bring staff together with their families, their children, our partners and donors, and we encourage everyone to join in that celebration. And that for me says it all. We’re a true family that works together, that collaborates to serve the mission and set that example for all of the people around us.
Grace-Ann: Also, one thing that I really love about here is the “Carolyn Chats.” I love when she sits down in an informal setting and just talks to us. We are able to ask any question. You don’t feel like you’re left out, you have nothing to say. Whatever concerns you have, you’re able to bring it to the CEO of the company. This is something I have never seen, not in my experience. So this was a welcome experience, continues to be, and it’s something I look forward to. I make sure the minute it comes on my calendar, I accept. So it is really, really good, I think.
Brad: Carolyn decided to rename it after our founder, who is Eglantyne Jebb. So it’s the “Eggie” and it’s a peer-driven award, and it’s not about merit or how great they’ve done or what they’ve succeeded in. It’s someone chooses the next person based on our values of the organization – integrity, accountability, collaboration, creativity, innovation. So if you feel there’s a peer who embodies those values, you can pass it on. But what’s so nice about it is that people take it very seriously. People come out in tears and it gets passed and it doesn’t stay within small workgroups. It gets passed across the organization to people you will never remember.
Jordyn: The thing that I’ll share is we have something here called the “Charlie [Sam] Fund.” So that is a program that HR runs and it’s targeted to employees who may not get the opportunity to go out in the field. It’s a grant that allows employees around the agency, no matter what office you’re a part of, to go out and actually see our programs and potentially implement your expertise of what your role is. So if, say, you work in finance but you don’t necessarily see the programs that you help fund or if you’re only doing finance internally, you might actually go and be able to provide your finance expertise to a program in the field and how they operate and see the work that’s being done. And so that happens annually and I have colleagues who have taken advantage of it and it’s been incredibly impactful for them, and I think very unique to our organization.
Michele: So unlike many organizations at our level and the nonprofit sector, very rarely do you see a group like ours invest so many resources, time and energy into programs like this. So everybody talks about leadership development, but these programs are different. They’re not about “here are the five things you need to do to be an effective leader.” They’ve very introspective. They’re about who are you as a person, going deep into the core. We spend a week with senior leadership or leadership at all levels from all over the world, not just the US, and we talk about “Who are you? How do people perceive you? How do you want to be perceived? What is your brand?” and we go real deep.
Erin: Save the Children is going to launch Workplace by Facebook. It was formerly called Facebook At Work. But it’s really about having that same kind of accessible, easy to use, friendly way to see where your colleagues are around the country and around the world, and to interact with them almost seamlessly. We all get up in the morning and check Facebook without even thinking the idea of workplace is that you can similarly, in an environment that’s appropriate, connect and see where your colleagues are and exchange information or photos, potentially documents, but it’s really more about how we sort of interact with each other in a social, virtual workplace. Because we’re not going to see each other every day, and often, we go years on phone calls with people and never get to see them in person.
Brad: But we have coaches that come in and something must’ve happened. Someone must’ve really advocated and realized that if we don’t change our corporate culture, people aren’t going to stick around here. So it’s more than the red walls, and even these red walls you see are new. The colorful, the cheerfulness of our office, it’s very fun, but it used to not be like that either. But that’s also superficial in a way. I think things like the leadership development go a little deeper and take commitment and time and money. And so that has happened somehow.
Erin: I really think that culture is driven by behavior. It’s not words. It’s not language, it’s not something on a page or a framework or a PowerPoint slide. It really is what you do every day all day long that everybody else sees.
And so even though we do find time to have a little fun and we do invest to go to our leadership development programs, it is a hard-charging environment and a place of great ambition, and so I don’t want to lose sight of that. That when you work at Save the Children, there are very high expectations and they’re set by people who are completely, a 110% dedicated to what they are doing every day, and you see them physically, the manifestation of that effort. Whether it’s in a crisis or just every day, people who work at Save the Children are working extraordinarily hard and we’re trying to work smarter and smarter and more efficiently.
Michele: And again what helps Save the Children stand out from other organizations is that sometimes it’s taboo to have a conversation with your manager and talk about what your next move might be, if it’s outside of your current role. Here, it’s highly encouraged. We can’t always promise internal mobility in that same pipeline. It depends on the division, the department, what your role is, what kind of work you’re doing. But what we can promise is that there’s plenty of opportunity for that, and that discussion is what your crafts the staff that we have, the caliber of people. And it constantly keeps people motivated and inspired to keep doing great work for children.
Brad: And then we have some great online resources, how to give the negative feedback. And we get taught and trained how do you do that while still inspiring but still ensuring that people are accountable for their work.
Jordyn: We have something here called the “Innovation Pipeline,” and I think that as a nonprofit, what I’m seeing here is a real emphasis on growth and how to be the best in our sector and how to really push ourselves to deliver for children in need.
Grace-Ann: And I think one of the things that you would not know about Save the Children unless you were physically here or working here is just the amount of work we do. As Michele said, you can be here a year and still not get a grasp, a full grasp of all the work we do. They try to help with that by having lots of brown bags and I get to participate in so many of those so you get to see all the different programs and all that stuff that’s offered. But there is just so much that we do.
Jordyn: International Day of the Girl falls on October 11 and we’re so excited to work on that last year, and it was an integrated campaign across multiple divisions within the agency. So it was marketing working with media working with sponsorship working with corporate partnerships. So there was no possible way for us not to be communicating and sharing ideas. And that’s something that I really am looking forward to in the coming year. I think because we’re so vast, there are times where we have siloed information whether it be vertical or horizontal but these campaigns and moments in particular are opportunities for everyone to share their ideas and for their voices to be heard and to work together for that ambition and that accountability that we’re all talking about. It’s just so exciting to have people with different perspectives, different expertise sharing their ideas. And so that integration and that breakdown of silos when we work on these campaigns I think is really special.
Denver: I wanna thank Carolyn Miles for allowing The Business of Giving to come to their headquarters and to all those who participated in the segment: Jordyn Linsk, Grace-Ann Campbell, Brad Kerner, Michele Gruner and Erin Bradshaw.
Come to denverfrederick.wordpress.com for the transcript of this podcast as well as my full interview with Carolyn Miles.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving/.