Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: Tonight we will be going to San Francisco and to the offices of Universal Giving, an award-winning website to help people give and volunteer with top-performing projects around the world and where one hundred percent of each donation goes directly to the cause. We’ll start with their Founder and CEO, Pamela Holly and then hear from a couple other members of the team.
Pam: when you’re at the business unit goals meeting, the team meetings, everyone is saying, “Oh, this is what Sam is doing on Development.” “Oh, this is what Aung is doing at Product Development.” It gets people excited about the other areas, and you can also see the movement and the trajectory of people really moving the dial up. It’s in a lot of ways I would say it’s positive peer encouragement, too. I don’t want to say peer pressure because we don’t operate off of that here but positive peer encouragement to say, “Oh. They’re doing that. That inspires me to also reach my highest level.
Samantha: I think our process for performance reviews is very unique in a sense that initially, they’re self-administered. So, we get a rather large document, It’s roughly I believe, five to seven pages, where we completely detail all the points on a one to five scale of where we think we’re doing good, where we think we need to improve. We have the option to write paragraphs if we want. I think that’s really important because it gives you an idea of what you’re going to talk about before the performance review and where you feel you stand. Then our operation director goes over it in detail, and she discusses the points with you. I think that’s really important and very constructive.
Ang Tun: The major reasons people stay with Universal Giving is because we are a family, and we love each other. Every day is about love, kindness, transparency, and professional. We have a great mission. We try to connect people with colleague, givings and volunteer operation all over the world. We’re working towards that goal. Every day is about contributing to their community and society as a whole. We always encourage each other and even though we have some challenges, we always help each other. We are a team. We are a family.
Pam: We have summer fun 15 where we give everyone $15, and we pair you up with four people that you do not know, and we say, go out there and do whatever you want to do for as long as you want for today; an hour, the full day; whatever you want with that $15. Come back and tell us what you did. Those kind of things get people thinking. Some people went and bought roses and gave them to all the police officers. Other people went and got ice cream and brought them back to the team. One person went in and bought cookies and passed them up to homeless people. You have to constantly be thinking about culture and how you bring that in.
Samantha: What we do that’s really unique is if someone’s been with us for a while, we generally ask them, what are some other areas where you want to grow? What are some things that you’re interested in? Mine’s law. I’m applying to Law School right now. Our CEO knew that, and so she gave me an opportunity to work as a legal assistant here. Also, what I do is I help with our trademarks. I help with the facilitating of the renewals for those trademarks; any trademark correspondence that’s needed. I think that’s really unique. A lot of organizations won’t necessarily give you the opportunity to deviate from what you’re hired to do. Universal Giving will, and they’ll make it personable to your interest.
Ang Tun: Our usual meeting, we always start with transparency and love, and kind. Whenever we have an issue, we always talk… even though you’re an intern, you always can speak out on what your opinions and ideas. We always listen to everybody. We always try out the best solutions based on our mission. Because our missions and visions are always about love and as a volunteers, your colleagues give this to everybody in contributing to their society.
Pam: Because really culture is internal client service. That’s part of it. Listening to people, making sure they’re heard, making sure they’re understood. And as we said, in improv, you’ve got to be a great listener to be a good leader.
Samantha: We also have questionnaires that we’ve recently implemented. That’s a little different. We definitely do the cover-letter resume writing sample like most places but we also have a questionnaire where people can bubble in one through five how comfortable they feel on something, If they’re a designer applying here, “How comfortable are you with this software?– and then they market. So, that gives us a really good idea of where we stand with a candidate and where we may need to train them.
Ang Tun: I want to brag about Universal Giving with other people — we have multiple reasons but one of the things I really want to mention to them is we are very motivated every day. We are having fun working at Universal Giving. There’s not a day like you have depressed or maybe you might have some challenges but because everybody is coming to help you in all different ways, you’re satisfied yourself and then you’re always motivated.
Samantha: Our workplace culture is communicated to all locations around the globe. The way that this is done is like I said, we have remote employees. It’s very important I feel for remote employees to feel included. So, we do international potlucks where we’ll Skype them into the potluck, and we’ll all bring a dish from our own countries and talk about it. Even though they’re remote, they can eat their traditional dish and tell us a little bit about the recipe. Maybe they got it from a family member. So, that’s really fun. We also of course take advantage of all the recent technology, Skyping thus far, to really make sure that they feel like integrated into our culture even though they might be thousands of miles away across the globe.
Pam: I think really having that transparent, honest, upfront conversation right at the beginning; any issue that happens that might be uncomfortable. The moment that you feel that something is off, you’ve got to address it. It could be an instinct. It could be a conversation. Whatever it is, address it early and address it in a caring way. Not in a bad way.
Samantha: Something that’s really special about Universal Giving is we make sure to recognize team members, and we recognize them to the whole team. Something’s that happened to me at work that made me feel special is that when I was an intern, and I was initially hired from my internship, our operations director sent out a very lengthy email explaining why I was qualified for the position and what made me special; a little bit about the volunteer work I’ve done in the past. That just made me feel really good. It was something I could send home to my parents. Something they could be proud of. I think that’s very special about Universal Giving. I know we’ve done it for other team members. Our CEO has brought in roses for people. That’s really nice.
Pam: It’s caring enough about our culture and our team to apply for visas. Nonprofits who usually apply for visas are universities, not a nonprofit likes us. That’s probably one of the biggest, gutsy things that we’ve ever done in culture is to say we care about you enough to apply for a visa. That’s a big deal, Denver. That’s for the bigwig guys. That’s for Google and Facebook and all of that. I think that has had a huge impact on our culture which is, we believe in you so much. You’re providing so much unique value to us, and we’re not just going to say, oops sorry, your time’s up in the US. We’re going to dig in, we’re going to invest. We’ve got one of the top attorneys, and I think it takes guts and courage as a nonprofit to do that. I would say that’s one of the biggest things that we are in process of now that is very challenging.
Denver: I want to thank Samantha Baker, Ang Tun and Pamela Holly for their participation. If you want to hear this again or read the transcript just come to www.denver-frederick.com
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