Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Jen: We have what we call our “kudos jar” in the common area, and that is filled with different types of candy have meaning to them. So Life Savers are for you to recognize someone that really pulled you out of a bind. Extra Gum is for the times that someone went the extra mile and went above and beyond to get something accomplished. And you go down the list, there’s a bunch of candy that represents different types of recognition that people can have.
Chase: And an example I’d like to give is within the first month of the fellowship, one of the other fellows was getting married in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the entire office came together and crowdfunded our trip to rent cars, rent a place to stay. The office sent out an email request for funds and they handed over an envelope full of cash and sent us up to the wedding. We came back with great stories and great memories, and an even deeper community across the Fellows. I think that’s been kind of one of my biggest embodiments and examples of what GlobalGiving is and what it means to me and what the people here stand for.
Cathy: And if you’re like doing this work with this heavy burden all the time, I don’t think we can sustain the energy amongst us and the positivity for our partners. So for me, I feel like that’s something very sort of GlobalGiving, is that we can be very serious about our work but also we can have fun with ourselves and bring a lightness to how we deliver our work.
Emma: One of the things that I love about GlobalGiving is how everyone is a high achiever and is constantly striving to take their work to the next level and is really committed to self-growth, organizational growth. We set goals, but goals are not kind of the point at which we’re trying to hit. The goals are kind of the starting point. We’re trying to exceed them beyond limits.
Jen: It’s as important to us that people are hitting their goals inside of GlobalGiving as it is that they are developing themselves personally. And so we spend a lot of time investing in the individual, whether that be having the professional development program that we’ve had where folks have a pool of funds that are available to them, a third of which can be used to pursue any kind of personal goal that they have, all the way to we did a Spirit Week earlier in 2016 where we had basically everyone stepping away from their desks for a couple of days to engage in personal development kinds of activity.
Nick: I think the culture here is one of made up of high achievers. We’re going to continue that, repeating that cycle until it gets where we want it to go. Having that mindset I think is really unique and something that for me and my role, I think really informs how I think about a lot of problems in a way that I might not do as naturally if it wasn’t such an omnipresent part of the way GlobalGiving operates. So that’s something that I think is really unique and that I’m really thankful for.
Jen: That premise is what is infused in just the way that we operate and the kind of person that’s attracted to working here, really questioning what is accepted to be the way that you have to do things and consulting the crowd or your colleague or what you have you to enrich your response or whatever it is that you develop as a solution. And then I think building upon that comes things like, well, we’ve got guiding principles but not hard and fast rules. Or you’ve got to make sure that your people are really quick, smart, high achievers, and able to think creatively about how to iterate on things, learn, and grow in order to keep that essence of the organization thriving.
Chase: I rank in my mind all values equal but if I have to pick a favorite right now, I would also say that my favorite is “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because that relates to transparency at GlobalGiving, which I think in my experience has been something that I’ve never seen at any other organization that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, in a sense that all decisions kind of are crowdsourced in a way at GlobalGiving and that’s something, which is rare, I feel like in other organizations. And not even just like decisions, but failures are not hidden or covered up at GlobalGiving. And this just kind of relates back to “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” because a part of that is learning how to fail and fail effectively and fail productively, and failing fast and not continuing to fail and acting like you’re not failing.
Cathy: I’ll also ask instead of like “Tell me about yourself,” and I’m sort of notorious for this question, for the person to describe themselves as either a glass of water, iced tea or orange juice. And there are pros and cons to each of those things but it forces you to think differently about how you’re going to give your response.
Emma: Those kinds of additional interests and knowledge areas and passions don’t just kind of come into play in kind of the daily work together, but we also do things like today, for example, we had a brown bag where one of our fellows led a session on learning the Cyrillic alphabet and then talked to us a little bit in Russian, and next week, he’s leading a discussion on Russian politics. And we have a guy here whose background is in neuroscience and he’s led some brown bags for us on…we have someone in the office who’s a juggler and he’s taught juggling. That kind of creativity is such an important outlet because we are I think constantly on the move, trying new things, iterating, being really vulnerable and talking about failures and challenges and so having those moments to kind of shift our brains a little bit and let that creative energy out and build relationships a little bit more, I think that’s really important.
Nick: And so someone will hit the bell and stand up and say, “We just got $50,000 donation from someone we never heard of before. Isn’t that cool?” and everyone will clap. And it’s a great way to kind of celebrate just little wins. We also have a gong for really big wins. It happens less frequently, but is terrifying when it happens because it just catches you right off guard. Inevitably, every now and then, someone will accidentally brush the bell and everyone has this Pavlovian response of “What happened?” People will stick their heads out of conference room doors and that person will have to stand there and say something to make them go away. But it’s just another great way of keeping the lines of communication open, sharing successes when they happen, and I think it’s a great little microcosm of what makes GlobalGiving GlobalGiving.
Jen: The Space is intentionally underscoring this flat feeling that we have here where we don’t have executives down a long hallway with office doors that are closed all day long. Everyone’s mixed in at every level of the organization together. It’s very bright and open — lots of sunlight, lots of color, bright orange and green and our brand colors everywhere. Lots of pockets for people to gather on an ad hoc basis. Either in the lounge or in our little island that we call Fiji which is literally like a cubbie with no doors and a hula person with that bobblehead in there with a sandbox. It’s a free open environment to encourage open communication. Lots of collaboration and transparency and if you’re walking by and you hear something that you’re interested in, you’re invited to join in on the conversation and offer your perspective.
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