5 Ways to Create a Culture of Team Building in Your Nonprofit

Many people ask me whether there is any easy way to build stronger teams in their nonprofits. I often suggest that they go beyond the occasional activity or retreat and create a culture of team building in their nonprofit. Creating a culture of team building means that you establish an atmosphere where employees are encouraged to collaborate with each other. Your ultimate goal is to build a workplace where people get more done and enjoy working together to help each other succeed.

Our organizations are more productive and experience better morale when we build highly functional teams but many of us don’t take advantage of this valuable tool. Team building takes conscious and ongoing commitment from leadership so that it can take root in the organization. Let’s look at five fundamental ideas to help you create a workplace that values team building.

1. Team building starts at the top. In order to build strong teams we need to have buy-in from the people at the top. While it’s possible for departments or groups to do some activities on their own it’s always more effective when leaders are actively and continuously involved. After all, they’re part of the team. When leaders participate it sends a positive message of unity and shared purpose and employees can see that we mean it about team building.

2. Developing a culture of team building. Every nonprofit has a culture that it creates based on what it values. It’s up to us to design the type of culture that we want, in this case one of team building. We create this type of environment by giving people the opportunity to work together effectively and supporting them along the way. This may require shifting from a competitive or compartmentalized culture to one that encourages collaboration. As leaders, we can set a positive example by working well with others.

3. Team building takes commitment, time and practice. We can’t build cohesive teams if we only provide a one-hour training every four years and then send people off to fend for themselves. Team building is an ongoing process where people continually practice the skills related to collaborating and working together. At first it may feel strange or out of our comfort zone but, over time, our team building efforts will become the new way of doing things. Leaders play a big part because they decide and demonstrate through their actions whether team building is really a priority or a token gesture.

4. Set time aside to do activities. Identify a team building activity (you can find many ideas by doing a quick search online) that makes sense to you and do it weekly. People often ask me how to find the time to do team building when they have so much other stuff to do. The answer is that you either dedicate the time or you don’t. You decide whether team building is a priority and how you will fit it in to your work schedule. I recommend a weekly activity that stands on its own and doesn’t have to share space with other meetings. The idea is to give these activities importance and conduct them with no interruptions.

5. Celebrate your staff. We all get so busy that we forget that creating teams is really about celebrating people and developing their amazing talents and abilities. Team building isn’t about drudgery, it’s about helping people enjoy working together. When people are allowed to collaborate positively they tend to perform better and do so with fewer problems. Leaders can have a profound effect on the productivity and well-being of their employees when they focus on praising them as they build effective teams.

Team building is about helping your employees come together so they can get more work done with less effort and more enjoyment. There’s no mystery to the process, it just takes a commitment from leadership and setting aside the time to do it. The rewards are many because, when we build strong teams, our workplaces function more effectively and harmoniously. Try the ideas we’ve talked about here and you’ll be on your way to enjoying the rewards that come from creating a culture of team building.