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  • Writer's pictureJosh Levine

Why Nonprofits Need Culture, Too (feat. Taj Rahman)

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Josh Levine (00:00):

What you do, just introduce yourself real quickly and then we'll get into the kind of how, how to, um, think about culture when you're building a non-profit.

Tanjim Rahman (00:09):

Absolutely, yes. So thanks for having me. I, um, I am the program manager for Network for Goods Jumpstart program, um, uh, under the umbrella of Bon Terra, as you mentioned, you know, we're one of the many business units under Bon, um, and we are like, kind of like the fabric of technology, Phil, for philanthropy, right? So, uh, in my scope, I work with, uh, a lot of nonprofit grantees. Um, they're grantees under the foundation partners we work with. Um, and what we do is we provide them with Network for Good all in one donor management system, and, uh, fundraising coaching, uh, for a year long capacity building program to help nonprofits better be better fundraisers, and, um, get that additional support from, you know, our company to really exceed in that, uh, in that goal. So hopefully that leads to more funds, which leads to more impact, which means to longer lasting organizations.

JL (01:06):

And you experienced what a culture design process was like when Great Mondays came in and helped boner. You were one of the culture ambassadors. So your, your question in your, what your thinking about now is, how can I Taj help an organization, not just learn how to fundraise better or use this software better, but actually build their culture and, and create something that helps the community thrive? So tell me, you, you've star, you ran a non-profit. So tell me a little bit about some of the challenges, the culture driven challenges mm-hmm. <affirmative> that you, that you came across that you think you would like to help other organizations address.

TR (01:53):

Yeah. Um, so running a non-profit was, you know, when you even put their non-profit down on paper, right? One of the, one of the, uh, the check boxes you have to fill out is what is your mission statement? What is your purpose, right? What is your organization's mission? And even crafting that is, is so key because what you're doing is you're outlining what the next however many years your organization exists, operates under as a mission. What is your, you know, your core, your core value as a company, right? So when I wrote my mission statement for Dancing for a Cause, you know, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write, but I came down to an organization uniting Individuals under one Common Interest that is dance. And with that common interest, creating a large student volunteering body to make a larger impact on the community and for the world. So that's a pretty long-winded way of saying utilize dance to unite people and then make those people do good things for the world, right? So, um, and that was my North star. Like anytime I, I got stuck or confused or did not know what to do next, you know, the mission statement helped guide me towards at least the right direction or trend in the right way. Um, and a lot of the,

JL (03:08):

That's exactly what it's supposed to do, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, ideally,

TR (03:12):

Absolutely. Ideally it's supposed to do that, but that's, you know what, maybe I got lucky and I wrote a good mission statement. What if I didn't? Right? I would be stuck a lot in a lot of different situations. Um, maybe my mission statement could have even been better, maybe more concise, I don't know. But no one gave me that direction or guidance. And when I worked with your company, Great Mondays, and yet a, you know, a, a solid process that, uh, eventually came down to this final for core values for our company, which were awesome, and, and also based on our, um, you know, the people within the organization. And it really held true. And that's hard. It's a hard feat to accomplish with all these different business units under one umbrella that just got acquired. Right? So, you know, taking that to like a smaller scale, like, you know, when I was reading your book, I saw like company, how they treat your employees is shows how you treat, how they then treat the customer, which then treats, which then leads to profit, which then helps the company, right?


There's a framework there, but that doesn't just have to be limited to a for profit company, right? Like any organization, any group of people can, can benefit from having alignment in culture, values and mission. Yeah. So, um, that's why I'm like, you know what? I'm always thinking, you know, day to day, my nine to five, that, you know, how are we helping our grantees make the most out of the jumpstart program building capacity, you know, building impact, how much have they improved in one year's time? And you know, a lot of the times I'm noticing over the phone speaking to these organizations, they're pretty understaffed, or the CEO is the one with all the passion and everyone else is just kind of helping them, Right? So

JL (04:51):


TR (04:51):

Yeah. Yeah. So, um, you know, how can we create more organizational culture and alignment for nonprofits too, so that they could have Yeah. A stronger team in, in general towards their mission, Right? Instead of just thinking about fundraising, but like, what's before that

JL (05:07):

Exactly. Well, one of the, so, so when you, you, we were talking a little bit before we, I pressed record, Um, one of the, what I have realized, because Great Mondays works with hyper growth technology firms, but we also do a lot of work in social enterprise, so schools, religious organizations, foundations. And what I realize is that while at a for-profit, the community that we're talking about, our employees, the people that are paid to show up and do the work, but at non-profits, those, the paid employees is a much smaller group. I mean, we're talking about 12 people that run a national organization mm-hmm. <affirmative> if we're lucky. Yeah. And so when we're thinking about culture, yes, you obviously describe, you're like, okay, so the person there, the president, the founder, or whomever it might be, they have the passion, and then you've got people that are struggling below them.


So yes, we need to get them on board, but when I've worked with organizations, the community that we need to think about and culture is all about, um, setting expectations around behaviors and decision making, and when we're thinking about a nonprofit, we're thinking about a community, and these are the people that we have to think about and incentivize that are not being paid to show up. And so that then leads me to the realization that the value that a company can provide to its community members, Yes, maybe a paycheck, but it could be so much more. And that's what we have to distinguish, and that's what we have to determine is what are the motivations and why are we showing up? And I'm a volunteer, I'm not even getting paid mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So what is it, what is the value that I am receiving from this? It might be doing good, but there's a lot of other, uh, more explicit descriptions around the value that I can provide. And even just defining that how I'm doing good. The mission statement or the purpose statement is gonna be part of the motivation, but you need those values to keep you also like, what is an appropriate choice? What is appropriate decision? Because that's, and that self, that intrinsic motivation is how these people are gonna show up. And that's, that's how I think about it. And I don't know if that rest

TR (07:28):

You organizational commitment doesn't just have to be from internal, uh, staff members. It, organizational commitment also comes from your donors, comes from your volunteers, comes from your donors, fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers, people who support your mission. And you know, if you have a strong culture behind it and it makes sense, and there's a branding behind it, it's easier to get those donors to stick and stick with you and lead to what is, I think, I think is what everyone would care about is the, at the end of the day, the impact your organization has on the community and the world, right? So, and, but even then, you could have a lot of impact and no one knows what you're doing because you're not crafting it, you're not narrating it, you're not explaining, or, you know, looking back at what you've done and sharing it for everyone to be inspired from or you know, what have you.


So yeah, you know, everything that, you know, I'm like, I'm still not done with your book, as I said, but like, as I'm reading it, I see a lot of like parallels into, you know, how it could better serve or how these frameworks can be translated into a non-profits world. And, um, you know, of course like that plus the fact that I deal with non-profits every day and, and, you know, a goal, like a purpose of my work is to help them better be better non-profits. You know, I just see like there's a lot of good that you can do too, Josh. You're just not in, you're not plugged in there yet, but like, right. If you were, if you, Josh was here to teach some of these nonprofits, like maybe they're Yeah. Or can be in another direction. I believe it. So I think that, you know, translates to anything, right? Any organization, any team, any group of people working together, any tribe, whatever. Like there needs to be alignment on mission, goals, values, um, so,

JL (09:14):

And understanding about what, what, what you signed up for, what am I gonna be doing and what do I get? Amazing. All right, Taj, I appreciate it. Thank you for, for, for, uh, hanging out and having this, uh, conversation with me. So Taj is part of Bon Terra Tech, b o n t e r r a t e c h If you wanna check out the good stuff that they're doing, it's amazing. Um, and, uh, yeah, awesome. Thank you for being on this journey with, uh, with us and the great Mondays community,

TR (09:44):

<laugh>. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Josh.

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