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Nonprofit Culture - Facets of Safety and Choice (episode 16, part 5 of 10)

Updated: Apr 24

In this video, you'll learn why you should integrate the facets of - "safety" and "voice" into your nonprofit culture, and why integrating these facets is imperative if you want to build a high-functioning culture where people feel valued and appreciated.

Intended Audience:

Executives, Board Members, Staff.

About the Series:

Welcome to my Nonprofit Leadership series "How to Build a Gold Standard Nonprofit."

Whether you're a seasoned executive director, or new to the nonprofit world, this video series of 21 videos will give you a set of tools and principles (and good reminders) that will help take your staff, board, organization, to the next level of performance and impact.

The videos are short. There is no mumbo-jumbo theory, just wise advice and practical tactics you can use and apply immediately. It all comes from though lessons I've learned while building eight nonprofits over the last 20 years.

I'll be sending out one video a week. For those who want to binge on the series, or if you missed an episode, you can find them all (and more) on my YouTube Channel -- The Nonprofit Mentor.

Save These Videos

Save these emails in a folder and send them to staff once a week. Or, show one or a two at every board meeting. You can even use them when on-boarding staff, board members, or volunteers. Enjoy and Learn!


PS: You can read more high-quality leadership content in the bestselling books below. (50% off)

by Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat Facilitator”

Hi, Tom Iselin, here . . . and welcome to First Things First. This is Day 16 of Boot Camp—A Leadership Guide to Building a Gold Standard Nonprofit. Today, I’m continuing the series on how to build a “Get it Done!” CULTURE.

In the previous episode, I covered the various types of “elements and facets” that make up a culture. You need to understand these concepts to build the structure of a culture—whether it’s a board culture, staff culture, or an organizational culture.

Today, I want to discuss two additional facets that I believe all nonprofits should consider incorporating into their organizational cultures.

As you recall, culture answers the fundamental questions: What does it mean to part of your organization? What does it mean to be on your board? What does it mean to be on your staff?

The reason why it’s imperative to develop a well-defined culture for a nonprofit is that it creates a unifying force – an ethos – that yokes the hearts, minds, and actions of everyone connected with the nonprofit to fulfill its mission . . . It creates a holistic environment, a prevailing spirit that permeates everything that is said and done.

Remember, your mission tells people what you do. Your vision tells people where you are going. But your culture tells people who you ARE? It tells people what you Stand for? . . . It tells people what you Believe.

I cannot stress enough how important this to understand. Because if you don’t know – collectively – who you are, what you stand for, or what you believe . . . how can you effectively fulfill your mission . . . how can you expect you’ll end up where you want to go?

Last episode, I talked about the FACETS of culture and how you can use them to


Here are some of the words I shared that can help a board symbolize a “Get it Done!” board culture. Words such as work, excellence, accountability, teamwork, honest communication, and impact.

As I said early, I want to share two more facets with you that I have found to be especially effective when building “organizational” cultures.

The first is SAFETY. No matter what type of organizational culture you establish, let me suggest adding “safety” as one of the primary facets. Why? People want to work in an envi­ronment where they feel safe . . . intellectually, physically, and creatively.

They also want to feel respected and valued. Unsafe cultures, where fear of physical and emotional harm is prevalent, will cause people to withdraw and disengage, resulting in workplace tension and poor performance.

It’s important that you create a culture where people are encouraged to be themselves and to express their opinions, ideas, and personalities without fear of judgment, harassment, or persecution. A safe culture creates a foundation for a happy and productive workplace and boardroom.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to define a culture early on. If your culture becomes UNSAFE as a result of hiring and nominating people that turn out to be disrespectful, rude and judgmental, you’ll find it difficult to change your culture into a SAFE one because it’s difficult to change a per­son’s nature.

Therefore, if you want your staff and board to share a common set of values that fit into a particular style of culture, say a SAFE one, you need to be very thorough about the types of values, standards, and beliefs someone holds before you hire them, or ask them to join your board.

Another important cultural facet you should consider is “voice.” Staff, board members, and volunteers need to feel empowered to share ideas, help make decisions, and speak up about something they don’t like.

If you hire a tyrant for a chief executive, a bulldozer for a board chair, or a know-it-all manager, expect a divisive and contentious culture. Strong, self-centered personalities tend to squelch the voices and feelings of others.

This will infect your culture with resentment and negativity, and people will feel their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. Eventually, people will shut down, repel each other, and lose enthusiasm for work and service.

To prevent this from happening, make it a priority to establish a culture of open communication. Hire and nominate selfless, compassionate leaders who care for the welfare of others and encourage people to share their thoughts and feelings.

If you do this, you’ll find people more likely to participate in your directives and fulfill your mission because they feel empowered and respected.

That’s it for today. In the next episode, I’ll be discussing two more important cultural facets you may want to consider—getting personal, and caring for others.

By the way, if you’re enjoying this series, like this video and share it with a friend. Until next time . . . Whooya!

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

Additional Resources:


Tom's Books, Podcasts, and YouTube Channel

Tom Iselin has built four sector-leading nonprofits and four foundations. He’s written six books, sits on six boards, and hosts a video blog and podcast. Each year, Tom speaks to more than 5,000 nonprofit leaders at conferences across the country. He is considered America's best board retreat and strategic planning facilitator and is a leading authority on high-performance nonprofits, and his impact on the industry has been featured on CNN, Nightline, and in Newsweek.

Tom is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board development retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, executive coaching, and speaking. To relax, he loves mountain biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, and baking.

If you’re in the hunt for the best board retreat/board development facilitation, or the best strategic planning facilitation, it would be a privilege to learn more about your organization and the aspirations you hope to achieve as you work to propel your noble mission. Jot me an email to set up a meet-and-greet call.

To learn more, visit:


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