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Get a “GRPI” to Improve Your Nonprofit Team

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We’ve all been told at one point or another to “get a grip.”

Well, an important tool to have in your nonprofit toolbox is a GRPI. In fact, you should have a bunch of GRPIs in there.

GRPI is an acronym for “Goals, Roles, Processes and Interpersonal relationships” from organizational theorist Richard Beckhard for developing teams. 

When it comes to any nonprofit organization, aren’t they simply a series of teams? Different groups of people get tasked with crossing particular goal lines – resource development, annual campaign pledge drive, any number of fundraising events, marketing; facilities, programming and so much more.

A well-thought-out GRPI can improve your nonprofit team by allowing each team to develop a clear sense of what it looks like and how it functions. It’s for working with staff, too, as well as volunteers.

For example, I’ve worked extensively with Boys & Girls Clubs organizations throughout my career. Many Boys & Girls Club organizations operate multiple clubhouse locations throughout their communities and even in surrounding towns. It wouldn’t be unusual for the team at each program site to operate with its own GRPI.

Additionally, many Boys & Girls Club boards operate with a layered committee structure – board development, marketing, facilities, resource development, and so on. Again, it makes sense for each committee or workgroup to operate with its own GRPI.

Now that we all have a grip on WHO should develop and use a GRPI, let’s take a closer look at the tool itself.

The “goals” part of the GRPI spells out exactly what things the team is focused on achieving. It can AND should be short, sweet and to-the-point.

After defining a team’s goal(s), a GRPI helps set expectations of individual team members in the “roles” section. It provides a blueprint for what each team member will be expected to do. From the chair, assistants, honorary chairs and other members, the GRPI lists everyone’s responsibilities which will help improve your nonprofit team.

The “processes” section of GRPI defines and documents the nuts and bolts of operating the team. Think of this section as the place where commonly used procedures (aka systems) are used by members of the team. Here are a few examples from a local Earth Day committee for which I recently volunteered:

  • Meeting Notice: email sent 10-14 days prior to meeting asking committee members if they have anything to add to the agenda. Agenda emailed to committee members 5-7 days prior to meeting. Individuals who cannot attend a meeting RSVP regrets at least 24-48 hours in advance.
  • Meeting Notes: notes capture the following three things:
    1. who attended the meeting
    2. action items (who agreed to do what and by when)
    3. brief summaries of what was discussed during the meeting. Notes are emailed to committee members within 3-5 days after a meeting
  • Committee Recruitment: anyone is allowed to recruit others to the planning committee. These individuals may represent groups/businesses/organizations that intend to plan/implement an Earth Day activity, OR they may simply be civic/eco-minded individuals who want to help. Regardless, the process for recruiting someone to serve includes:
    1. Sharing a written volunteer description with potential members
    2. Explaining the committee’s purpose in your own words
    3. Asking them if they would like to join
    4. Answering their questions
    5. Circling back if they need more time to consider your request
    6. Sharing next meeting date/time with prospective new members
    7. Communicating the person’s name and email address to the committee chair.

Every group has its own set of mutually agreed upon group processes. The above three bullets are just examples for a planning committee. A few additional examples of “processes” I’ve seen on groups’ GRPIs include onboarding, communications, hiring and reporting.

While Beckhard calls the final part of his GRPI tool “Interpersonal,” I call it “Interpersonal Relationships & Individual Styles.”

The “I” in GRPI covers the team’s values for working together and how trust is built among members. While every group has its own set of rules, a few I’ve seen in this section include being:

  • Candid
  • Respectful of each other
  • Sensitive when dealing with each other
  • Flexible toward the needs and opinions of other
  • Creative and solutions-oriented
  • Professional
  • Mindful of the core values of the organization of which the team is a part
  • Supportive of each other

Creating a GRPI for a particular team is not a one-person, do-it-yourself project. It’s putting together a collaborative document that uses input from both staff and volunteers. You know what each has to bring to the team, so a GRPI shows you are a listener, too.

Hand out the GRPI during the onboarding orientation of a team. It sets expectations upfront and allows the team to function at a high level. It also helps avoid conflict by getting everyone on the same page.

It assures those on the team their experience won’t be like one of those crazy Keystone Cops silent movies. Rather than comic chaos, it provides a steady path for moving from point A to point B.

Standardizing things with a GRPI is a best practice to improve your nonprofit team and your results.

Having GRPIs for your various teams also gives your organization a guide that can be used more than once. As time passes, you review and adapt, of course. What worked? What didn’t?

People leave organizations. It’s part of modern life. But your GRPIs provide institutional memory of how things were done for the next set of team members. AND you don’t have to waste time starting from scratch when it’s time to get the new team in place.

If I had a nickel for every client who had awesome people ready to contribute, but never dipped down from view from on high at 30,000 feet for a closer look at the lay of the land, I’d be a rich man.

Finally, I can think of nothing better to demonstrate to prospective new board members or fundraising volunteers that your organization has a grip than by sharing a few of the GRPIs in your organizational toolbox during the recruitment process.

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