Don’t non-profit employees deserve a coffee break?

Were you unable to get your coffee fix this week? On Tuesday, all 135,000 Starbucksstarbucks-logo.gif locations across the United States closed for three hours. Don’t worry. There wasn’t a shortage of Frappuccinos. No, this break was essentially a three-hour employee coffee break—for training. (Take a look at the official press release for more details.)

Wow. Sure the coffee mega-giant gets a lot of guff in the press now and then. But I for one must say how refreshing it is to hear a company take time out, at rush hour I might add, to focus on its number one audience.

Too often it seems employers take their employees for grant it and it’s a real shame. As smile-guys.jpgone of my mentors, Davis Young, said regarding audiences, “Among equals, employees are always number one.” An engaged employee is a productive employee. An engaged, loyal employee is a company’s best asset.

All too often, non-profits fall into the rut of “our employees are lucky to work here.” They start to believe the non-profit propaganda that the good feeling you get from doing good is the ultimate reason employees work for them.

Get real! A segment of non-profit employees work for non-profits because they believe in the mission strongly, but a whole lot more work there for another reason. If you ignore those people, you’re going to have a problem.

I think there is a wealth of opportunities at non-profits for PR professionals to prove their worth by engaging employees. In circumstances with small budgets, indoctrinating a captive audience (i.e. employees) in your mission is critical. Between having mission evangelists or apathetic drones, which would you choose? Obviously mission evangelists.

When you have only one or two communications professionals on board it can be extremely difficult to keep a consistent, on-target message about your organization. Making sure employees not only know what to say but actually want to talk about your organization will lead to the holy grail of current PR—buzz.

Sure you may not have the fun gimmick of allowing their employees to create their own signature drink, but a day or even a few hours of listening to them will go along way. According to a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, appreciation, followed closely by respect, are the top characteristics needed to be happy at work. As PR professionals, we know that keeping the lines of communication open and honest is the best ways to start building both of these.


So take a long coffee break sometime soon. Non-profit employees work really hard. It’s about time they felt their organization was darn right lucky to have them too.


2 Responses to “Don’t non-profit employees deserve a coffee break?”

  1. 1 Bill March 3, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I need a coffee break, too!

    After working for a nonprofit for nearly three years, I couldn’t agree with you more. All too often in the nonprofit world employees take a back seat to the illusive donor. Don’t get me wrong. Donors are important. But when an organization is providing a service, which most nonprofits do, employees have to be on board with the mission.

  2. 2 mattlevar March 15, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I sympathize with “Bill.” I’ve been at it for six years and I haven’t turned a profit either, and I have a coffee pot.

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