In the nonprofit world, the needs of the community and the donors who make community services possible are paramount. But equally important is keeping the volunteers and nonprofit staff energized and motivated about the organization’s mission – especially during tumultuous times like a pandemic.

That was the message from the panel discussion, “Keeping Your Team Motivated, Energized and Connected,” during NJBIA’s recent online summit for nonprofits.

“If you’re in a nonprofit, you’re always forward-facing and it’s always about the donors, the community, and showing everything that you do,” said Diana Zita, CEO of the Hamilton Area YMCA. “But you can’t forget about the choir. I’m not talking about preaching to choir, I’m talking about energizing the choir because they are what makes your organization tick.”

Zita said it is important to communicate successes to your team to keep them energized and motivated – whether it’s a small win like securing a case of hard-to-find toilet paper or major accomplishment, such as sharing the news that your childcare facility hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 all year, Zita said.

Angela Collins, assistant vice president for Access and Navigation at Virtua Health, emphasized that leaders need to be seen by their staff often, even if it can only be done via a computer screen because employees are working remotely from home.

“It is very important for me to stay visual, even though almost 90% of the team is working remotely they need to at least see you through the Teams App, or Skype or some type of video,” Collins said. “And let them know that you’re also rolling up your sleeves … and you show them that you are there for them.”

Angie Tsirkas, vice president for Government Banking at Northfield Bank who also serves on the board of 10 nonprofits, said teamwork has always been an important part of the Northfield Bank employee culture. When the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago it was even more important to get creative and make sure the more than 400 staff members felt involved and rewarded for their work.

“During the pandemic, we held a virtual awards dinner for our staff,” Tsirkas said. “Each employee was provided with a gift card to get dinner for their family at home, and then a blanket and some snacks were delivered to each one of the employees at home to watch the awards dinner.  And our president and CEO, Mr. Steve Klein gave a nice speech (saying) he appreciates all of the employees and it was just a wonderful event.”