Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have always amazed me. To learn about motivation we must pay a brief visit to the wonderful world of NGOs.
Some NGOs, mainly the bigger ones, employ professionals. They of course need administrators, secretaries, IT managers and all sort of professionals commonly also employed by the private-sector.
However, salaries paid by NGOs are considerably lower. For starters, most NGOs live by donations and/or cash injections from corporations or governments. To make matters worse, competing NGOs are constantly fighting for the same sources of sponsorship. Money is not broadly available.
Secondly, NGOs have complex business cases. They are fighting battles that have - by far and for many years - been neglected by governments as well as the private sector. That means that loads and loads of money are normally required to tackle the core issues defended by the NGO. Very little money is left to keep the engine running and therefore, salaries at NGOs are statistically lower than market average.
Most NGOs go beyond traditional employment as means of having professionals working for their cause: they recruit volunteers. Volunteers represent a cheap alternative to steady workforce, but also add their own challenges: not necessarily having the right people at the right time in the right places; having to invest in screening and training processes and, the biggest of all challenges, motivation.
How do NGOs motivate their lower-than-average-paid employees? How do they motivate their hoards of volunteers who work - and work very hard - in exchange of no monetary reimbursement? The answer is dashingly simple: NGOs have - by and large - very clear missions. These are not only clear but they also connect to peoples' lives. If you are an animal lover, you will connect to NGOs that fight aggression towards animals or that aim to preserve wildlife. The mission is clear; the mission is alive; people grasp it and self-motivate themselves to great extents.
In my experience volunteering for NGOs, I have very often met bright people who not only dedicate a great part of their lives to free-of-charge volunteer work but who will also donate big amounts of money to sponsor the cause. Sometimes their whole lifesavings get injected into NGOs which they connect to.
Most private-sector companies lack a clear mission. Of course, it doesn't mean they lack a written mission - most companies have that. In the nineties, it was common to have those written missions on the walls. What companies lack is not this piece of paper, but a mission like the NGOs': one that is clear and that employees can connect to; one that can push people to go beyond their limits, to think outside the box. This kind of mission is the biggest motivation tool any enterprise can have but most, unfortunately, neglect.
Does your company's mission connect with you? Does it motivate you?