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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Five ways to retain quality employees at your nonprofit

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The vitality of a nonprofit hinges on the commitment and enthusiasm of their employees towards the organization's mission. However, the nonprofit sector is currently experiencing a significant exodus of employees. This is the result of various factors such as inadequate compensation and benefits, limited long-term growth, poor work-life balance, and even ineffective leadership.

Recognizing and appreciating all employee efforts is crucial to fostering a sense of worth, thereby ensuring their continued motivation and loyalty. To embark on this journey of cultivating such a culture within your organization, here are five actionable strategies to get you started.

1. Reevaluate your budget

When looking at the budget, make room for all employees. Offer incentives for exceptional performance and advocate for the employees that work tirelessly. Award and recognize dedication and reliability. Foremost, ensure that employees are being compensated a sufficient wage with bonus and paid time off potential.

Now on the other side of the budget you have your donors. Shifting the dialogue regarding overhead funding is an aspect to explore. It’s essential for organizations and nonprofits to recognize that securing adequate funding for overhead costs is vital for effectively implementing programs and delivering services to achieve the desired outcomes.

2. Beef up your benefits

Take a second look at the benefits offered. Nonprofits do not always have the budget to offer up the most competitive benefits, but there are low-cost ways around this. One low-cost benefit is PTO and sick pay. Consider even implementing an unlimited PTO benefit. Organizations have found success in this strategy because it places value on the employee’s work-life balance. It is found that employees take up to 30 days a year at the most, and it helps free up administration time to carry over and track. Better PTO policies can show how much an employer values their employees by the flexibility given to balance their personal life. More low-cost benefits may include free lunches, staff outings and more flexible hours.

3. Provide recognition

Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done. Implementing a recognition program is crucial to fostering a better employee culture. Include the entire organization in this strategy. The more people on board, the more valuable the employees will feel.

Make the recognition tangible. Reward with something as simple as a thank-you card or a free lunch. Get in the habit of recognizing the staff on a frequent basis. The recognition should be elaborated on, and let the employee know what job they excelled at and why it was important. The more transparent leadership is, the more employees will recognize the initiatives that are most important to the organization.

4. Present career opportunities

Most employees who value their work want the opportunity to grow and gain more experience in their career. Start professional development in the onboarding process. Find out the training and skills incoming staff wish to learn, and take an interest in their personal career goals.

By providing opportunities for growth that benefits the staff and the organization itself, more ideas and different perspectives will emerge. Do not think that career growth strictly means moving up the ladder, because more often than not, it includes gaining further experience and knowledge to excel in the nonprofit field.

5. Set a different tone

Leadership sets the mood and tone for the entire organization. As a leader, your behaviors have a strong influence on the staff, so it is important to lead by example. Learn to recognize that each individual works differently and cater to their strengths and weaknesses in the way they would expect.

Embrace practices that empower your employees to do the work they were hired for. Give them a sense of fulfillment, independence, and trust in their responsibilities. Practice what you preach, and help your staff in creating boundaries for a good work-life balance, and you should do the same. Strategize with your leadership team about changes that can be made to recruit and retain quality employees. Be creative and use this as a guide to help you brainstorm ways to make your staff feel valued and fulfilled in their career with your organization.

Chelsea Guffy is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. She recently left Arizona Bleeding Disorders as a Development and Program Specialist to pursue an opportunity as the Marketing and Events Manager at Homeward Bound in Phoenix. On a daily basis you will find her cultivating relationships, developing marketing plans and planning fundraising events. She has found a true passion for the nonprofit sector and is always finding ways to give back to underserved communities. After tending to her professional responsibilities during the day, she switches over to family mode at night. Coming home to her husband and 18-month-old son is the highlight of her day. She enjoys spending as much quality time as possible with her family. In her free time, she loves to read a good book, re-watch episodes of "Friends" and "Grey’s Anatomy," and is currently on her way to checking off all 50 states by the time she is 50.

Chelsea Guffy


ASU Lodestar Center Blog