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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How nonprofits can successfully retain and recruit staff

staff retention

For years, nonprofits have seen high turnover and burnout with their staff. While the mission and impact of an organization can be motivating to staff, it is not enough to retain and recruit the best and most passionate talent. Establishing retention and recruitment strategies that focus on the people of the organization and their needs are crucial in maintaining and attracting talented and satisfied staff.

Where do you start and why?

To successfully retain and recruit staff, nonprofits must start by changing their mindset in how they spend money and resources on them. An investment must be made in the people of an organization to foster connections and acknowledge their value. If they feel connected and valued in the workplace, they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated in their positions. Nonprofits can then move on to building their retention strategy that will aid in recruitment.

How to build a retention strategy

  • Provide fair compensation packages: This is where the mindset on money applies. By determining fair compensation packages and providing these, an organization clearly shows that they value their people and prioritize their well-being. It is understandable that not all organizations are in a financial state to provide compensation at market levels though so by supplementing their compensation packages with benefits, perks and flexibility, organizations can still show they value their staff.
  • Allow flexibility and perks: More nonprofit staff members are looking to their organizations for flexibility in their work hours and location. In this new era of remote and hybrid work models, people want to maintain their work-life balance through flexibility on how and when they work. By permitting this option and supplementing with generous PTO plans, staff members can take the time to relax and address personal needs without worrying about their paychecks. Taking the time to maintain the work-life balance can help to reduce burnout commonly found in the nonprofit sector.
  • Foster a positive work culture: Research shows that when employees feel appreciated, valued and comfortable at work, turnover decreases and they feel more motivated in their positions. That is why creating a positive work culture through employee recognition and relationship-building channels, gatherings and programs are important. This can be strategically planned with anything from notes praising them for their hard work to casual staff gatherings for new and veteran employees to chat and get to know each other.
  • Offer growth and development opportunities: More and more employees joining the workforce seek training and professional development opportunities at their organizations. They want to be able to see a path forward and for growth in their career. Organizations can share out free resources or offer professional development dollars to help foster this need for development as well as lay out career paths for staff to refer to when thinking about their growth at the organization. This transparency shows that organizations want to see their staff succeed and thrive in their careers.

How to build a recruitment strategy

  • Establish and share the elements of your retention strategy: Recruitment is reinforced when a solid retention strategy is in place that addresses the needs of the staff. Candidates are drawn to compensation, perks and flexibility and by sharing these elements far and wide, curious candidates will see some of the highlights of joining your organization.  
  • Branding: Good news, strengths and the mission of an organization are all highlights of an organization and can help in attracting exemplary talent. By pushing these features out through multiple channels, candidates can clearly see the benefit to working for the organization and what makes your nonprofit so unique and special. It is also an opportunity to inspire by sharing out impactful and moving stories from key stakeholders with the organization including current employees, volunteers, donors and program recipients.
  • Tailoring recruitment to the candidate: The hiring process can be daunting and unknown to candidates. By taking the time to connect with the candidate and provide updates when possible, this can make the difference between them choosing you over another nonprofit. Flexibility and working with the candidates’ timeline when possible also shows that you prioritize the individual and gives them a sneak peek into how the organization treats its people.

Recruitment and retention of nonprofit staff all comes down to centering your strategy around the organization’s greatest asset: the people. By taking action to prioritize the needs of current and future people of an organization and their experiences, an organization can truly thrive.

Ashley Rausch is a 2023 graduate of the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Ashley currently resides in McAllen, TX and works remotely as the Development Support Supervisor for the Oregon Health and Science University Foundation headquartered in Portland, OR. She has worked in the nonprofit sector and in fundraising and development for almost 7 years. 

Image by Lillian Finley

Learn more with our Optimizing Human Resource Strategies in Nonprofits Certificate

The Optimizing Human Resources Strategies in Nonprofits certificate is for individuals seeking knowledge and skills in nonprofit human resources, volunteer management, change management and conflict resolution.

Course content includes:

  • Complying with federal and state employment laws and compensation systems
  • Recruiting, managing, motivating and rewarding both staff and volunteers in order to effectively utilize their strengths
  • Effectively lead and champion change within an organization
  • Developing strategies to overcome internal and external conflict


Ashley Rausch


ASU Lodestar Center Blog