Attracting and Retaining Talented Employees in the Nonprofit Sector

Attracting and Retaining Talented Employees in the Nonprofit Sector

Attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent is a struggle that nearly every employer seems to deal with at one time or another. Finding the right people involves advertising your position to the ideal demographic and audience. It also means interviewing, fully explaining everything the job has to offer, providing training, and encouraging the new hires to become part of a culture you’re proud of. 

It can be a huge portion of time for some businesses. As a non-profit organization, this can be a lot of time that you don’t necessarily have regularly. For that reason, finding the right candidates and encouraging them to stick around for many years is imperative to the long-term success of the organization. The right people can form the backbone of a thriving non-profit team with the passion and dedication to do some truly amazing work. 

Fortunately, many nonprofits can take a leaf out of the book of larger corporations when it comes to candidates. Sure, the organization may not have the deep pockets or extensive networks that these bigger for-profit businesses do, but strategies for reaching out and retaining new hires can stretch across the board. Here are some tips and tricks to do just that.  

Explain the Value of the Work

What drives your nonprofit organization? Why do you do the work that you do and why is it so important to your community? This is a critical message to communicate. It is what sets you apart from the many different businesses and for-profit companies out there. Even during a hiring crisis, there are people who want to do this type of work.  

Even though the message about the powerful work your organization is doing is important, be sure to be clear about pay. Overworked and underpaid is a common phrase in the world of nonprofits. Although budgets may be tight, part of retaining quality employees is paying them fairly. 

Of course, this can be a tough topic. Organizations that pay their employees too much are often characterized as wasteful and many grants or other funding opportunities restrict the use of funds for wages. One strategy to start addressing this might be to reframe the conversation with donors. Explaining market values for professionals doing the work in a for-profit setting and detailing the costs associated with having to recruit and train new employees can be a great place to start. Explaining the value of this work is also critical to long-term recruitment.   

Be Clear and Flexible With Benefits

Ultimately, there is going to be an upper limit to what you can pay your staff, and it probably won’t be nearly enough. However, there are some alternatives and perks that you may be able to offer that can help make up the difference. Today, many members of younger generations state that benefits, flexibility, and experience are more important than earning a lot of money. 

This leaves a lot of options for nonprofits to spice up new employee benefits packages. Perhaps there is a way for employees to work a more flexible schedule that allows them to pick their kids up from daycare or work a variable workweek. Or maybe it is possible for employees to work from home periodically. Perks and policies such as allowing dogs in the office, paying for gym memberships, discount movie tickets, or semi-regular appreciation gifts can go a long way in making employees feel valued even if you can’t pay them as much as you’d like. 

Developing a workplace culture that values work-life balance is imperative when it comes to nonprofit work. The important work that employees take on can be mentally and physically draining and employees need to know they are able to take time to recharge when they need it. Sure, there are certainly events and meetings where you need all hands on deck, but broad flexibility is extremely valuable to keep employees from burning out and looking for something different. 

Foster a Positive Work Environment and Culture

Flexibility is one aspect of a positive work environment, but it is also important to create a culture that employees want to be a part of. Company culture is a lot of things including creating a safe environment for people to work in, fostering transparent communication, and developing something unique and fun that seems to work for your employees. There is no special secret to developing this environment, it comes from hard work and building trust. 

Creating a safe environment is one of the important aspects though. A culture of safety starts at the top with leadership. It involves setting expectations that people are following protocols, checking in, and reporting unsafe behavior. Creating this type of culture can improve employee safety and well-being, reduce the risk of injuries, as well as help with developing strong communication between employees.  

A positive work environment that people want to work in is also one that is founded on trust. Encouraging employees to come up with creative new ways to attract donors or accomplish organizational goals is a sign that you trust them to do their jobs completely. Employees who feel trusted are typically happier, more productive, and less likely to leave their positions. These positive feelings seep outwards too — trust can be a great way to help attract and keep quality volunteers coming back

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Amanda Winstead

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

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