Improving Your Nonprofit Workplace: 4 HR Best Practices

Improving Your Nonprofit Workplace: 4 HR Best Practices

It’s a common misconception that nonprofit organizations don’t need HR. 

But, in reality, having the right HR strategies is essential for any organization that has employees—including your nonprofit! Not only does great HR management help ensure you comply with employment laws and policies, but it can also make a world of difference in pursuing your organization’s mission. 

How? When your employees feel satisfied in their roles and motivated to come to work and perform at a high level, it’s reflected in your external outputs. You’re able to improve how you cultivate and steward donors and ultimately do more for the communities that are counting on your services and programs. 

Your nonprofit may or may not have a full-blown HR department. Either way, improving your nonprofit workplace is possible. We’ll help you get started by walking through four nonprofit HR best practices you can implement today! 

1. Optimize your hiring and onboarding processes. 

The hiring and onboarding processes set the tone for the entire employee lifecycle. They’re great places to start when you want to make your nonprofit a better place to work. 

Begin by examining your hiring process. Here are a few elements to consider: 

  • What your job descriptions include. Job descriptions are critical documents not just for showing what duties and responsibilities an individual will need to perform in a given role but also for mapping out the path to career growth, facilitating regular performance management, and more. Ensure that your job descriptions include all essential information, such as the job title, duties and responsibilities, skills and competencies, relationships to other roles, and salary information.
  • Where you’re looking for job candidates. It’s one thing to have a well-written job description but another thing entirely to go out and find the best candidates for the job. Cast your net wide by sharing postings with online job posting sites, industry-specific job boards, social media, university and college career centers, and professional association websites or mailing lists. 
  • How you’re handling interviews. Provide candidates with an overview of the interview process, including the timeline you’re working with to find the right hire and any supplemental materials needed from the interviewee. During the interview, ensure you’re asking the right questions to help get a strong sense of who your candidates are and how well they would fit in your open position and organization as a whole. Leave plenty of time for candidates to ask your team questions, too. 

Once you’ve extended an offer to your ideal candidate and an employment contract has been signed, it’s time to begin onboarding. This process can have a great impact on your nonprofit’s retention rates. In fact, according to Kallidus, a strong onboarding process can improve retention by a whopping 82%. 

Make sure that onboarding is more than just filling out paperwork and learning people’s names. Provide actionable training that will help your new staff member develop the skills they need to succeed in their role. Make the process simple by creating a checklist outlining everything that your new employee needs to learn over the coming months. This resource can guide how you continue to train them and give you something with which to measure their progress.  

Remember that even when employees are fully onboarded into their roles, they’ll still want to progress in their professional learning. Provide plenty of opportunities for uptraining, learning from other teams, and leadership skills development. 

2. Offer competitive compensation. 

How you compensate your employees for their work shows how much you value their efforts and contributions to your organization. It plays a large role in overall employee satisfaction, so your nonprofit needs to offer competitive compensation, especially if you want to compete for top talent with the for-profit sector. 

As a nonprofit leader already working on a tight budget, you may be wondering, “How in the world can we offer competitive compensation?” 

The answer lies in taking a total rewards compensation approach. According to Astron Solutions, this means offering both direct and indirect forms of compensation: 

  • Direct compensation is all the financial forms of compensation that you provide your employees, from salaries to incentives. 
  • Indirect compensation refers to all the non-financial ways in which your employees are compensated. These include health insurance, retirement plans, PTO, flexible working schedules, wellness programs, and perks like reserved parking spaces or new equipment. 

The beauty of a total rewards approach is that it helps your nonprofit find a balance between your budget, mission, and long-term growth goals while also positively impacting your staff members’ lives in multiple ways. 

Of course, taking a total rewards approach isn’t an excuse for paying your employees less than they deserve. It’s simply a guiding philosophy that helps both you and your employees view compensation more holistically. 

3. Create a positive work environment. 

The average person will spend 90,000 hours of their lifetime working—it’s no wonder that everyone wants to work in an environment where they feel comfortable among their fellow employees and supported in their goals! 

To create a positive work environment or improve your current culture, use these strategies: 

  • Promote work-life balance. The key to a healthy work-life balance is boundaries. Make it clear what you expect from your employees but also give them room to thrive in their personal lives. For example, you might expect employees to work for eight hours each day but understand that by not having their work email on their phones they can better focus on their personal responsibilities outside of working hours. 
  • Encourage employees to prioritize wellness. Mental and physical health go a long way in helping individuals thrive at work. Encourage employees to prioritize their wellness by instituting stretching breaks, hosting workshops on stress management and sleep hygiene, investing in standing desks, and keeping your office stocked with healthy snacks. 
  • Provide the right tools for the job. While you could build a birdhouse using a shoe to pound in the nails, it would be much more effective and efficient to use a hammer. The same goes for nonprofit work, including fundraising. Make sure your team has access to the right tools, like a robust CRM, powerful fundraising solutions, and donor communication platforms. 
  • Have an open-door communication policy. Make sure your employees know that you’re there to listen and take steps to improve their working experience. Encourage them to regularly provide feedback on how your organization can better support them and then put that feedback into action. 

If you want your employees to look forward to coming to work each day, you have to intentionally make your workplace a place where they want to be. Note that you can always adapt the strategies mentioned above for hybrid and fully-remote employees, too. For example, you might try providing a virtual hub of mental health resources for fully-remote employees or providing free access to a fitness app as part of your total rewards program.

4. Recognize employee accomplishments. 

Being recognized for your efforts at work can be incredibly rewarding and motivating. Be proactive in seeking out and properly recognizing your employees’ accomplishments so that they know you value their contributions. 

Here are some top ideas for recognizing your employees, according to eCardWidget: 

  • Provide unique experiences for your employees to enjoy, like a wine tasting tour, cooking class, or an outing to a sporting event.
  • Host organization-wide lunches. 
  • Give social media shoutouts. 
  • Create an employee wall of fame. 
  • Plan and host an employee appreciation day that includes throwing a party and giving thoughtful gifts. 

Note that some accomplishments will be larger than others. For example, an entire team might spend months building out a brand new event website for your organization, while an individual might consistently go above and beyond to clean out the office fridge each Friday. The person who cleans out the fridge doesn’t need the same amount of recognition as the website building team (and likely isn’t expecting it). But you can recognize both the big and small accomplishments. Consider breaking out your recognition strategies into tiers to ensure your level of recognition matches the contribution. 

If you’re looking to strengthen your nonprofit as a whole, focusing on your HR management strategy is an excellent place to start. When you take care of your internal team, your capacity to serve your community will increase. Start incorporating these strategies today, and to take your efforts to the next level, consider partnering with an HR consultant. You’ve got this! 

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