How To Improve Employee Retention in Your Nonprofit Organization With 6 Strategies


These are volatile times in the workplace, as the pandemic brought the marketplace to a standstill. Charitable organizations, too, have felt the aftershocks rippling through their staff, leaving empty seats where once were valued employees. Experts agree that we have entered a period known as "the Great Resignation," where many employees have voluntarily resigned from their positions. 

Despite nonprofits being hit hard by "the Great Resignation," only 20% of them have an employee retention plan, even though this is one of the fundamental HR policies for nonprofit organizations. To help you draft one of these plans and preserve your invaluable talent, we created this guide to cover:

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What Is Employee Retention?

According to a recent NonprofitHR survey and study, the voluntary turnover rate for nonprofit employees in 2021 was 20%, compared to 12% in the private sector. What is worse, NonprofitHR also discovered that 45% of nonprofit employees expected to change jobs within the next five years, with over half of that 45% intending to leave the nonprofit sector entirely.

employee-retention-in-nonprofit-organizations-strategiesTristan is ready to learn all about employee retention!

While working for a nonprofit is a reward in and of itself, the private sector dangles the lure of greater compensation, and an increasing amount of workers are biting. Employee retention means taking the necessary steps to establish a healthy environment so that your workers do not take the bait.   

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6 Employee Retention Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations

Data-driven nonprofits understand that overhead costs skyrocket when you hire new employees as opposed to supporting and maintaining your current ones. Here are some best practices to help you do the latter so that you are not the next organization facing high turnover. 

Create a Formal Recruitment Policy

A formal recruitment policy helps to improve employee retention. It sends a positive message from the beginning, setting the standard for organized and responsible hiring and treatment of employees. 

Here are some topics you should address as you determine how to staff your nonprofit organization:

  • Outline the traits that make for an effective employee for each role.

  • Detail the hiring procedure from start to finish, including reviewing the applicants, conducting background checks, and onboarding the new hire.

  • Fill each job description with clear, comprehensive information about the role responsibilities and compensation package.

  • Plan an exit strategy that includes performing exit interviews to see why employees are leaving.

Pro Tip: Many organizations use HR softwares for nonprofits or outsourced HR services for nonprofits to author a professional recruitment policy in no time!

Compensate Your Employees Fairly 

People love being part of a mission that makes the world a better place, but they also need to be able to support their lifestyle. It may be difficult depending on your funding situation, but make an earnest effort to provide a respectable salary and offer a host of benefits, such as bonuses.

Even though you are not trying to compete with for-profit companies, you should be aware of what comparable nonprofit organizations are offering their employees. This gives you a baseline for comparison that you can use when you are planning your own compensation packages. 

Offer Professional Growth Opportunities

Nobody wants to be stuck in a dead-end job, no matter how rewarding the work is. This is a major reason why so many nonprofit workers lose their motivation and move on to something different. 

Bringing in someone new for a coveted position can be demoralizing for long-term employees, so bolster your team by promoting internally whenever possible. Also set up other avenues for professional development, such as:

  • Providing nonprofit HR training and other trainings

  • Paying for field-related certificates

  • Starting a mentorship program

  • Sending them to industry events, such as conferences and workshops 

Recognize Your Employees’ Contributions

Always be on the lookout for when your nonprofit leaders and employees go above and beyond. Do not let the opportunity pass to acknowledge how hard they work, especially when they go the extra mile. 

Everyone wants to feel like an important cog in the machine, and recognition makes your employees feel valued, encouraging them to continue to work their hardest. 

Find ways to praise your workforce both privately and publicly. This lets them know both that you appreciate them and that the appreciation is strong enough to brag about to their peers. 

Here are a few ideas on how to make recognition tangible: 

  • Praise them publicly during team meetings.

  • Send them a gift card to Starbucks, Target, Uber Eats, or somewhere else.

  • Create an appreciation board in your nonprofit’s office space, highlighting them and their achievements.

  • Feature them on your nonprofit’s social media accounts.

  • Use free nonprofit HR software to create awards and certificates.

Get To Know Your Employees Personally

Every team member should be valued as a person, not just as employee #239.

Spend time with your workers to get to know who they really are. Phone systems for nonprofit organizations offer many team collaboration tools for virtual communication. However, spending time with them in person is even more valuable because body language and other subtle nuisances get lost in video and voice communication. In person, you can communicate with greater effectiveness to show interest and build trust. 

Here are some fun ways to create opportunities to get to know your team:

  • Hold happy hours, lunches, and other non-work outings.

  • Start your Monday meetings by recapping your weekends.

  • Spend time working alongside them instead of staying in your office.

Finally, make use of the information you learn about them. For example, if you are sending them a gift card, make it for a store that you know they like. Or, plan company outings based on a hobby that everyone shares. Remember, a little bit of caring can build a lot of loyalty.

employee-retention-in-nonprofit-organizations-strategiesAnthony is ready to implement these strategies!

Promote Work-Life Balance

Managers in your nonprofit organization must prioritize the needs of your workers because they are one of the most valuable assets you have. So, do your best to ensure that you do not overwork them. Burnout is a real risk that strongly contributes to employee turnover in nonprofit organizations.

While you may not be able to personally guarantee 40-hour work weeks every week, when possible, give your employees time to enjoy life outside of work. You can do this by:

  • Giving everyone an hour or two off on warm, sunny Friday afternoons

  • Creating special company holidays 

  • Providing tickets to sporting or cultural events in your area

Pro Tip: You can earn bonus points with your employees by combining these retention strategies for a retention coup-de-gras! For example, maybe an employee just finished a month-long grind for a major project. Purchase two tickets to a musical that you know they like, and give them the time off to attend it with their partner or friend. Win-win-win!

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Final Thoughts

Employee turnover is inevitable regardless of the industry. So, while you cannot completely prevent the loss of valued employees, you can certainly provide incentives that encourage them to stay for the long haul. 

Use our tips to design an employee retention plan that ensures that your staff does not want to be anywhere else but with you, making the world a better place.

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💡How do nonprofit organizations retain employees?

Nonprofits can retain employees by using these six tips: create a formal recruitment policy, compensate your employees fairly, offer professional growth opportunities, get to know your employees personally, recognize your employees’ contributions, and promote work-life balance. Find out more. 

🔑 Why do nonprofits have a high turnover rate?

Nonprofits have a high turnover rate because they struggle to compete with the salary and benefits of private sector jobs. Find out more. 

📝 How do nonprofits ensure fair employee compensation?

Nonprofits ensure fair compensation by researching what similar organizations in their area provide. Find out more.


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