Make Your Nonprofit a ‘Dream’ Employer: How to Compete with the For-Profit World to Attract and Retain Employees

Make Your Nonprofit a ‘Dream’ Employer: How to Compete with the For-Profit World to Attract and Retain Employees

If you manage or serve on the board of a nonprofit organization, you may have noticed a disturbing trend: it’s becoming harder to compete with the private sector when wooing employees. Research shows that about two thirds of nonprofits don’t have a strategy for talent acquisition, and more than 80 percent don’t have a game plan for retention. Keep your nonprofit strong by taking these three actions to stay competitive.

Recognize the Problem

Sticking your head in the sand will not help. Gone are the days when nonprofits could afford to take a “you’re lucky to be working for us” attitude. Get your management and board members to admit they’re going to have to come up with creative ways to draw in top employees – a major philosophical change that makes hiring more about the candidate than the prestige of the organization.

Offer Other Perks to Balance Salaries

It’s a fact of life that few nonprofits can offer competitive salaries. First, you need to figure out what a desirable salary is by surveying other nonprofits and businesses in your area. Next, see if you can find ways to make up for salary gaps in other ways:

  • Offer better work-life balance than the corporate world. This can be a boon to employees of all ages, whether they have young kids or aging parents at home. When possible, allow employees to tweak their hours or permit working from home periodically. Maybe there’s even an employee who would be thrilled to bring a docile pet to work.
  • If your nonprofit deals with heavy problems, such as like geopolitical crises, natural disasters or serious illnesses – your employees need regular breaks to recharge and refresh. Make sure they get adequate vacation time; for some workers, even unpaid time off is relished.
  • Create an office environment that rivals those cushy Silicon Valley companies. When possible, encourage a relaxed dress code. Treat employees to gourmet coffees or a paid lunch every Friday. Find one-offs that provide lasting perks without an ongoing expense. Allow employees to enjoy music at their desks or put a ping pong table in the break room.


Value Employee Input

Helping an employee feel valued goes a long way in making up for a lower salary or reduced benefits. Remember, not all employees are sole breadwinners in their households or obsessed with status. Many work in the nonprofit environment because they more passionate about making change in the world than they are about making money.

Whether your employees are giving up a luxurious lifestyle to work for you or lucky enough not to have to worry about money, it’s vital to show your appreciation for their dedication. Ask for employee input, and show your interest is genuine by implementing their ideas. When a process is working, find a way to keep it alive, and don’t be afraid to scuttle aspects of the job that didn’t go as planned from their point of view.