Top 3 Strategies for Enhancing Employee Engagement in Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations can run the risk of taking their foot off the gas when it comes to employee engagement. This is down to a sense that people who take jobs in this sector are doing so out of altruism, and so don’t need the same level of encouragement and support as those working for commercial companies.

However, with challenges like limited resources and high burnout rates, it’s arguably even more important for nonprofits to make sure that teams remain motivated and committed. The answer lies in implementing effective strategies that address the core needs and aspirations of your staff – so here are a few examples of what’s necessary to achieve this.



Opening the Door to Effective Communication

The first and most important component of successfully enhancing employee engagement is creating an environment within the organization in which open communication is encouraged and incentivized.

Clear and transparent interactions between team members at all levels helps in resolving misunderstandings and also boosts morale by making employees feel valued and heard. It also increases performance, as if team members are actively shown how their input contributes to the overall trajectory of the organization, this can rise by up to 10%, according to Gartner.

Here are some communication-focused steps you can implement:

Regular Check-Ins

Schedule weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member. These are useful as a means of gauging their feelings and getting insights on challenges they’ve encountered in the pursuit of project goals. Given that 25% of employees are deprived of this opportunity for quality time with managers, there’s a gap to fill here.

For instance, a nonprofit focusing on community health could use these sessions to address any personal barriers staff might be facing in outreach programs, ensuring they feel supported and listened to.

Open Forums

Host monthly town hall meetings where employees at all levels can voice concerns, suggest improvements, and ask questions directly to upper management. Just make sure that these are handled efficiently, and that execs don’t end up losing the average 23 hours to meetings each week that some have cited.

Let’s say you run a charitable education organization – in which case, full team meetings are an opportunity to gather diverse inputs on curriculum development or event planning from various departments efficiently. This can even help you to adopt effective fundraising methods, and get feedback on how successful your existing schemes have been.

Anonymous Feedback Tools

Utilize platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to collect honest feedback without fear of any comeback from criticisms leveled against the way the organization is run, or how individuals within it are behaving.

For example, a nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare could use such tools after major events or fundraisers to understand team sentiments and areas for improvement in future initiatives.

Recognizing Contributions Creatively

Acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your employees is a must-do in any sector, but it holds particular significance in nonprofits where the emotional load and personal investment can be substantial. Here are some innovative ways to recognize and reward your team’s efforts:

Personalized Appreciation

Instead of generic thank-you emails, tailor each act of recognition to highlight specific contributions. This is sensible since studies show that 54% of employees now expect personalization in terms of the benefits they receive from employers – and this also applies in a nonprofit context.

For example, after a successful fundraising event, acknowledging a team member’s exceptional organizational skills or creativity can make the appreciation feel more genuine and motivating than if you fire off the same message of celebration to everyone involved.

Professional Growth Opportunities

Offer scholarships or funding for courses relevant to their roles. This not only recognizes their current contributions but also invests in their future – and since 58% of people will jump ship if no development avenues are offered, it’s as much about retention as it is recognition.

So say if an employee has shown interest in project management, providing access to a certification course demonstrates both recognition of their work so far and support for their professional development.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition Programs

Implement a system where employees can nominate their colleagues for monthly or quarterly awards. There are specific platforms to handle this, such as Guusto and Awardco, so you don’t have to put together a program from scratch.

Take the case of an environmental advocacy group – in this type of nonprofit, teammates might nominate someone who has gone above and beyond in community engagement or volunteer mobilization.

Securing a Sense of Purpose and Inclusion

Engagement thrives in an environment where employees feel connected to the broader mission and are sure that their contributions matter. Let’s talk over a few strategies to strengthen this sense of purpose and foster an inclusive workplace culture:

Mission-Driven Onboarding

Introduce new hires to your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values from day one. Illustrate how their role contributes to larger goals through case studies or testimonials from community members or beneficiaries.

Since the onboarding process is important for long-term team member retention, with a Brandon Hall Group study finding that if it’s handled well there will be an 82% uptick in the proportion of employees that stick around in an organization, it’s not something to brush over.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Actively work on policies that promote diversity in your workforce, and comply with relevant regulations. This may include bias training, setting up diversity task forces, or celebrating cultural events that reflect the makeup of your team.

Indeed stats cited by Forbes suggest that diverse organizations are 60% more productive than their more homogenous counterparts, so it’s as much about building momentum for your nonprofit as it is engaging individual employees.

Community Involvement Opportunities

Organize team volunteer days or allow employees to use work time for volunteering activities related to your mission. This not only reinforces the organizational values but also provides a tangible connection between daily tasks and impactful outcomes.

The Bottom Line

Communication, recognition and inclusion are a triumvirate of talking points when employee engagement in nonprofit organizations is up for debate – and hopefully we’ve shown that you have a number of options and opportunities in all three cases. You just need the vim and commitment to follow through on what you plan to do to improve the outlook for your organization’s culture.

Featured image by Alexander Suhorucov at Pexels

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