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The Key to Motivating Non-profit Employees

It is no secret that non-profits have tight budgets so the hiring process can be challenging for people working in the HR department. Many non-profit organizations are able to hire great people; however, they lose them a year or so later when they have gained marketable skills and move on to a bigger non-profit or even the for-profit sector.

Non-profit hiring always seems to be robust, but many employment experts say this is because about 20 percent of the hiring is filling positions that others have left. Attracting and motivating non-profit employees to keep working hard and stay with the organization is difficult, but possible.

Whether it is non-profit or for-profit, every organization depends on employees remaining motivated in order to be successful. While there is no exact recipe for keeping staff inspired and excited about their work, managers can take steps to engage and motivate their team. Setting aside time to focus on motivating non-profit employees is not only good for productivity but it’s also good for overall morale.

So what are some of the motivational steps that can be used?

Research shows that not all people entering the non-profit sector are motivated by money. If you manage a Human Resources department for a non-profit and haven’t done a lot of hiring lately, you might not realize that many Millennials admit to be motivated by passion and purpose. This means they want a career that is meaningful, rewarding and exciting; one that helps them reach their personal goals as opposed to stack their bank account. Having said this – every employee is different and what gets them enthused about their work may not be the same motivating factor that inspires the person sitting beside them. Yes, you have to find out about each person’s motivations.

Some employees like to receive a lot of public praise and attention, others like their work to be recognized in a more private way. There are employees that actually find criticism motivational; it drives them to prove something to themselves, to their co-workers or to their boss. There are, as we all know, people who find harsh criticism demotivating. With these people managers have to be careful how they deliver criticism. The point is that getting to know each person can make a difference in how driven they are to succeed and stay.

Employee engagement is also crucial if you want to inspire and retain workers. People want to feel as if they are important and that their thoughts and ideas are appreciated. Employee engagement can include many different steps, but here are a few:

  • Giving employees the opportunity to feed their views upwards
  • Keeping workers informed of what is going on in the organization
  • Showing employees that as manager you are dedicated to the team and organization
  • Showing fairness in dealing with challenges/problems

There are some general steps that have proven successful in motivating non-profit workers. Take a look at the list below to see if you have tried any or how you might be able to incorporate some of these ideas into your organization.

  • Set small weekly goals – a lot of non-profits need to set big goals in order to be successful, but setting smaller weekly goals, then praising and rewarding the team with something like leaving work early one day or going out to lunch can be motivational.
  • Show you trust them – if you give your non-profit employee a vote of confidence, you might be surprised at how far the boost will go.
  • Let them lead – when you run meetings, let one of your employees take the helm once-in-a-while to show that they are valued.
  • Gamify – we live in a gaming era. Pokemon go is a prime example of this. People of all ages enjoy games today so why not develop a task that has a game component to it along with rewards for achievement?

Depending on the size and scope of your non-profit you may want to try one, two or several of the suggestions outlined here, but it is a good idea to have a formal employee retention policy in place. According to a study conducted a couple years ago by La Salle University’s Business Department under 20 percent of organizations have a formal retention strategy in place. Such a plan can help keep you on track in terms of motivating workers.

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