What Really Motivates Nonprofit Employees? 3 Ways To Show Your Appreciation
It’s pretty easy to tell when workplace morale is suffering and motivation begins to wane—whether it’s a single team member or an entire team.
Maybe staff meetings have gotten quieter, or meeting deadlines has become a thing of the past.
It can be tough to figure out exactly what’s to blame for low employee morale… But it will be a lot easier to isolate the issue if you’ve worked to create a foundation of encouragement and employee appreciation for your team.
So what does motivate employees, anyway?
Study after study has shown that motivation is complex. It's not enough to say your staff should feel motivated by your nonprofit's mission or even by their salary. It takes a variety of approaches to ensure that employees feel as appreciated as possible during their time with you.
Not sure it's worth the effort? Motivated teams work better together, innovate more easily, and problem-solve more effectively than their burnt-out peers.
If your organization truly wants to make an impact in your community, you'll need to start with taking care of your staff.
Paid Time Off
Appropriate compensation is a must for nonprofit employees. People who are unable to comfortably secure their basic needs will have a more difficult time directing their energy into the kinds of innovations and great ideas our communities need.
But the nonprofit sector is often strapped for resources. It can be tough to cough up money for salary bumps, bonuses, or other financial incentives.
We're also generally overworked—and PTO never goes out of style.
When you want to recognize your team or an employee in particular for going above and beyond, consider giving a boost to their paid time off. Awarding extra vacation days or personal time is a great way to show an employee you care about their work-life balance.
You can apply the same strategy to a full team and give days off after major events, big wins, or just because.
You can also consider later start times and half-days. Just be mindful of pre-scheduled meetings or looming deadlines that might prevent employees from taking advantage of the flexibility.
Flexibility & Remote Work
A reliable staffer or team as a whole deserves your trust—and you can show them you both trust them and honor their time and discretion by allowing more flexibility in the way they perform their duties.
Many organizations have embraced at least temporary remote work over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. As offices begin to resume pre-Covid operations, it's important to keep in mind a sense of what's possible.
If it's easier or preferable for some (or all) employees to continue working remotely on a regular or semi-regular basis, give strong consideration to allowing that change. Knowing you're trusting your staff to honor commitments without micromanaging them can foster more than a few positive feelings.
Don't be afraid to trust your staff to use their own discretion when it comes to working hours and locations that work for them!
Autonomy & Soliciting Feedback
Poet Maya Angelou famously said, "When people show you who they are, believe them."
So when your staff shows you their expertise, let them lead! Beyond money and time off, autonomy and having a real say in your organization's operations will help your employees feel valued and impactful.
Rewards and incentives for staff can look like being able to choose the projects they work on, or being consulted when it comes to tweaking their job description.Giving them the opportunity to more closely align their position with their interests and skillset is a great way to reward success and hard work.
It's a great idea to regularly solicit feedback from all your employees and be willing to implement suggestions. Requesting genuine feedback from someone who's shown particular commitment to your mission is a chance for their voice to be heard.
When In Doubt—Ask!
In the end, your goal is to show appreciation and respect. So when in doubt—ask! There's nothing wrong with outlining a few options that make sense for your organization and letting individuals choose for themselves.