Nancy Kasmar and I just gave a presentation on attracting, motivating and rewarding employees in non-profit organizations.  It was a great session, full of lively dialogue and strategies for doing more with less budget.  I wanted to recap the content here and let others know that we are doing an even deeper dive into the topic during a free, two-hour workshop held in Seattle and Bellevue.  See the workshop details below, if you’re interested in attending.

What’s so tough about HR in non-profits?

In a word: budget.  Non-profit organizations don’t have big budgets and their spending is often scrutinized in a way that for-profit companies can’t begin to imagine.  I know it’s preaching to the choir for anyone working in a non-profit, but the budget really is the 800 pound gorilla.  It is the driving factor in almost every decision made within the organization, including decisions around HR and compensation programs.

We’ve seen many non-profit organizations hire great people only to lose them a year later.  We call this, “training employees for their next employer.”  They gain marketable skills and move on to either a larger non-profit organization or the for-profit world with more career advancement opportunities.

If the budget is a gorilla, then burnout is the elephant in the room.  With all of the challenges, it’s especially easy for non-profit employees (and HR!) to burn out at work.

These are just a few examples of the difficulties that face HR professionals in non-profit organizations.  I’m sure you can think of even more.  These challenges make it that much harder to attract and retain employees.

What strategies can you use to motivate and reward your workforce?

One of the first things that you can do is understand your employees.  The mix of workers in the US is shifting, with the majority from the millennial generation (or Gen-Y).  This is important because most millennials are mission driven and say they want to work for smaller organizations.  Sounds like a recruiting advantage for non-profits.

You should know that rewards aren’t always about money.  Non-profit organizations can capitalize on recognition programs, skip-level meetings, formal mentorship programs, and fostering a culture of empowerment and trust.  Offering “rewards” that encourage people to do the right thing, to speak out because they know they’ll be heard, to grow professionally and personally… it doesn’t cost much and the ROI can be astronomical.

Sometimes, it is about money.  Any organization – non-profit or for-profit – that doesn’t understand how its pay programs stack up against the competition is going to be in trouble.  If your base pay isn’t even close to market, hiring and retaining quality employees will be hard.  There is a pay threshold that employees need to meet just to live.

You don’t have to break the bank to find out what the market is paying for your jobs.  You can perform your own market pay study, using published survey data, for a reasonable amount of money.  The secret:  take the time to participate in salary surveys and you will often get the results for free or at deep discounts.  In fact, understanding how to use market data is so important that we made it one of the primary topics of our upcoming workshop.

What’s the bottom line?

I’ve talked about some of the unique challenges of working in a non-profit.  I called out a few non-cash strategies for rewarding employees.  And, I encouraged you to take the time to check how your pay program compares to your market.  All good stuff.  But, if you’re thinking about attracting, motivating and rewarding employees, then it comes down to your employee experience.

What sort of experience do you want your employees to have at work?  Do you want your employees to experience a culture of excellence, empowered leadership, continuous learning, and challenging work?  Whatever the experience looks like at your organization, keep it in mind when you’re using total rewards to hire, inspire or reward your workforce.

Learn more at our free compensation workshop, only for non-profit organizations:

Tuesday, June 23
4:00 to 6:00pm
In Bellevue at Hopelink’s service office
14812 Main St., Bellevue, WA 98007

Wednesday, July 8
4:00 to 6:00pm
In Seattle at the downtown Seattle Public Library
Level 4, Room 2
1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104