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Employee Engagement

7 ways nonprofits can increase employee engagement


Improving employee engagement in non-profit organisations comes with its own set of challenges. Let's have a look at some efficient strategies!

You've got a group of passionate individuals, fuelled by their mission to make the world better.

However, non-profits also face unique challenges: tight budgets, limited resources, adapting to change... the list is endless.

This is why engaging employees in nonprofits requires a different approach; compared to for-profit companies. 

But if you manage to crack the code?

The results are nothing short of extraordinary – increased productivity, happier teams and more impact!

That is what this guide aims to help you achieve. We’d like to help you make the world a better place - through your company and your passionate employees. 

What is nonprofit employee engagement?

Nonprofit employee engagement is all about passion and commitment. 

This deep connection with work comes from believing in what you do because it makes a difference to society. However, this differs from engagement within profit-driven companies where monetary incentives can drive motivation.

Gallup research shows that engaged employees lead to better outcomes (attendance, performance, service quality, safety). 

However, nonprofits often struggle with limited resources, which adds complexity when trying to foster high levels of staff involvement.

Difference between for-profit and nonprofit employee engagement

In contrast to their commercial counterparts, nonprofits usually rely on an emotional appeal rather than financial rewards as motivational drivers. This calls for unique strategies when engaging employees; more heart-led initiatives may be needed over pure logic-based tactics commonly used by corporates.

Another crucial factor influencing nonprofit employee engagement lies in recognising contributions beyond purely fiscal measures. Highlighting how each role contributes towards achieving organisational goals helps create a sense of purpose amongst team members—this forms the foundation for genuine commitment at work.

The power of mission alignment

Research from Mckinksey indicates how pivotal having a mission and measuring it is. Defining and measuring the mission is vital, providing clarity and benchmarks to ensure everyone is working towards the same impactful goals.

Strong mission alignment enhances dedication and productivity in resource-constrained nonprofits. It's crucial for these organisations to ensure employees not only grasp but also deeply connect with their mission. When there's genuine belief in the cause, teams become passionate advocates, going beyond mere 'engagement.' 

Key drivers of nonprofit employee engagement

The lifeblood of any nonprofit is its dedicated staff. But what motivates these individuals to give their best? Let's explore some critical drivers that boost employee engagement in nonprofits.

A clear and compelling mission

As stated in the previous section, an engaging mission can work wonders for your team's morale. 

An actual mission statement can take this a step further. It clarifies things even more and gives your employees something meaningful to strive towards, acting as the glue that binds everyone together.

Effective leadership

The Forbes Nonprofit Council stresses the importance of leading with a purpose. The impact of leadership on engagement cannot be overstated. 

Effective leaders inspire their teams, fostering an environment where employees feel valued and heard. A great leader doesn't just direct; they empower others to make decisions too.

Related reading: Self-leadership at work: A complete guide | Eletive

Growth opportunities

Intriguingly, opportunities for growth are often more important than financial rewards when it comes to nonprofit work. 

Employees want chances to learn, develop skills and progress within the organisation.

Sense of community

Fostering a strong sense of community encourages camaraderie among staff members which leads to higher levels of satisfaction at work—a key factor driving engagement in this sector.

Achieving and sustaining engagement in your nonprofit workforce involves a strategic focus on cultivating key elements within your organisation. It is not an intricate process, but rather a deliberate and mindful approach to fostering these components.

Challenges in enhancing nonprofit employee engagement

Boosting engagement among nonprofit employees is not a walk in the park. There are hurdles to overcome, and they're unique compared to for-profit sectors.

Limited resources

Funds can be tight in nonprofits. But that doesn't mean you should compromise on employee experience. This limitation pushes organisations towards creative solutions rather than expensive ones.

High burnout rates

The passionate nature of nonprofit work often leads to overwork and exhaustion. It's crucial we make sure our teams get adequate rest so they can keep their passion alive without burning out.

Ninety-five percent of individuals in the nonprofit sector have either personally encountered burnout or observed its effects on a crucial team member within the last three years; according to a Givebutter audience poll. This is a shocking statistic that signals something is seriously wrong. 

Mission-driven culture vs operational efficiency

In nonprofits it's easy to focus only on the mission and overlook operational efficiency - but both need attention for sustainable success. The Stanford Social Innovation Review tackles this well.

So what does all this mean? In essence: overcoming these challenges isn’t about finding a quick fix or applying generic corporate strategies—it requires creativity, understanding your team’s needs, valuing diversity, and keeping an eye on sustainability alongside fulfilling your mission.

7 effective strategies for boosting nonprofit employee engagement

1. Use technology 

Technology is changing the way we work and interact, even within nonprofits. It's now a vital tool for improving employee engagement.

Connecting teams with tech

Digital tools can break down communication barriers. For instance, collaboration platforms like Slack let teams chat and share ideas seamlessly.

This fosters an inclusive culture where everyone feels heard. But remember, it’s not just about having tech – you need to use it effectively too.

Tech-enabled learning & development

LinkedIn Learning, for example, offers courses tailored to individual needs. This lets staff learn at their own pace which increases skill sets while boosting engagement levels.

Digital feedback channels

A regular feedback loop is essential to keep employees engaged and technology can help here as well. Eletive makes gathering real-time feedback easy and actionable - ensuring every voice matters. Note: Remember that giving feedback should be constructive; criticism without guidance won't lead anywhere good.

2. Promote a clear vision and mission

To engage employees, they need to understand the organisation’s mission. 

It's more than just words on paper; it should guide every action within the nonprofit. 

A clear vision gives employees a sense of purpose and direction.

It's a shared journey where every task, no matter how small, contributes to a bigger picture. 

When team members see the impact of their roles on the overarching mission, work becomes more than a job—it transforms into a collective adventure filled with meaning and empowerment.

3. Provide regular feedback and recognition

We’ve mentioned feedback already, but you can take this further by stacking recognition on top.

The power of recognition cannot be overstated. Acknowledging the dedicated efforts of your team not only boosts morale but also acts as a catalyst for sustained enthusiasm. 

As individuals feel seen and valued, they are more likely to be motivated, contributing to the overall success of the organisation. 

In the dynamic world of nonprofits, where passion often drives the workforce, a culture of regular feedback and recognition becomes a cornerstone for engagement and collective achievement.

4. Create opportunities for professional development

In the dynamic landscape of nonprofit work, the pursuit of growth and development is not just a personal aspiration but a collective necessity. 

To invigorate your team and harness their full potential, offering opportunities for professional development is key. Whether it's through targeted training programs or the chance to assume leadership roles, these avenues not only keep your team motivated but also serve as a breeding ground for cultivating vital skills within the organisation. 

Empowering your employees with opportunities for growth not only aligns with their individual career aspirations but also contributes significantly to the overall resilience and adaptability of your nonprofit, ensuring it thrives in the face of evolving challenges.

5. Foster an inclusive culture

An inclusive culture is another key to employee satisfaction. 

When staff feel valued regardless of their background or role, you’ll see increased commitment and productivity as everyone pulls together towards common goals.

Advantages of diverse teams:

There are numerous benefits associated with diversity, benefiting both individuals and the organisation.

  • Enhanced innovation and more effective problem-solving

  • Improved decision-making with fewer overlooked perspectives

  • Access to a broader talent pool

  • Heightened profitability

6. Measure nonprofit employee engagement

Gauging the pulse of your nonprofit's employee engagement isn't a guessing game. It needs an effective, evidence-based approach.

The first step is to use regular employee surveys. These let you gather data about how engaged your team feels. You can ask questions about job satisfaction, alignment with organisational values, or their sense of purpose at work.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

To make sure you're on track, it’s important to establish KPIs for engagement. Some common ones include turnover rates and absenteeism figures - but don’t forget positive indicators too. For instance: volunteer hours contributed by staff members outside working hours might be a sign they feel committed to the cause.

Benchmarking against other nonprofits

It's also beneficial to benchmark your organisation against others in the sector. This helps put results into context and sets realistic targets for improvement.

You could use resources like The Charity Commission’s Register of Charities, which gives insights into other nonprofits' structures and operations.

💡 With Eletive you can benchmark your organisation against other nonprofits so you can see you’re performing at a glance. 

Evaluating outcomes over time

Last but not least – remember that measuring engagement is not a one-off task. Regular check-ins help spot trends over time so early interventions can fix any issues before they escalate.

7. Training for better engagement

While measuring is vital, so too is action. It's important to use your findings to inform training and development initiatives.

Nowadays, many free online trainings offer an incredible opportunity to develop your team's skills and knowledge. They're a brilliant approach to picking up novel techniques and getting more trust in your activities.

Case study: Rutgers

Rutgers, a Netherlands-based NGO promoting global sexual and reproductive rights, uses Eletive for real-time employee feedback. Geert Jan, the HR manager, sought a dynamic solution for their 130-person team, shifting from traditional surveys.

Eletive's intuitive design empowers a feedback-driven culture. Pulse surveys provide quick insights for continuous workplace culture improvement. The platform's immediate impact is evident in visualised data, facilitating cost-effective adjustments.

Eletive customer case Rutgers

Eletive addresses workload challenges, preventing burnout, and promoting a healthy work-life balance for NGO professionals. 


Unleashing the potential of your nonprofit starts with employee engagement. It's more than a buzzword; it's a driving force.

You've seen how understanding, nurturing and measuring this can transform organisations, from boosted productivity to happier teams.

Tight budgets? Limited resources? Obstacles, of course, but not unconquerable. Strategies like recognising efforts or promoting work-life balance have shown real promise.

Technology also has an essential role in facilitating nonprofit employee engagement. And don't forget: what gets measured gets managed!

So start now! Your dedicated employees are already passionate about making the world better. Help them feel that their contributions truly matter - because they do.

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