Recently, I wrote an article about CEO compensation in the non-profit sector. However, it was rightly pointed out to me that it is not only CEO pay that needs to be looked at, but also salaries and retention for staff at all levels.

As a social entrepreneur with my own businesses today and when I was the CEO of a non-profit, I always believed in paying people a competitive wage and figuring out ways to keep them engaged and motivated on the team. Dan Pallotta has spoken eloquently about the fact that non-profits need to take a careful look at all aspects of their business model. In order to address the needs and demands of today’s world, organizations need to make strategic investments and this includes staff pay, but this also includes developing initiatives for solid employee retention. The fact of the matter is that a high turnover rate means that your organization is bleeding money with positions that are open, recruiting, onboarding and training of new staff.

For-profit staff can earn as much as 25% more for the same work with the same qualifications as their non-profit counterparts. That said, non-profit staff will probably never earn as much as their corporate counterparts for a variety of reasons, but the reality is that the quality of the staff, and their level of motivation, determines how well a non-profit will be able to meet its objectives toward its mission. So, compensation and retention are indeed important and need to be balanced against budgetary demands.

With workers in the non-profit sector accounting for just over 10% of the total workforce in the United States and the many organizations suffering through a high level of costly staff turnover, it is important for non-profits to be cognizant of staff salaries and retention. In addition to competitive wages, non-profits can also undertake other strategies to ensure career satisfaction by implementing retention initiatives.


25113598_mProfessional Development – Staff members, particularly young professionals, want to learn and develop. A way to do this is to ensure that staff are members of relevant industry associations where they can attend professional development courses, seminars and conferences. Non-profits should have conversations during review periods to discuss professional development, which not only benefits the employee, but also the organization because staff members are exposed to industry-wide best practice and are able to bring this expertise and knowledge back to the organization.

Excessive Workloads – Non-profits try to do more with less. In order to promote an aura of efficiency, some organizations keep on adding duties to workers who are already stretched too thin. This leads to low morale, undue stress and turnover. Look for other ways to accomplish organizational objectives if there are points in the year when extra hands are needed on certain tasks. Consider working with volunteers or hire temp workers.

Flexible Work Environments – In today’s world, this is an option that is very easy to do well. Many organizations prefer to have workers on-site. However, providing some flexibility for virtual work done from home is a big motivator and stress reliever, at times, for employees. With today’s technology and resources, management can still ensure and monitor that employees who are benefiting from a flexible working arrangement are meeting all work objectives.

Bonuses – Monetary bonuses for good work are a great motivator, especially as people enter the holiday season and are looking for extra money. Setting organizational goals and then tying a bonus to its successful accomplishment is way to reward staff and let them know that you appreciate their going the extra mile.

Mentorship – Mentorship is still a winning proposition in terms of bringing about development of junior staff and even providing more seasoned professionals with career development toward increased management roles. In addition, mentorship initiatives do not only serve the mentee, but they allow the mentor to be able to impart wisdom and knowledge that may otherwise be undervalued or not transmitted to others. Mentorship programs build a bridge between people.

Non-profits can decrease their turnover rate, save money, motivate workers and increase their level of success of their goals and objectives by hitting the pause button and taking the time to look at staff.


© 2014 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.