5 of the Best Ways to Ensure Nonprofit Retention – Part 2

posted on February 27, 2019

Earlier this week, I wrote about the five top reasons that nonprofit retention can be difficult. If you want to read the article in greater detail, you can view the full post here. However, in brief, the five reasons are as follows:

  1. Money
  2. Excess work
  3. Leadership
  4. Communication
  5. Mobility

Let’s go a little deeper into each of these challenges for managers who work at charities by discussing a few ideas that will help you overcome them if you would like to do better by your team, which will ultimately help you develop your organization further.


Money is a motivator, particularly for team members who are earning $20,000 or $30,000+, which is a range where many nonprofit people––especially those starting––are paid. It’s important to remember that aside from your database of donors, one of the most valuable aspects of your charity is your team. They’re the ones who are assisting you in executing the mission.

One of the best things you can do for your organization is to pay competitive salaries. How can you do it if you don’t have the funds you need? There are a couple of things you can do. You can ask a major donor for investment in capacity building, including salaries, for your team. Hire a proven fundraiser who has expertise as an excellent generalist or major donor work. That alone is a significant investment to make, along with giving them the funding for a serious fundraising operation.

Excess Work

If you’re looking to understand a little about what nonprofit teams have to do, spend a bit of time inside of LinkedIn or Facebook groups. You’ll realize the incredible expectations that are placed on nonprofit people, with no remuneration. Late nights and weekends without pay are a common occurrence, which is one of the reasons that many charities experience high turnover.

As a nonprofit leader who cares about his or her team members, you should be clear with your employees that there is no expectation (yes, say it) for them to stay late or work long weekends to ensure that a project or event takes off. In other words, plan accordingly to minimize late night or weekend work. Once in a while, it does happen, and when it does, even if you don’t legally have to comply with labor laws regarding overtime pay because of the size of your nonprofit, show your team you care. Give them a monetary bonus for their time or comp time that they can exchange for the additional hours.


Unfortunately, leadership is something that has to be learned. Although there are people who are instinctively natural about leading others, most of the time in business, becoming an excellent leader takes patience, experience and, yes, learning.

If you’re serious about becoming a leader, and as a nonprofit executive or manager, this should always be something to which you are striving, then educate and inform yourself. Take lessons on leadership. Read articles and books. And, if you’re genuinely committed to the idea of having people follow your lead because you evoke the leadership skills to get people fired up, then hire a coach. All of these types of training will not only help you with your team members but also with your board members who also need nonprofit CEOs to be leaders.


Good communication is vital, especially when you want to lead a team of people to go beyond what they think is possible and execute on the improbable. Although we live and operate in the digital age, the reality is that the best communication still happens face-to-face.

Make it a point to walk around the office each day and connect on a personal level with your team members because it helps to build relationships and trust. Being a nonprofit manager who takes the time out of his or her busy schedule to chat for a moment or two personally and also see how employees are doing with their jobs or project will go a long way. One of the things I always tell my managers is to listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Ask questions. Let them do the talking, and you listen. By doing it, you will see that in time your team will trust you and will follow your lead easier.


Most nonprofits are small operators, and the reality is that many will not be able to grow to scale. That means that there will be inevitable turn-over as team members seek better growth opportunities. However, if you feel that you want to develop your organization and you have the right people on board to do it, then offering opportunities for work development and growth is going to go a long way toward retention of your employees.

If you see a team member or two who is ambitious and who puts in the double effort, make sure you provide opportunities for growth. Remember, sometimes people can make lateral moves, and they’re happy to have the chance to learn something new. It’s important to speak to your team members, and understand what they’re goals are and where they see themselves in the future. For instance, if you see someone who is on the program team but is interested in becoming a fundraiser, figure out creative solutions to make it happen within your organization. Cross-train people and provide professional development opportunities to ensure employee retention.

Managers understand that it costs a nonprofit less to retain talented team workers than see them go. If you have a good team on-hand, the best thing you can do for them is to address some of the top issues that could cause them to leave your organization for another one.


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