Sunshine in February

So is February the month of love for you, filled with pink and red hearts, romantic dinners and red roses? Or is February the month that winter sets into your bones and you are desperately craving a dose of sunshine? For me it’s the latter. Not that I don’t adore my husband and dog-son but we’ve never made a big deal about Valentine’s Day. I think last year we even skipped exchanging cards in favor of doing a house project! This month’s blog theme is relationships – get excited!

Today we’ll talk about keeping your staff not only inspired and engaged by your mission but also satisfied with the nitty-gritty, day-to-day work.


Let’s look at the Pyramid of Employee Needs from Bain & Co via Harvard Business Review and start at the top; as nonprofits, I think we need to focus the most on satisfaction and I’ll explain why.

For us nonprofits, inspiring employees is the easy part! Most likely, employees have joined the organization because they have a personal passion for what we’re doing. We’re not selling pharmaceuticals or providing IT support, we are changing the world! We’re bringing education and clean water and shelter and healthcare to people who need it and we are darn excited about it. Inspiration? Check!

So if we’ve got an organization full of passionate people, they often form extraordinary teams. What feels better than joining forces with other people who are as excited about secondary education in East Africa as you are? Many of the nonprofits I work with are small and so your impact is felt throughout the organization – you have and know your purpose and even the Executive Director can feel the work of a Program Coordinator. You’re fully engaged with your work, the people and the mission.

Satisfaction. This is a challenge for many nonprofits because frankly, we don’t usually have the funds to provide as much training or compensation as we’d like. We’re too busy spending it on programs (which is, of course, a great thing!). But there’s a beautiful balance between a low overhead rate and ensuring you’re taking adequate care of your employees – at the end of the day, passion for the mission will only keep someone for so long.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about doing more for employee satisfaction with less (or often nothing!):

  • Create a comprehensive onboarding program to make employees feel welcome into the culture and knowledgable about how things work immediately
  • Invite board members or other professionals to host soft skills trainings or webinars pro bono – time management, conflict resolution, leadership skills
  • Host regular information sessions on benefits – employees often feel overwhelmed or confused about health insurance or 403(b) retirements plans and taking the extra effort to spend time talking about it goes a long way
  • Ensure employees’ performance is being reviewed annually and reward accordingly. If you can’t afford large salary increases, consider small bonuses
  • Recognize employees’ work publicly – announce staff who’ve gone above and beyond during monthly meetings or consider an Employee of the Month program
  • Give staff appropriate, functional technology – no one should be expected to use their personal computer or obsolete equipment

How are you ensuring your employees are not only inspired and engaged but also satisfied? Need help on 403(b) training or developing an onboarding program? Give me a ring!