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Blog: Employee Engagement in Nonprofit Organizations

Employee Engagement in Nonprofit Organizations

Compensation may still be the number one thing people are looking for in their work, but wages alone won’t be enough to keep them there. It’s essential to build employee engagement, which begins when employees find meaning in the work they do for an organization. The good news is that this desire for meaning at work is the key to successful employee engagement in nonprofit organizations.

What Workers Want

This desire for meaning was demonstrated in force as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people to reevaluate their values. What was deemed the Great Resignation began as employees left their jobs en masse in search of better work that aligned with their values. Today, there’s ample evidence that young people in particular prioritize meaningful work. The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index found that 80% of job seekers within Gen Z (born 1995-2012) reported looking for roles that aligned with both their interests and values. This figure drops to 59% for Millennials (born 1980-1994), 49% for Gen X (born 1965-1979), and 47% for Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), according to the Index.

For nearly half of the job searchers within Gen X and Baby Boomers in search of greater purpose from their work, the nonprofit sector provides an excellent opportunity. Baby Boomers and Gen X may be seeking more meaningful work as they near retirement. The American Working Conditions Survey conducted by Rand Corp. found that many older workers push back retirement in order to continue doing work they feel gives back to their communities. The nonprofit sector is one that people may want to come back to as a place for meaningful work that uses their wealth of talent. 

As a nonprofit organization, your mission is already your most powerful tool for giving employees the meaning that they crave. This alone is not enough to recruit talent that aligns with your mission. By connecting your job descriptions and daily operations to the mission, you infuse every role with purpose – attracting more candidates and building stronger engagement.

Download our free guide: Managing HR for Nonprofits with a Hybrid Work Environment
Download: Managing HR for Nonprofits with a Hybrid Work Environment

3 ways to Strengthen Employee Engagement in Nonprofit Organizations

To ensure that your employees feel the purpose expressed in your mission, it’s essential that the mission is tied back to every aspect of your organization. There are a few key areas where clear messaging can strengthen engagement.

1. Your brand. The mission should be clear through your organizational brand. Millennials and members of Gen Z in particular have grown up with social media influencers who have cemented their understanding of the value behind a personal brand. This has driven them to search for work that fits their “personal brand.” Nonprofits should ensure their mission is clearly communicated in their brand, but this must be done authentically. Organizations should share stories that reflect the impact that they are making today and how they are positioned to do good in the future. This messaging can help future recruits see the impact they can make as part of your organization. 

2. Job descriptions. Job descriptions present another opportunity to strengthen employee engagement in nonprofit organizations. The language here should connect your mission to the tasks that you expect people to perform each day. It’s essential to be clear about how every role makes a difference to the organization andto the community and/or environment. For example, when employees of World Central Kitchen are asked why they work for the nonprofit, the strong connection between mission and job description is clear. Employees explain that their work drives the mission to be first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. Every role is essential for achieving this mission. 

The same is true with employees of the nonprofit Concordance, whose mission is to reduce recidivism. Employees are committed to helping participants move forward and this is done by working directly within prisons and recently released inmates to provide substance abuse treatment, education, and job skills. Every role moves program participants to a healthier life after incarceration. 

3. Performance management. Performance management communication provides another opportunity for organizations to strengthen employees’ connection to the mission. When nonprofits are transparent about how specific organizational goals help drive the mission forward, they build engagement. This also helps employees link organizational goals to their own professional development goals.  

Bring Departments Together for Consistent Messaging  

To ensure mission messaging is used consistently, small and mid-sized organizations in particular should consider building strong bridges and encourage Human Resources and Marketing and Communications departments to become an operational unit. This can ensure that language around missions is consistent from the website to the employee handbook and beyond. 

When every member of the organization is driven by the same clear, mission-first messaging, nonprofits gain a more engaged team as well as a clear organizational direction that can their expand impact.

While no one knows your messaging better than you, an objective third party can help ensure that your mission is clearly tied back into every aspect of your organization. If you’re looking for support in strengthening employee engagement in your nonprofit organization, reach out to the experts at Vault Consulting.

Kendra Janevski, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Kendra Janevski, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Kendra’s varied background in non-profit organizations, associations and consulting is the perfect fit to lead Vault’s outsourced HR business unit. She drives creative process improvement for internal systems, designs forward-thinking policies and programs,...
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Pamela Tolf, SHRM-SCP
Pamela Tolf, SHRM-SCP
Pamela is an HR and operations professional with experience in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. With her experience and education, she brings strong leadership, critical thinking, results-oriented and relationship-building skills. She problem-solves with...
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