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Motivation in Nonprofit Organizations: Techniques to Retain and Engage Your Workforce

Motivation 22 Mar 2023 1474 0

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Motivation in Nonprofit Organizations: Techniques to Retain and Engage Your Workforce

Nonprofit organizations operate differently from for-profit businesses. They are mission-driven, and their employees and volunteers are passionate about their work. However, despite the passion and drive, nonprofits often face challenges in keeping their workforce motivated and engaged. In this article, we will explore effective motivation techniques for nonprofit organizations to retain and engage their workforce.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Nonprofits

Before delving into specific motivation techniques, it is essential to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is driven by personal values and a sense of purpose. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is driven by external factors such as salary, benefits, and recognition.

According to a study by Nonprofit HR, 71% of nonprofit employees are engaged in their work, compared to 63% of employees in for-profit organizations. The same study found that intrinsic motivators such as a sense of purpose and meaningful work are more important to nonprofit employees than extrinsic motivators such as salary and benefits.

Therefore, nonprofits must focus on providing a sense of purpose and meaningful work to their employees and volunteers. Here are some effective motivation techniques that can help nonprofits retain and engage their workforce:

Nonprofit Motivation Strategies

Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development

Nonprofits can retain their employees and volunteers by providing opportunities for growth and development. Employees and volunteers who feel they are developing new skills and taking on new challenges are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.

The international nonprofit organization, Habitat for Humanity, offers its volunteers opportunities to take leadership roles and develop new skills, which helps to keep them motivated and engaged in the organization's mission.

Create a Positive Work Environment

Creating a positive work environment is essential for retaining and engaging employees and volunteers. Nonprofits should ensure that their work environment is safe, supportive, and inclusive. A positive work environment can help employees and volunteers feel valued, which can lead to increased engagement and commitment to the organization's mission.

Foster Collaboration and Teamwork

Collaboration and teamwork can be effective motivation techniques for nonprofits. Employees and volunteers who work collaboratively are more likely to feel connected to the organization's mission and each other.

Recognize and Reward Outstanding Work

Nonprofits can recognize and reward outstanding work to keep their employees and volunteers engaged and motivated. The American Red Cross uses a recognition program called "Red Cross Difference Makers" to acknowledge and reward employees who go above and beyond in their work, which has led to increased employee engagement and retention.

Employee Retention in Nonprofits

Employee retention is crucial for nonprofits to achieve their mission. Here are some effective employee retention techniques for nonprofits:

Provide Competitive Salaries and Benefits

Although intrinsic motivators are more critical to nonprofit employees than extrinsic motivators, providing competitive salaries and benefits is still essential for employee retention. Nonprofits should ensure that their salaries and benefits are comparable to those offered by for-profit organizations in the same industry.

Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Nonprofits can offer flexible work arrangements to retain their employees. Flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and flexible hours can help employees balance their work and personal life, leading to increased job satisfaction and retention.

Volunteer Engagement in Nonprofits

Volunteers are a significant part of nonprofit organizations. Here are some effective volunteer engagement techniques for nonprofits:

Provide Opportunities for Meaningful Work

Nonprofits can engage their volunteers by providing opportunities for meaningful work. Volunteers who feel that they are making a difference and contributing to the organization's mission are more likely to be engaged and committed.

Provide Training and Support

Providing training and support to volunteers can help them develop new skills and feel confident in their roles, which can increase their motivation and commitment to the organization.

In addition to training and support, recognizing and appreciating volunteers' contributions is essential to maintaining their motivation. Nonprofits can recognize volunteers in many ways, such as thanking them in newsletters or on social media, hosting volunteer appreciation events, or providing awards or certificates of recognition. For example, the international nonprofit organization, Doctors Without Borders, recognizes its volunteers' contributions by featuring their stories on its website and social media, which not only recognizes their work but also inspires others to volunteer.

Furthermore, intrinsic motivation is crucial for nonprofits. Nonprofit employees and volunteers are passionate about their work, and they find meaning and purpose in contributing to their organization's mission. Therefore, creating a workplace culture that fosters intrinsic motivation is essential to retaining and engaging nonprofit workers. Nonprofit leaders can foster intrinsic motivation by providing their employees and volunteers with opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy allows employees and volunteers to have control over their work and decision-making processes, while mastery provides opportunities to develop new skills and improve their performance. Purpose connects employees and volunteers to their organization's mission and enables them to understand the impact of their work on the community.


In conclusion, motivation is a critical factor in the success of nonprofit organizations. The passion and commitment of nonprofit employees and volunteers are what drives their mission forward. However, keeping this workforce motivated and engaged can be a significant challenge. By implementing effective motivation techniques, nonprofit leaders and managers can ensure that their employees and volunteers remain engaged and committed to the organization's mission.

Intrinsic motivators such as a sense of purpose, meaningful work, and personal growth are more important to nonprofit employees and volunteers than extrinsic motivators such as salary and benefits. Therefore, it is essential to focus on these factors to keep them motivated.

Providing opportunities for employee and volunteer recognition, offering opportunities for leadership development, and providing training and support are some of the effective motivation techniques that nonprofits can implement to keep their workforce motivated and engaged.

Nonprofit organizations that prioritize employee and volunteer engagement and retention are more likely to achieve their mission and make a meaningful impact in their communities. By understanding the importance of motivation and implementing effective motivation techniques, nonprofit leaders and managers can create a positive and productive work environment that supports their mission and values.

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