Nonprofit Leaders Share Thoughts on Retaining Talent

Jul 19, 2021


The Gilman Partners Nonprofit Leadership Practice team hosted a roundtable discussion with nonprofit leaders from across the Greater Cincinnati region to talk about retaining talent in their organizations. The event format was hybrid, with leaders engaging in the discussion both in person and remotely. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

Employee Turnover

  • Most of the organizations represented in the roundtable have seen increased employee turnover in recent months. Several leaders noted salary as one of the factors, citing examples of clinical staff members being recruited away for nearly double their current salary. But even wages of a dollar or two an hour higher have been enough to attract employees to new opportunities.
  • Some organizations are bracing for key team members to retire in coming years and need to create a succession planning strategy to prepare for those planned departures.

Flexible Work

  • One of the most talked-about topics was flexible and/or remote work. Most every nonprofit leader in the discussion agreed their employees want more flexible arrangements and most have already implemented or are preparing for more workplace flexibility. One leader shared her organization offered a flexible schedule even pre-pandemic and it was one of the reasons job candidates were drawn to them. Now that many other organizations offer a similar perk they are looking for additional benefits to attract talent.
  • Flexible work policies varied among the organizations represented. Some of the policies that were shared include: 2 days in the office/3 days remote; in the office at least half of the time; in the office four days a week but with more flexibility to come and go as necessary. One leader said her organization has set a six-month trial period for the new work policy and will revisit it after that time.
  • One leader asked employees to sign a flexible work agreement to ensure expectations for remote/flexible work were clear and understood.
  • Several organizations are wrestling with the inequity that may emerge from some employees having the ability to work remotely while others need to do their jobs in person. One organization has offered three rounds of  “exposure bonuses” to all team members who have been working directly with patients throughout the pandemic.

Salaries & Benefits

  • Most of the leaders agreed they are seeing salaries increase for new hires, and that is causing them to assess current salaries of all team members and make adjustments when possible.
  • Several participants said they’re offering or hearing about other nonprofit organizations offering signing bonuses for the first time.
  • Nonprofit organizations are adding or considering creative benefits to retain employees and attract new talent. Many of these benefits are designed to boost employee wellness, foster learning and career development, and make everyday needs easier and more affordable.
  • Sabbaticals for employees who hit key career milestones are gaining traction. Though it takes careful planning and may strain resources when team members are out of the office for an extended time, this is a low-cost way to reward team members for their loyalty and service
  • One leader noted her organization started an Employee Emergency Relief Fund to help employees struggling with issues like childcare or a car that needs repairs.
  • The leader of an organization with a small team of employees worked hard this past year to offer healthcare benefits. She joined a group plan through a local chamber to help make the cost more affordable. She also began offering what she calls a “permissive leave” policy that allows employees to take PTO time so long as their work is covered.
  • Other organizations are investing more in professional development to demonstrate their commitment to helping employees grow. One leader said her organization has expanded its tuition/scholarship program and another is finding opportunities for her team to take part in learning opportunities together. She shared that many national conferences have moved to a remote format and have a lower fee than before the pandemic began.
  • A leader shared her organization created an opportunity for employees to use pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare.

Talent retention is a challenge for most organizations and nonprofits are not excluded. However, the intrinsic impact and value nonprofit organizations bring to the community are powerful forces in boosting employee engagement.