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4 Nonprofit Employee Retention Strategies for Tough Times

When hard times hit, employee retention becomes more important than ever. When you come out the other side, the employees who stick with you will be all the more effective and engaged for weathering the storm.

Unfortunately, tough times at a nonprofit tend to hit employees especially hard. Nonprofit staff often care deeply about the cause, meaning that setbacks can trigger even more stress and burnout than they might in other organizations. 

This can pose a serious challenge for nonprofit employee retention. Over 90% of organizations are concerned about retention. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help keep your employees engaged and optimistic, even during hard times at your nonprofit. 

The following strategies can help you improve employee retention during challenging periods at your nonprofit, but they can also be effective ways to improve employee engagement during the good times. By following each of these steps, you can show your employees you care about them — and encourage them to stick with you through thick and thin.

Emphasize learning and development opportunities

According to the 2023 Workplace Learning Report, providing learning opportunities is the number one way organizations are working to improve retention. 

Commit to creating a learning culture at your nonprofit by setting all team members up with career development plans. This can be as simple as encouraging ongoing conversations between managers and their direct reports to discuss career goals and identify growth opportunities and resources. 

LinkedIn Learning offers an easy way to provide personalized career development opportunities and resources at your nonprofit. With employees staying 41% longer at organizations with high internal mobility compared to those without, providing concrete next steps to help your people grow their careers and achieve their goals can be a powerful retention driver. 

Focus on transparency in the hiring process

Nonprofit work can be tough, and some candidates may not feel like the role is right for them when they learn more about it. It’s better to be transparent about the challenging parts of the job, as well as the tangible and intangible benefits, to ensure applicants have a clear and rounded picture before making any decisions. Otherwise, you may experience high turnover among new hires, increasing your recruitment costs.

By reevaluating your hiring process and emphasizing transparent communication and mutual fit, you can hire more people who will thrive at your nonprofit. Try using LinkedIn Talent Solutions to help you quickly identify well-suited candidates, so you can dedicate more time to getting to know them and discussing life at your organization. The hiring process is also a great time to highlight any professional development opportunities you offer, helping give candidates confidence that your nonprofit is dedicated to their long-term growth.  

Connect employees to workplace mentors

Fostering workplace mentorship can be a great way to build a strong culture and improve retention because it connects your employees with like-minded people that they not only look up to, but who can help them grow their careers. 

If you’re not ready to implement a formal mentorship program, start by looking for opportunities to pair employees with more experienced staff on projects. This gives team members a chance to learn from their peers and tackle more complex assignments. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of employees want more time to learn at work, and this can be a natural way to make that happen.

Give employees the chance to explore their professional interests

As your employees improve the skills they need to succeed in their roles, give them the freedom to explore other skills they’re interested in — even if they won’t apply those skills at work right away.

When environmental nonprofit 1% for the Planet started using LinkedIn Learning, it encouraged its team to explore any courses they were curious about. “Our team really likes the flexibility and the ability to go in, browse courses, and figure out what they’re interested in,” says Communications Manager Tatum Robinson. “The diversity and length of classes means they can pop into a 30-minute course and just do the basics to see if they want to dive into a longer, more detailed course.”

Whether your nonprofit is currently experiencing a challenging period or it’s business as usual, there’s never a bad time to focus on employee retention and engagement. By demonstrating your ongoing commitment to employees’ growth and success, you can help your team feel supported and valued all year long.

Learn more about how LinkedIn Talent Solutions can help your organization attract, hire, and retain talent by contacting our sales team today.