4 Low-Cost Ways Nonprofits Can Recognize Employees’ Hard Work

4 Low-Cost Ways Nonprofits Can Recognize Employees’ Hard Work

If employees don’t feel like their employer recognizes their hard work, they’re twice as likely to hunt for a new job and 34% more likely to leave within a year. And this isn’t just a challenge facing the corporate world—nonprofit employees, too, may grow discouraged if they feel their work isn’t valued, even if they are passionate about their organization’s mission.

The good news is, you don’t need a big budget to make employees feel valued. To inspire your own efforts, we’ve compiled examples of what four employers are doing to recognize their people. This list includes a mix of nonprofits and commercial businesses, but all the examples have one thing in common: they’re easy to achieve on a budget—and can help improve engagement, retention, and loyalty.

1. The Resource Exchange’s board of directors personally thanked employees through heartfelt video messages

Recently, The Resource Exchange (TRE), a nonprofit that partners with people who seek support in accessing community resources, gathered hundreds of employees online for its first-ever virtual all-hands meeting. During the meeting, TRE’s board of directors shared video messages thanking the team for their hard work and dedication, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We probably don’t say thank you enough for all of the hard work that you do,” board member Chris Cipoletti says in the video. “So thank you for all that you do. We couldn’t be successful without all of your help.”

Taking a second to stop and say thank you, whether it’s through a hand-written note or a shout-out in a team meeting, can mean the world to employees. And by posting the video online, TRE was also able to thank its people publicly, showcasing their great work to the world.

2. Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging created an “Awesome Wall” to encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Peer recognition can be just as meaningful as recognition from superiors, helping to strengthen team bonds and lift morale. To encourage this kind of recognition, the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping older adults and individuals with disabilities live safely and independently in their homes for as long as possible, created an “Awesome Wall” in its office.

Unveiled in 2017, the Awesome Wall is a dedicated space where employees can pin notes giving kudos to their coworkers and teams. This not only shows people that their hard work is seen and appreciated, but gives leaders more visibility into day-to-day wins, allowing them to reach out and share their appreciation.

The  Ohio District 5 Area Agency unveils its Awesome Wall, a space designed to encourage peer-to-peer recognition

“We wanted there to be a place here in the agency that we can recognize the awesome things that people do,” CEO Duana Patton explains in a video on the organization’s Facebook page. “This [is] a place where we can tell stories about who people are, what they do, and how they carry out the culture here at this organization.”

3. Red Velvet Events used troll dolls and a jacket as trophies for outstanding work

Creative planning agency Red Velvet Events used to employ a quirky method for recognizing employees. In each weekly staff meeting, one person would be presented with Pockets, a red-haired, 90s-era troll doll that they could display on their desk as a kind of trophy. That person would go on to nominate the next week’s recipient, a fun way of saying thank you for going above and beyond.

Employees loved to personalize the doll, and Pockets was soon covered in jewelry, accessories, and tattoos. Red Velvet Events got a new doll when the old one was fully decorated, and by 2017, they’d gone through five.

An image of the troll dolls Red Velvet Events use as trophies for employees who go above and beyond.

To switch things up, the company now uses Pockets 3:0, a denim jacket hand-painted with a representation of Pockets. The recipient of Pockets 3:0 will drape the jacket over their desk chair—after they’ve modeled it in the weekly meeting of course. The previous recipient will also present them with a note to explain why they were chosen, adding an extra meaningful touch.

4. Typeform’s team applauds achievements big and small

Online surveys and form building service Typeform has a quick, simple way of saying thank you to its people. When a team member does something great—even if it’s a small, everyday accomplishment—their team will spontaneously burst into applause.

The best part? If employees hear one team applauding, everyone will join in. 

“It sounds a little cheesy and sales-y, but it’s actually a nice Typeform tradition,” writes Sançar Sahin, former VP of Marketing at Typeform. “The beauty is that most people have no idea why they’re applauding, but the person receiving the applause does. It’s a nice, momentary break for celebration.” 

If your organization is currently working remotely, you could adopt a similar approach by sharing kudos in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or whatever channel you use to communicate. Coworkers could then respond with comments, emojis, or GIFs to celebrate the achievement.

Build a stronger, happier team

Whether your organization is facing a challenging period or business as usual, it’s important to show employees that their efforts are seen and appreciated on a regular basis. Even the smallest gestures can make someone’s day, helping them feel more connected to their work—and to the organization as a whole. 

If you’re looking to build and strengthen your nonprofit team, we can help. Learn more about our talent attraction and development solutions for nonprofits today.

This post was inspired by the LinkedIn Talent Blog article “5 Ways to Recognize and Delight Your Employees,” authored by Samantha McLaren.

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