How to Motivate Your Nonprofit Team in 2021

How to Motivate Your Nonprofit Team in 2021

With a new year right on the horizon, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your management strategies and ensure you’re keeping your team engaged. Unfortunately, almost a quarter (22%) of nonprofits say dissatisfaction or disengagement with current leadership is a primary driver of voluntary turnover at their organizations. No matter how dedicated employees are to your cause, if they don’t feel supported and inspired by their managers and leaders, they may start looking for opportunities elsewhere.

One of the best ways to improve engagement is by tapping into employees’ intrinsic motivators—their need for autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Unlike external motivators like money or acclaim, intrinsic motivation is self-sustaining. When employees are intrinsically motivated, they gain personal satisfaction from their work, making each day feel more fulfilling and meaningful—and giving their productivity a boost.

Inspired by the LinkedIn Learning course Conducting Motivational 1-on-1 Meetings, led by recruiting and leadership coach Alex Moyle, here are some tips to help you motivate your team by appealing to their need for autonomy, purpose, or mastery.

1. Autonomy

Employees craving autonomy may not always express their need outright—especially in an environment like a nonprofit workplace where everyone is working toward a common goal. You may sense they’re frustrated by your frequent check-ins, or you may find them frustrated when they don’t have clear ownership of projects. They care about helping the wider organization and team, but they also get energized by working alone.

People motivated by autonomy want to be able to make decisions on their own and be trusted to do the right thing for themselves, their team, the company. The trick is to encourage autonomy in line with their skillset. Give them the opportunity to succeed, and every time they prove themselves, give them increasingly challenging tasks to independently complete.

2. Purpose

Why am I here? What do I want to be in life? How can I make a difference? These are the questions that people motivated by purpose are always asking. 

Nonprofits naturally tend to attract a lot of purpose-driven employees, so helping them see the impact of their work is critical to nurturing and retaining them. This is easier in some roles than others—someone performing direct outreach in the community, for example, may have a better sense of their immediate impact than someone working in an administrative or operational role. But by having regular conversations with employees about how their contributions positively impact their team, your organization, and the communities you serve, you can tap into their sense of purpose and make them excited to come to work. 

3. Mastery

If someone on your team expresses they’re becoming bored with their day-to-day work, that’s a good signal they’re motivated by mastery. Mastery is all about the inner desire to improve, and people in this camp need to constantly be learning and developing. 

When boredom strikes mastery-driven employees, it may be time to reinvent that person’s role. Work with them to establish a clear path forward at the organization, and set goals and milestones they can achieve along the way to ensure they feel a sense of progression. Give them access to learning opportunities, and keep putting projects and experiences in front of them that will help them feel like they’re developing.

For more advice about figuring out what makes your teams tick, and for tips on leading performance reviews that motivate your employees, watch the full course Conducting Motivational 1-on-1 Meetings on LinkedIn Learning. And to learn more about learning solutions for your nonprofit team, speak to one of our nonprofit consultants.