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Beyond the Basics: Creative Benefits for Nonprofit Staff

In this post, we’ll cover some creative benefits you can offer your nonprofit’s staff.

Whether you’re just starting out in the nonprofit world or your organization has been around for decades, you know that your nonprofit’s employees are the ones who keep your mission moving forward.


And to retain your internal team members, you need a robust human resources (HR) strategy that ensures a fulfilling employment experience. This includes a compensation strategy that is fair and competitive with other organizations in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

Compensation can present a challenge for many nonprofits as they juggle tight budgets and employee needs. However, according to Astron Solutions’ guide to nonprofit HR, nonprofits can ensure that their employees are being compensated fairly by taking a total rewards approach to compensation, a philosophy that emphasizes not only direct compensation like salary and bonuses, but also indirect compensation like benefits.

The great news about adopting a total rewards philosophy is that your benefits don’t have to be restricted to the basics like healthcare coverage and retirement packages. You can enhance compensation packages with additional creative offerings, such as: 

  • Flexible Work Arrangements
  • Recognition Programs
  • Professional Development Opportunities
  • Health and Wellness Benefits 

On top of helping to improve retention, engagement, and overall employee happiness, the right compensation strategy with creative benefits can have a trickle-down effect on your organization’s donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. This is because when your employees are content in their roles, they’ll drive more value for everyone involved in your cause, helping you move closer to accomplishing your mission. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these creative benefits!

Flexible Work Arrangements

COVID-19 changed a lot about the way we work. According to The Hill, in January 2019, only 4.7% of all work was performed at home. This percentage shot up to 61% in May 2020. 

Three years after the eruption of the pandemic, employees still want the flexibility that working from home provides. In fact, McKinsey found that when given the option to work remotely, 87% of employees take the opportunity to do so.

But now that the world is returning to normal, fully-remote or hybrid options are not the only way you can offer your employees flexible work arrangements. You can also offer

  • Flexible scheduling: Allow your employees to start and finish their work days when they want. This empowers employees to not only work when they’ll be the most productive but also can help them navigate their responsibilities outside of work, like child or elder care. 
  • Compressed work week: There’s currently a lot of buzz about the four-day work week. Try offering a compressed work week of your own. For example, you might allow employees to work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, or encourage employees to complete enough work to end their days early on Friday.
  • Annualized hours: Set a clear number of hours employees should work over the year, allowing them to choose when they’ll put in those hours. 
  • Phased retirement: Phased retirement allows employees to gradually transition into retirement by incrementally decreasing their hours and responsibilities over time as they get close to retiring. 

Offering flexible work arrangements can help your nonprofit promote a healthy work-life balance among your employees. This, in turn, will lead to higher productivity and engagement in the long run.

Recognition Programs

According to Workhuman, when employees are effectively recognized for their contributions, they’re more committed to their jobs, more connected to their workplaces’ culture, and more satisfied in their lives overall.

Incorporate an employee recognition program into your benefits offerings to ensure your organization is seeing these advantages. Here are a few steps to follow as you build out your program:

  1. Determine the goals of your recognition program. Your goals might include boosting employee morale, improving retention, or encouraging specific behaviors or accomplishments. 
  2. Identify the criteria for recognition. Determine how employees will earn recognition. You could, for example, establish specific metrics for performance or task completion that trigger an award. You also could determine different tiers of recognition. For example, an employee who jumps in to help with a public relations emergency should be rewarded differently than an employee who fixes a jammed printer.
  3. Choose the types of recognition you’ll offer. The types of recognition you offer should motivate your employees. Use what you know about them to choose from popular recognition options like catered meals, gift baskets, gift cards, extra PTO, or an Employee of the Month award. 
  4. Launch your program. Once you’ve determined the structure of your recognition program, you can announce it to your employees and begin recognizing them for their contributions. Make it clear that you’re open to feedback, and take your employees’ comments seriously so that you can continue to improve how you recognize them.

Whether you’re recognizing your employees for creating a new and innovative donor stewardship strategy or for pulling in three major donations in one week, an employee recognition program will help you cultivate a spirit of appreciation within your organization and make it a more positive and uplifting place to work.

Professional Development Opportunities

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 59% of employees want to develop new skills that can help them advance in their careers, but don’t know where to begin. This is why professional development opportunities can be such a useful benefit to offer your nonprofit employees. 

Offering these opportunities to your employees communicates to them that you not only care about their performance in their current roles but also are invested in their professional growth. 

Here are some opportunities that you can use to promote professional development: 

  • Conferences: Conferences are a more intensive form of professional development, and offer opportunities for learning and networking. To encourage conference attendance, cover your employees’ registration fees and make conferences team events where you can gather and learn together. 
  • Microlearning: Sometimes knowledge is best received in bite-sized chunks. Try curating training materials that only take a few minutes to watch, read, or listen to. 
  • Podcasts: Podcasts have become an increasingly popular way of getting information, and have provided a platform for experts like nonprofit professionals to share their knowledge with others. Point your team members toward your favorite nonprofit- and fundraising-themed podcasts that can help them keep their skill sets sharp.  
  • Team-to-team learning: Encourage teams to learn from each other by hosting informal team-to-team training meetings or seminars. For example, you might have your major gifts officer present on their favorite donor management strategies, or ask your web developer to lead a discussion on what kinds of messaging result in higher conversions on your donation page. 

Professional development is another example of a creative benefit that not only boosts individual employees’ experiences but also can provide many advantages to your organization itself. After all, when your employees learn new skills, you can stay on top of the best methods for running your nonprofit, increasing your chances of success in serving your beneficiaries and realizing your vision.

Health and Wellness Benefits

Zippia reports that 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when choosing an employer. This means that health and wellness benefits can go a long way in helping you recruit and retain top talent. 

Consider offering the following:

  • Office equipment that promotes healthy habits like standing desks, ergonomic chairs, or under-desk treadmills
  • Wellness programs like onsite flu shot clinics, cooking classes, or stress management seminars 
  • Gym or yoga studio memberships
  • Meditation and mindfulness app subscriptions
  • Healthy snacks and beverage options in your office 

Healthy employees are happy employees. On top of offering benefits like these, encourage healthy lifestyles by having open conversations about health and wellness in the workplace or hosting occasional activities that focus on health. For example, you might have an annual field day event where you and your employees spend a day engaging in team-building activities and sporting games outside.

Bonus: Communicating Your Compensation and Benefits Strategy

After deciding on the creative benefits you want to incorporate into your total rewards program, you should develop a plan for communicating your offerings to your employees. 

According to Astron Solutions, here are a few things to remember when talking with your employees about your compensation and benefits strategy: 

  • Explain your compensation philosophy. Walk your employees through how a total rewards compensation strategy works and how your philosophy has guided your organization in developing its compensation packages. 
  • Share the economic and financial context for any changes or updates. Employees will want to know the rationale behind any changes you make to your compensation strategy. Discuss the economic and financial context, if applicable. For example, you might explain that due to budget cuts this year, you’re shifting your approach to focus more heavily on indirect forms of compensation like wellness benefits rather than offering cash bonuses. 
  • Be open to answering questions. Ensure your employees understand that they can ask questions about your approach to compensation and their individual compensation packages. Give them multiple options for doing so, like filling out a survey or speaking to their manager. And make sure to get back to them in a timely manner with an answer! 

Above all, prioritize being transparent with your employees. As they see that you’re working to design and implement a compensation strategy that can enrich various aspects of their life, they’ll be more inclined to stay with your organization longer and to do great work for your cause.


As you consider each of these creative benefits for your nonprofit’s compensation strategy, remember to use what you know about your employees to determine which benefits will be the best fit. 

Working with a nonprofit HR consultant can help you further refine your benefits offerings and compensation strategy, as well as other parts of your HR approach. You’ve got this!

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