8 Ways To Compensate Employees Beyond Paycheques

8 Ways To Compensate Employees Beyond Paycheques
Written by - 23 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

If you are running a non-profit, you may have often felt that you are not compensating your employees well enough.

If you are running a non-profit, you may have often felt that you are not compensating your employees well enough. Cash is never plentiful, and you are struggling to find ways to ensure your staff do not get negatively influenced because of this innate constraint. Do not worry! There are creative ways in which you can now reward, engage, and compensate your staff within a tight budget.

Here is a curated list of ideas that are bound to keep your staff happy and productive.

Company Culture

In an earlier post in the series, we discussed the importance of building an organisational culture and went over a few methods of doing so. Here are a few more tips that you can use to develop a culture that compensates for lack of high salaries.


Develop a culture of recognising high-performance employees. Distribute handwritten Thank You notes, CEO Seals, or Employee of the Month awards. LinkedIn recommendations are another way to praise someone publicly. A small act of recognition goes a long way in terms of creating a culture of caring.


Create your own artifacts - T-shirts printed with your non-profit’s mission, coffee mugs with your logo, stationery for your brand etc. Since these are utility items regularly consumed, there is little extra cost associated with personalising them for your brand. The value, however, is long-term as it tends to generate a sense of belonging among staff.


Professional Development

As noted a few times in earlier posts, personal development is an expectation of staff who choose to work for non-profits and accept lower pay. To do justice to this expectation, regular professional development activities need to be arranged.


Enroll your staff in skill-upgradation programmes - online or at local community colleges/training centers.  Some programmes can be hosted in-house as well e.g. fundraising staff can share what kind of communication is most likely to lead to donations; this information can be used by the website development team to draft similar messages on the website. You may also send your representatives to certain conferences and encourage them to share their learning with the wider staff.


Another creative way to enhance everyone’s learning is to host competitions that encourage individuals to work in teams and make recommendations to solve a real-world challenge your organisation is currently facing. The methods are numerous - just find what works for you and get going!


Time Off

The flexibility that comes with time offs and traveling opportunities is what many people look forward to while working at non-profits. So be sure to exploit this avenue!

Vacation and Breaks

Working from home is an extremely attractive option for long commuters and working mothers. Regular practices such as Work from Home Fridays or Half Days Twice A Week are irresistible opportunities. You may also consider longer lunch-breaks/snack-breaks on certain days, or, on a longer timeframe, sabbaticals in genuine cases such medical rest or child care.


Travel as a reward for good work is an attractive offer. You may consider gifting a long-weekend family vacation, with Airbnb credits, to a nearby city or place of attraction. This exercise may cost you a bit, but the impression of a caring employer that it generates will yield results for years to come.


Team Building

To inspire stronger bonds among co-workers, it is essential that you foster a culture of team building. If you can combine such exercises in a creative, fun way, you can easily create valuable assets of synergy and team spirit across the organisation.

Happy Hours and Other Such Events

Gatherings such as team lunches, movies, and outings must be a regular practice at any workplace. More creative ways are on-site fitness classes or team game competitions. Remember, the more time your team members spend with one another outside of work, the stronger the camaraderie is!

Lunch with the Leader

An interesting way to both learn about the team and share more about yourself is to host Lunch with the Leader sessions once a month or so. In an informal, relaxed setting, it is easy for the team to unwind, share their concerns, learn about the organisation's challenges, and, simply, get inspired by the leaders. Non-profits are essentially a place for like-minded individuals who aim to make a positive difference. In such a setup, the more inspiration one gets, the more productive they are likely to be!


Next Steps

The list, as usual, is an indicative list. There are infinite other ways that can find their way into this list, but unless you start implementing something, nothing will work. So be genuinely interested in compensating your employees in ways other than salary, and you will be on your way to a cohesive, productive team!

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face and builds on top of earlier posts such as acquiring the right talent, employee retention strategies., and workplace culture.

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CiviHR is a philanthropic project funded by a charitable foundation, on a mission to create a best-in-class people management solution for organisations that deliver social good. You may read more here or sign up here.

How to Establish Workplace Culture in Your Nonprofit

Teamwork is essential for workplace culture
Written by - 17 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

It is a well-known fact that all non-profits suffer from some inadequacy - from ubiquitous financial constraints to skewed work hours. However, such commonplace deficiencies can hardly be a cause of a non-profit’s eventual dysfunction.

It is a well-known fact that all non-profits suffer from some inadequacy - from ubiquitous financial constraints to skewed work hours. However, such commonplace deficiencies can hardly be a cause of a non-profit’s eventual dysfunction. That cause, as demonstrated in well-researched sources such as Jeffery Pfeffer’s Dying for a Paycheck, is often found to be workplace culture, an aspect of work that is observed every day, but never paid attention to. Establishing a sustainable, practical workplace culture is something that must be on the to-do list of non-profit leaders and managers, and this post aims to lay a strong foundation for your non-profit in that direction.

At the onset, one needs to understand what a soft term such as “culture” actually means. Prima facie, it would indicate the values, behaviour, and habits of an organisation and its people. While it is a great starting point, this view of culture is only skin deep. As hypothesised in Laura Putnam’s Workplace Wellness that Works, culture takes place on various levels, with layers from bottom to top, as in a pyramid.

At the bottom-most layer, called the Functioning layer, you have workplace practices that relate to how people perform their tasks or functions. These are the most essential elements of setting a culture. How is any work planned, measured, tracked in your workplace? What kind of support system do your people have? Are basic necessities - clean surroundings, appropriate furniture, computers and internet, timely salaries - taken care of? Is there enough flexibility in the work schedule? While these sound elementary practices, not taking care of them may rapidly lead to dysfunction.

The next layer, the Feeling layer, relates to people feeling appreciated or respected. Do you have a system to acknowledge the success of your people, at all levels? Are there regular feedback/reviews given? How about feedback to the management? Are there any awards publicly given to high performers? How does the organisation deal with interpersonal issues or discontent towards the management? How would you rate yourself when it comes to caring for one another? Teamwork is essential for workplace culture and the more enriched your teamwork practices, the better groundwork you have for a robust organisational culture.

By this point, a healthy workplace culture is beginning to evolve! But what your organisation now needs is the “moments of joy”, or a Friendship layer. Simply put, these are the self-induced fun activities that your people engage in. Do they have lunch with one another? Do they hang out during non-office work hours or on weekends? At work, do they rely on one another when they are not formally required to? While these may be a wide range of disconnected activities, together they indicate a culture that is collegial and collaborative. However, forcing staff to do fun team-building exercises is a trap that can do more harm than good. So, encourage informal engagement, but do not intimidate!

Enrichment is the next step in the direction of a culture of well-being. Appropriately termed the Forward layer, the next layer deals with a pivotal issue: do your people have opportunities for growth, helping them in moving forward? A supportive onboarding program, regular feedback and discussions, a system for individual development plans, frequent opportunities for training and upskilling can go a long way. You can also take this a notch up by encouraging staff to share their new learning and volunteer for leadership tasks of their interest. Most people join non-profits with the acceptance of low pay and expectation of greater learning. You don’t want to fail on the second front!

And lastly, at the apex of the culture pyramid is the Fulfilment layer, akin to the Self-Actualisation block in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Does your organisation have a mission? How well do your people relate to and resonate with the mission? Are your people passionate about their work, to the extent that they are willing to overlook the day-to-day challenges and constraints that bog them down? Do you have a practice of observing, acknowledging, and rewarding those who demonstrate uncommon commitment? Remember, those who are found to be worthy at Fulfilment layer, are your strongest people, potentially suitable for leadership positions down the line. In a way, this layer is essentially where the culture of an organisation is said to be mature.

While understanding these aspects of organisational culture is easy, developing the culture is not that straightforward. What complicates the matter is the fact that there is no right or wrong way, or even a starting or an ending point, of creating a culture. So do not overthink - grab an aspect of your organisation that needs fixing and set it right. Solve it in a manner that is sustainable in the long run, and you have a piece of your workplace culture. Weave such pieces together and a unique culture will emerge! Finally, do not hesitate in replicating cultural practices you find working in other organisations. “Great artists steal”, said Picasso and building workplace culture is definitely an art.

Until next time, happy culture-building!

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face and builds on top of earlier posts such as acquiring the right talent, non-profit recruitment roadmap, and employee retention strategies.

Employee Retention Strategies

A Stressed Employee
Written by - 09 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

As challenging as recruitment is, employee retention is even tougher!

As challenging as recruitment is, employee retention is even tougher! A major concern for all businesses, the talent crisis is more pronounced in the resource-constrained environment of non-profits. Its effects are multi-faced - from causing burnout of remaining staff until new employees are recruited, to not being able to find stable employees for managerial roles in the long term. The average turnover rate is 19% which means that a fifth of your staff is likely to quit in any given year, and, more threateningly, your non-profit will have a whole new set of people in the next five years. Despite this, low employee retention is an elephant in the room, often ignored and never planned for.

In an effort to guide non-profits in the correct direction to prevent employee attrition, we provide below a list of actionable steps non-profits can take to keep the crisis at bay.

It is often said - People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses! Behind the various reasons that lead people to throw in the towel, a core cause points to their immediate manager. While it is necessary that managers keep track of their subordinates and critique their work, the manner in which the process unfolds often generates frustration in the minds of the employees. Training managers on leadership and people development aspects can help improve manager-employee relations and create a marked improvement in your organisation.

Employees seek improvement in themselves. People often choose non-profit jobs over for-profit jobs because of non-financial reasons, a common one being opportunities to learn. So, if this very incentive is missing in a non-profit, employee quitting is just a matter of time. Non-profits must make sure to have regular training programmes for employees. Online training options are a must to look at, if non-profits are on a tight budget. More importantly, utilising the learning in regular work will keep employees happy and enhance organisational capabilities. A formal mentoring programme can be another alternative.

It is generally observed that 50+ hr work weeks and low employee retention go hand in hand. Non-profit employees are often passionate about creating a change in the world, and such vigour leads them to overwork. To expect someone to perpetually work at this rate is unreasonable. A healthy work-life balance needs to be offered to employees as and when required. Rejuvenated people are more productive and happier, which directly counters the attrition rate challenge. Flexible work-hours and working from home opportunities can be useful policies as well.

Keep an open-door policy. The majority of non-profits have fewer than 100 staff. This number is disposed to cultivating a collaborative, flat organisational culture. Let people feel free, seek help from others, rely on one another, and offer constructive feedback. Such a collegial environment will create bonds that are difficult to break, exhibiting a pull effect on all employees.

Bond outside of office. Another related aspect of work culture is the attachment one develops with the organsiation outside of the work place. Are there informal ways in which people can know one another well? Do you welcome families and children to visit your workplace? Are there any fun events, sports or games, or picnics that are regularly organised? List down available options to engage your staff in similar manners outside of office. You will be surprised to see how many of them are easy to implement, without causing a dent in your budget.

And most importantly, talk to your employees. There may be hundreds of other reasons that pull them down and force them to quit. No organisation can create formal programmes to tackle each such reason. The most effective and the most human way to manage employees is to know their pain points on a regular basis. Schedule some time - even as little as 30 mins a month - for an open-house meeting to discuss employee concerns. Personally meet employees that seem particularly distressed. Sometimes, all that is needed is to ask them how you can help!

Rare is the case in which someone quits a job that makes him/her feels involved, challenged, and important. So build practices that foster such a healthy culture and you are on your way to creating a robust, loyal workforce. Your attrition will be taken care of, as a side effect!

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face, and builds on top of earlier posts on acquiring the right talent and non-profit recruitment roadmap.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.