10 Secrets to Increase Nonprofit Compensation

Different things inspire different people to work for nonprofit organizations. What is it that inspires you to work for a nonprofit. Maybe it’s the compensation, but you probably LOVE helping others; especially at an amazing nonprofit. After all, it’s in your DNA, right?

Living on a small paycheck isn’t easy. But sometimes service without much, or any, financial reward is an unofficial employer expectation. So, in return, you earn your “Badge of Courage.” Nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

There can be a lot of reasons why compensation is low. Perhaps wages and benefits are top weighted to leadership. Maybe there are other spending priorities. It’s possible that there has been poor management of funds. The culture may openly support weak compensation, as is unfortunately the norm for some charities. Employee turnover may be given little, if any consideration—allowing the cycle to continue. Or, the funds simply aren’t there to work with.

You know that there are many non-monetary rewards of working in a nonprofit, too. What is it worth, for example, to turn hopelessness to possibility? Homelessness to security? Hungry to fed? It’s impossible to measure this level of satisfaction.

But that still leaves one burning question—how can nonprofit employers increase employee compensation?

The short answer: plenty of ways. Here are 10 of them to enrich the employee-employer relationship.

1. Extend Purchasing Perks and Memberships

Some companies will pass on discounts and special offers to a nonprofit’s employees. Approach your vendors to find out about this possibility.

2. Provide Staff with Cell Phone Service

Cut a deal with a carrier. Your nonprofit could buy the phones and the service. Add even more value with internet services.

3. Offer ‘Work from Home’ Arrangements

Help employees save time and money on commuting back and forth to their work location. Just be sure you have a clear policy to administer a telecommuting program.

4. Increase Continuing Education Spending

Create more budget space for investing in employees. Consider paying for certification programs, association dues, learning materials, conferences and/or publications. (P.S. Don’t worry about staff leaving, either. Your trust and confidence can pay big dividends over the long-term.)

5. Recognition Awards

An example could be a short paid vacation and special recognition. Surprise awards can carry extra power and meaning.Try to do this often. Make the award visible and give credit where due. Recognize outcomes that are aligned to results and core values.

6. Extended Time Off

Pay special attention to extending holiday time. For example, the Friday after Thanksgiving is not a day all employers consider a paid holiday. But if your family is out of town, that can be an inconvenience. Think about adding a paid birthday holiday, too.

7. Grocery Gift Cards

Food costs continue to rise. Help employees defray this expense in the form of a grocery store gift card.

8. Health Club Memberships

Bring more energy to the individual and the organization with a membership to a local gym. Compliment that with flexible scheduling.

9. Transportation Benefit

Consider a flat dollar amount for each employee. It could be used for gas, bus passes or routine vehicle maintenance.

10. Emergencies

Set up a special fund for emergency employee needs. Being able to step in when life deals a heavy blow is what many nonprofits already do every day. Now extend that benefit to your employees.


If you’re a nonprofit employer, give these 10 perks careful consideration. Find pro-bono attorneys and financial professionals that can help, too. Always seek out in-kind contributions first to boost the benefit.

If you’re a nonprofit employee, don’t be afraid to start the conversation. It’s a clear win for relationships, culture and finances.

Being creative can be less expensive and better received than a raise, so leave no stone unturned. Just remember that money alone will not keep employees around for long. Make sure employees are appreciated as a contributor to the mission. Combining both can be a recipe for success in a cash-strapped nonprofit.


Mark Titi

January 22, 2016

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