• There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Keeping nonprofit teams engaged despite high turnover

by Casebook Editorial Team 1 min read

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the great resignation, businesses across many industries have experienced an uptick in employee turnover. This trend has been especially prominent in the nonprofit sector, where limited budgets and resources often make it difficult for organizations to retain their top talent.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the great resignation, businesses across many industries have experienced an uptick in employee turnover. This trend has been especially prominent in the nonprofit sector, where limited budgets and resources often make it difficult for organizations to retain their top talent. 

High turnover can have serious consequences for nonprofits, including reduced productivity, decreased morale, and increased costs — all of which directly affect the quality of services these organizations provide to their constituents.

Causes of Nonprofit Employee Retention Problems

Nonprofit employees are typically motivated by different factors than those in the corporate sector, making them more likely to stay if they feel their work is meaningful and that they're making a difference.

However, employees may not stick around if they feel that they're not being compensated fairly, are burdened with an excessive workload, or lack opportunities for growth. Also, communication issues and disagreements about expectations may cause them to become disengaged. Nonprofit organizations with these issues tend to struggle with employee retention. 

The following section explores some of the most commonly observed reasons that nonprofits struggle to retain their employees:

  • Inadequate recognition. Employees can feel underappreciated and unrecognized if they don't receive regular feedback or rewards for their hard work. This is especially true for nonprofit employees, who often work long hours on tight budgets with few tangible rewards.
  • Limited budgets and resources. Nonprofits often have limited budgets and resources. Therefore, it can be hard for these organizations to give employees the tools, technology, or personnel they need to comfortably complete their work. This can lead to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction and, eventually, resignations.
  • Lack of opportunities. Another result of the limited budgets that nonprofits typically work with is that they often aren't able to offer the same competitive salaries or career advancement opportunities that corporate organizations can afford to provide. This can leave employees feeling stagnant, which may lead them to look elsewhere for opportunities.
  • Burnout and compassion fatigue. Nonprofit employees often pour their hearts into their work, making them more vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue than workers in other industries. Burnout can lead to feelings of helplessness and apathy, leading them to leave or become disengaged from their work.
  • Misaligned expectations. A lack of communication or understanding between an employee and their manager or organization can quickly lead to disillusionment and cause the employee to feel unvalued or unheard.

Inadequate training. It's crucial for nonprofits to provide their employees with the necessary training and resources that enable them to do their jobs effectively. Without proper training, employees are likely to feel overwhelmed or underutilize.

Negative Impacts of High Turnover in Nonprofit Organizations

High turnover can have a variety of negative effects on nonprofit organizations and lead to an endless cycle of hiring and training new personnel that can be difficult to escape. This is especially detrimental for small organizations that are already stretched for resources and time with limited personnel. Retaining quality employees is therefore a critical issue for nonprofit organizations and can have far-reaching impacts on an organization’s performance, reputation, and sustainability.

Here are some of the most common negative consequences of high turnover in nonprofit organizations:

  • Reduced morale. High turnover can cultivate frustration among existing employees, creating a negative atmosphere in the organization. In the worst-case scenarios, this feeling can spread and lead to a complete breakdown of a team’s morale and productivity.
  • Decreased productivity. Cycling through large numbers of employees is likely to harm the overall productivity of the organization as existing employees have to divide their attention between training new personnel and completing their own tasks. This can have a serious impact on the organization's efficiency.
  • Decreased quality of services. High turnover can harm the quality of services an organization provides because inexperienced staff members may not have the knowledge and experience required to provide the same level of service as those with more experience.
  • Poor reputation. Organizations with high turnover rates may find it difficult to attract and retain quality personnel, resulting in a poor reputation that can be difficult to shake. Declining service quality also contributes to reputation degradation.
  • Increased operating costs. It costs money to hire and train new personnel, which can be particularly detrimental for small nonprofits with limited budgets. Additionally, the existing employees may have to shoulder a greater workload while new staff members are training, adding to the organization's operating costs.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge. As experienced staff members leave, they take a great amount of institutional knowledge with them. For example, a staff member who has been with a nonprofit for many years may have in-depth knowledge of the organization's donors or beneficiaries. The value of this knowledge cannot be overstated, and its loss can have a lasting impact on the organization.
  • Lost opportunities. Nonprofits that experience high turnover may lose out on potential opportunities, such as grants or partnerships, due to their inability to demonstrate a consistent track record of successful outcomes with dedicated staff.
  • Employee burnout. As existing employees are forced to take on more tasks to fill the void left by departing team members, they're more likely to experience high levels of stress and burnout. This can reduce both employee and team efficiency, further impacting the organization's performance.

Best Practices for Keeping Teams Engaged and Reducing Turnover

Each of the negative consequences described above uniquely impacts nonprofit organizations. Together, these issues can snowball and massively harm the long-term stability of an organization. By recognizing the potential implications of high turnover, organizations can take steps to mitigate these effects and foster an engaging, productive work environment. 

The following sections examine some of the best practices for keeping nonprofit teams engaged and reducing turnover.

Fostering a Positive Work Culture

One of the most important goals that an organization can work toward to reduce turnover is to create a positive work culture. Setting the right expectations and nurturing an environment with clear lines of communication and expectations is instrumental in keeping employees engaged. Open, two-way communication between leadership and staff can help to create a sense of transparency and respect while also allowing staff to provide their input on matters that impact their day-to-day activities.

To maintain team engagement, it's also important for organizations to acknowledge exceptional performance. Individuals or groups who have exceeded expectations or contributed significantly to achieving an organizational milestone should be recognized using methods such as public announcements, awards, or monetary incentives.

A final component of fostering a positive work culture centers around training. Organizations should ensure that staff members have access to the appropriate resources, materials, and training needed to succeed in their roles. When staff members feel supported and properly equipped with the tools needed to do their job, they're more likely to remain engaged and productive.

Hiring the Right People

No matter how great the work culture or how many incentives are in place, an organization won't be able to reduce turnover if it doesn't take the necessary steps to hire the right people for each role. Identifying the best fit for an open position requires an in-depth understanding of the job responsibilities as well as a clear picture of the kind of person who can best fulfill those responsibilities.

Assessment tests are another valuable tool that can be used to objectively evaluate a candidate’s qualifications. By using these tests, organizations can gain a better understanding of how a candidate’s skills and abilities line up with the requirements of the role.

Providing Opportunities for Professional Development

In addition to hiring the right people, nonprofits should provide employees with opportunities for professional development, such as ongoing training and education as well as leadership development programs.

By providing their staff with these types of resources, organizations can create an environment where employees feel supported and encouraged to continue developing their skills and abilities. This can be a powerful way to keep staff engaged as it allows them to pursue new challenges and grow in their current role.

Encouraging Work–Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work–life balance has become an increasingly important issue in the modern workplace. After a certain point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and long hours spent at the office become less productive. If this carries on for too long, employees eventually become burned out and will start to look for other work opportunities.

It's important for organizations to promote regular breaks, vacations, and other forms of time off for their staff. This can prevent burnout and enable employees to recharge, refocus, and return to work with renewed energy. Creating a trustworthy and flexible environment in which staff are encouraged to prioritize their mental health and family well-being should also be a top priority.

Paying Your Team Fairly

Providing employees with fair and competitive compensation packages is essential for retaining top talent. A delicate balance must be struck that allows the organization to remain financially viable while also satisfying the employees’ expectations and needs. Communication is key here, and organizations should strive to keep staff informed about the decisions that are being made regarding their compensation and benefits.

To ensure that the compensation packages they offer remain competitive, organizations need to do their research and stay up to date on industry trends. It's also important to take cost of living changes and similar factors into account when setting salaries. In addition, offering bonuses, allowances, and other incentives can help to make job offers more enticing and encourage current employees to stay long term.

Nurturing an Engaging and Fulfilling Workplace

At the end of the day, engagement and retention rely on creating a workplace that is engaging and fulfilling. This requires a combination of effective strategies that ensure employees are respected, appreciated, and supported. Fostering a work culture that's welcoming and inclusive should be the top priority for any organization that wants employees who are happy and motivated to stay.

How Technology Can Help Improve Engagement and Retention in Nonprofit Teams

Technology is an invaluable tool for improving engagement and retention within nonprofit teams. Organizations can use a variety of tools and strategies to foster collaboration and transparency and streamline their workflows. For example, communication tools can be used to promote open dialogue among staff members, performance metrics can provide insights into employee engagement, and project management tools can help maximize collaboration. 

Read on to discover how you can use technology to improve engagement and retention in your nonprofit teams.

Promoting Transparency

Without the right tools in place, it can be difficult for nonprofit teams to remain informed and up to date on personal and team-wide goals, objectives, and progress. This is where communication tools can be immensely helpful. By providing staff members with access to real-time updates, organizations can ensure that everyone is on the same page. This is especially helpful for remote teams that can't always meet up in person.

Nonprofits should also work to create open-door policies that encourage staff members to ask questions and voice concerns. This kind of open communication helps to provide an environment of trust and communication, which can have a positive impact on engagement and retention.

Performance metrics are another great tool for understanding and improving employee engagement. When staff members have measurable goals, they're more likely to strive for success and feel like their performance is being recognized.

Enhancing Collaboration Among Team Members

Collaboration is vital for any successful team, and technology can help to foster a spirit of collaboration among nonprofit staff members. Project management tools provide employees with a shared workspace for completing tasks, assigning roles and responsibilities, and setting deadlines. Other tools, such as video conferencing apps, help to keep remote teams connected and engaged.

Another great way to boost collaboration is through team-building activities. These activities can help foster relationships and create an atmosphere of camaraderie, which can support engagement and retention. Consider hosting team lunches, organizing group outings, or participating in volunteer activities together, if possible.

Streamlining Workflows With Case Management Software

Organizations that manage several cases on a daily basis can benefit greatly from case management software. This type of technology allows teams to streamline their workflows and ensure that all tasks are completed efficiently and effectively.

Casebook is an example of a case management tool that simplifies workflows by providing configurable processes for daily tasks and informative dashboards for tracking progress. You can manage cases, clients, and services from any device on a HIPAA-compliant platform and streamline processes with reporting, notifications, case notes, and smart workflow automation. It's designed to let you manage your clients' cases and track their progress, collaborate with your team, and manage your organization's data securely and effectively.


High turnover in the nonprofit sector can be challenging for organizations, leading to reduced productivity, decreased morale, and higher overall costs. Nonprofits often lack the resources to provide competitive salaries or career advancement opportunities, and overloaded work schedules and inadequate recognition often lead to employee burnout, feelings of stagnation, and eventual resignations. Additional factors, such as a lack of transparency and fractured communication, can further exacerbate the issue.

High turnover can also lead to reductions in institutional knowledge and service quality, increased employee burnout, and missed opportunities. To reduce nonprofit turnover, organizations should consider providing regular feedback and rewards, investing in employee training and development, communicating effectively, and using low-cost nonprofit case management software to help employees do their jobs more effectively and with less stress. 

By utilizing nonprofit case management software, such as Casebook, organizations can streamline their workflows, increase productivity and efficiency, and improve employee engagement while creating a unified workspace for their teams. This helps solve a variety of challenges that nonprofits often face and can lead to increased engagement, decreased turnover, and improved services for the community.

Key Takeaways

  • Nonprofits struggle with employee retention due to limited budgets and resources, high demand for services, burnout and compassion fatigue, lack of growth opportunities, and mismatched expectations.
  • High turnover can harm both nonprofit organizations and the people they serve. The negative impacts can include reduced productivity, decreased morale, increased costs, and decreased quality of services.
  • Best Practice: Foster a positive work culture through communication, recognition, and training.
  • Technology can improve daily processes and retention rates by promoting transparency, communication, and collaboration among team members. With Casebook, configurable processes can be created for daily tasks, such as intake, case tracking, note-taking, file management, and more, helping to simplify workflows. This also helps to address a variety of common challenges that nonprofits face and can lead to increased engagement, decreased turnover, and improved services for the community.

Discover the Transformative Power Casebook Can Provide to Your Organization

Casebook Editorial Team