Why People Want to Work for Nonprofits

Work/Life Balance and Employee Benefits Rank High

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Are you looking for a job that promotes work/life balance, that treasures your contribution, and that is all about giving back? Then a nonprofit job might be right for you.

I went looking for clues as to why nonprofit jobs are popular and found them in the Best Nonprofits To Work For, published annually by the NonProfit Times.

Year after year, the essential characteristics of highly ranked nonprofits remain remarkably consistent.  I've compiled a list of the qualities that the employees of these nonprofits value about their organizations and the most attractive benefits.

First, how does the NonprofitTimes compile its list? They invite nominations from people who work in nonprofits and then ask them to fill out questionnaires that elicit feedback on seven dimensions:

  1. Leadership and planning,
  2. Corporate culture and communications,
  3. Pay and benefits,
  4. Training, development, and resources,
  5. Engagement,
  6. Role satisfaction, and
  7. Work environment.

The top best nonprofits scored an average of 90 percent in six of the seven dimensions. That’s a high bar, but 50 of the nominated nonprofits cleared it. On the other hand, since there are some one million nonprofits in the US, it’s clear that many organizations need some work, from culture to leadership, to pay and benefits

Great Nonprofits Offer Benefits That Employees Love

Although it’s likely that most nonprofits cannot pay as well as private companies or large government agencies, they often make up for it by providing excellent benefits. Great nonprofits don't skimp on benefits. They make every effort to be competitive with the private sector and even go beyond what is expected.

They often offer some combination of the following:

  • Sabbaticals
  • Dental plans
  • Retirement plans such as 401(k) and 403(b)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Onsite fitness facilities or help with memberships at outside facilities; on-site weight loss classes; walking clubs; free blood screenings and flu shots.
  • Healthcare insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Flexible scheduling of work hours; opportunities to work from home; carpooling services
  • Family care time off
  • In-house hiring and promotions
  • Short and long-term disability programs
  • Generous vacation time
  • Bonuses that can be added to salary or used for professional resources.

How the Top Nonprofits Got There in 2019

In 2019, one of the top nonprofits on the NPT's Top 50 list was the American Arbitration Association (AAA). It is a New York City nonprofit that focuses on alternative dispute resolution.

One of the things that qualified this organization for a top award, as mentioned by its employees, was its human resources program. It has added predictive analytics to its recruitment and hiring process to identify both current and prospective high potential employees. AAA also promoted employee health with incentives aimed at encouraging employees to receive annual checkups.

Some other nonprofits that made the 2019 top 50 list include NOWCC, Inc. of Arlington, VA; DoSomething.org of New York City; and National Institute of Aerospace of Hampton, VA.

What characterizes all of the Best Nonprofits is their insistence on the well being of their employees.

NOWCC, for instance, pays for advanced education for their employees. And PHI of Oakland, CA, has monthly employee meetings to find out what their staff wants and to measure how well the organization is doing on achieving human resource goals.

What Drives the Best Nonprofits to Be Loved by Their Employees?

The researchers who determine the list of Best Nonprofit Employers each year for The NonProfit Times found that these ten things drive organizational excellence that employees say they like about where they work and what they do:

  1. I feel valued 
  2. I trust the leadership 
  3. I like what I do
  4. I believe I can make progress
  5. I'm treated like a person, not a number
  6. I like the people I work with 
  7. I can advance 
  8. I can trust this organization 
  9. I make good use of my skills and abilities
  10. I'm given the technology, equipment, and resources I need 

Check out the annual list of best nonprofits to work for. Some might be in your area. Even if they are not, the attributes that make these nonprofits attractive can serve as a guide for evaluating any nonprofit that you might consider as a future employer. A bonus to the list of Best Nonprofits may be that it reveals the incredible variety of nonprofits and what they do.

For other nonprofits, the list and why these organizations were picked as the best give valuable clues about how to become a nonprofit people want to work for.