11 Traits of a Great Nonprofit Workplace According to Nonprofit Times

Taylor Corrado
Taylor Corrado



nonprofit-workplaceWith an average 89% approval rating from their staffs, organizations on the Nonprofit Times' Best Nonprofits to Work For in 2013 list, including the Wounded Warrior Project (#1), DoSomething.org (#11), and The Livestrong Foundation (#19), all have very distinct characteristics that set them apart from the many other organizations in the U.S.

Employees from the nonprofits to make the list were surveyed on eight different areas related to what makes their workplace and culture special, including role satisfaction, work environment, pay and benefits, and overall employee engagement.

These highly touted nonprofits had very similar characteristics in several areas. So, it may be wise for you to look at your own organization’s culture and work environment to see if you score well. Here are 11 common traits these top nonprofits deemed awesome places to work share:

1) The leadership lives by and understands its culture.

2) The work environment is a place where the staff loves to come to every day.

3) The organization was started and/or led by people with a strong passion for the mission.

4) The larger organizations have very flexible benefit programs.

5) Employees know their role and how they contribute to the mission.

6) The organization’s leaders solicit feedback and suggestions from their staff regularly.

7) The majority of employees participate in fundraising and awareness efforts for the cause.

8) New employees are recruited through existing staff members.

9) Onboarding and training is a key part of the culture and is always improving via staff feedback.

10) Part-time staff is kept in the loop on all content from staff meetings.

11) The orgnanization's leaders and staff are not afraid of innovation, failing fast, and learning from their mistakes.

Nonprofits That Lead by Example

Many, if not all, of the traits listed above apply to the nonprofits listed below, each of which exemplifies the best of the best. Check out what makes these organizations so special.

Wounded Warrior Project: Developed compassion fatigue workshop

The Wounded Warrior Project created a "compassion fatigue workshop" for those staff members who work with wounded warriors and, as a result, feel similarly to those wounded who are dealing with grief, loss, coping, and mental health issues.

The organization's goal was to create an environment in which these staff members could communicate how they were feeling. "They learn techniques to recognize and relieve stress that can lead to compassion fatigue and receive software so they can review what they've learned," the Nonprofit Times notes.

It's clear the organization wants to take care of its staff so they are able to give 110% to the mission.

Alzheimer's Association: Allows for elder relief care

With one in seven adults reporting that they have to take time off from work to take care of elderly parents, the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago embraces this demand by incorporating it into their flexible benefits.

Each employee is allotted five days per year to use to take care of elderly relatives. This type of program reflects the organization's mission and helps employees feel secure about their job while having to tend to older family members in need.

American Heart Association: Offers wellness programs

The AMA of Dallas offers employees the "All About Me" initiative, which includes 12 healthy-living programs. These include ones that entail personal health coaching, physical activity and nutrition-tracking tools, and quarterly challenges.

This is a volunteer program that AMA workers can participate in to collect wellness credit that can then be redeemed for prizes and even paid time off. The group also sponsors the American Heart University, which aims to help improve employee performance through online classes and in-person workshops.

Natural Resources Defense Council: Implements green way of working

The NRDC practices what it preaches. The group has a "green office building that has a composting station, diligently recycles everything, gets their milk from a dairy, and has a copier that automatically prints on both sides to save paper." The nonprofit also works with companies like Patagonia, an eco-friendly brand, to provide discounts to staff. 

SightLife: Shares impact stories at every meeting

Whether it's at a board or staff meeting, a letter from an individual who has received a donated cornea, or a family member of someone that has read out loud to those in attendance, the organization shows the results of its hard work and reminds its staff as often as possible of lives they're impacting and what the mission really means to those they help.

What makes your organization’s culture and work environment unique? Share your story below!

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