Rewarding staff and volunteers when your budget is thin: Ideas from JVA’s Executive Director Breakfast Club.

By Wendy Silveira-Steinway and Janine Vanderburg, JVA Consulting

We all want to appreciate staff and volunteers for a job well done. Yet many nonprofits may not have the financial capability or structures for things like bonuses or incentive compensation, rewards that are used in the private sector as part of performance management systems.

At Tuesday morning’s Executive Director Breakfast Club, we had the opportunity to facilitate a great discussion on performance management with area nonprofit leaders.

When we reached the topic of incentives and rewards, we were so taken by all the innovative ideas our execs had to recognize and reward staff that we wanted to share with all of you on Nonprofit Street. Here are some of the best:

  • Give shout outs at weekly staff meetings, being specific about what you’re recognizing staff members for
  • Forward complimentary emails about staff and volunteers around the office (at JVA, we post them on a bulletin board and on the fridge as well)
  • Have a bubbly non-alcoholic drink in the fridge and pop it open every time your organization experiences a success, large or small
  • Invite staff and volunteers for a meal at your home
  • Recognize staff by taking them to dinner at a hard-to-get-into restaurant
  • Write personalized thank-you notes—one executive director noted that she writes them to her staff and that they’ve kept them for years
  • Give your managers a budget of $10 per volunteer/staff member and allow them to use it as they wish to recognize hard work and great performance (this way, recognition can be personalized to the individual—if you know your volunteer loves tulips, you can get them a nice bouquet, or if your development assistant just wrote her 100th successful grant, you can get her a bracelet engraved with the words “Successful 100 Times Over” on it)
  • Give a spontaneous day off—a “mental health” day when someone has been working hard

The overall consensus was to be authentic when rewarding staff and volunteers. If you are an ED or manager who believes your staff’s reward is getting to do what they love and get paid for it, don’t send a mushy note if it’s not your style. As one of the participants at  Breakfast Club so honestly put it, if you reward a volunteer or a staff member in a way that is not consistent with your style, “they’ll know you just got back from a how-to training!” We’re not saying don’t reward or appreciate your staff—just do it in a way that is true to you as a manager. Whatever you decide to do to recognize your employees and volunteers should be unique to your personality and theirs.

Are you an executive director looking to connect with others to network and discuss topics, like rewarding your staff, that are important to your work? If so, join JVA’s Executive Director Breakfast Club.

This entry was posted in Executive director training, Human resources and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Rewarding staff and volunteers when your budget is thin: Ideas from JVA’s Executive Director Breakfast Club.

  1. tyler says:

    Great ideas on rewarding hard work!

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