Workplace Culture, Climate, and Benefits in the Social Sector


When resources are scarce, you may feel like it’s impossible to build a healthy culture and climate for your team. Unfortunately, a toxic workplace leads to even more financial difficulties due to high turnover and burnout, recruiting and training expenses, and interrupted relationships with your constituents. In Season 4, Episode 6 of the Nonprofit Jenni Show, learn how you can honor your team, your mission, and your budget all at the same time.


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☑️ Consider the needs of your employee’s families.

Parental leave policies (i.e., maternal and paternal leave) are generally considered standard benefits now, but don’t forget that families are impacted by more than just new births and adoptions. What does your bereavement leave look like? Do you offer flexible schedules, the ability to work from home, paid sick leave, and other benefits to support families?

☑️ Set up adequate succession plans.

When most people hear the phrase “succession plan,” they typically only think about a CEO or other top executive retiring from an organization. However, succession plans should be in place for every position, for both short and long term situations. Consider whether you need to divide and conquer responsibilities, hire a contractor, or do something else to make up for the absence of a staff member. Also consider how you can prevent work from piling up while an employee is on leave, and what cross training you will need to support your succession plans.

☑️ Make sure leaders model healthy practices.

If your CEO consistently stays at work late, sends emails over the weekend, or refuses to use up their paid time off, this sets unhealthy expectations for employees. Similarly, if a manager complains frequently about his colleagues without taking positive steps to resolve conflict, the negative attitude can spread easily.

☑️ Be aware of current HR trends.

It’s important for nonprofit organizations to offer competitive benefits because they often can’t afford to pay employees a competitive rate compared to similar positions in the for profit world. Adams Keegan has surveyed their nonprofit clients to learn about typical benefits offered in the sector, and they include health insurance, life insurance policies, matching 401k plans, and more.

☑️ Set job expectations early.

In the nonprofit sector, staff are often required to fill multiple roles in an organization, even if they have no prior experience in some of those areas. If your nonprofit needs its employees to wear multiple hats, set this expectation early. Be sure your staff know what support they will have when taking on new tasks, such as professional development opportunities and coaching from supervisors..

☑️ Handle HR issues with tact.

If you are experiencing an HR or culture issue but are not in a leadership role at your organization, you may feel lost. Take a step back and try to view the culture through the lens of various team members so you can understand their perspectives. Avoid talking about these issues behind closed doors, unless you are making an appeal to leadership to improve the culture. If you feel it’s needed, take notes about the date, time, and occurrences of specific issues you have experienced with colleagues.


Nonprofit Jenni is currently accepting new clients who need consulting or coaching in the areas of Engagement, Communications, and Marketing strategy.

I also cover a wide range of topics related to nonprofit management on my podcast, including board development, program creation, and grant writing.