By Stephanie Spivack, PHR

In a funny twist of irony, nonprofit leaders often have to be even more business savvy than their for-profit counterparts when it comes to retaining star employees. Nonprofits typically offer lower salaries, so how can we compete? Our secret weapon when it comes to retaining the brightest of the bright: offering unique and creative benefits. Here are five benefits even the smallest nonprofit can use to compete against the big guys for top talent:

Work Life Balance

Giving the gift of time off is quickly becoming the number one valued benefit for a growing number of top performers. Besides offering generous vacation and sick leave, have you thought about offering additional days off to take care of personal matters, or paid days off for staff to volunteer? How about paid sabbaticals for employees with long tenure?

Nonprofits can also compete for talent by offering flexible workplaces. Have you considered offering staff the opportunity to work from home? How about compressed work weeks, in which employees work longer hours during the week in exchange for Fridays off? Even allowing employees to set their own hours (within reason) can go a long way in promoting a flexible work culture.

Wellness Benefits

There are several low-cost ways to help your staff stay in tip-top health. A lunchtime walking group is relatively easy to organize, and is absolutely free. Consider replacing your snack machine with healthy snacks or fresh fruit and vegetables. Do you have an extra office? Perhaps you can convert it to a relaxation room, with a comfortable couch and calming décor. If your budget allows, consider bringing wellness experts on-site for lunchtime presentations, or consider reimbursing staff for part of their personal gym membership fees.

Learning Opportunities

Yes, small nonprofits can offer ways for employees to learn and grow professionally and personally, without breaking the bank. One of the most effective ways is to learn from each other. Maybe the IT Manager can offer a training session on productivity hacks, or a Program Manager can offer tips in project management. Perhaps someone is willing to lead a foreign language lunch table during so staff can brush up on their Spanish conversational skills. Such presentations not only promote camaraderie in your culture, but also sharpen your internal staff’s presentation and group facilitation skills.

Convenience

Sometimes the best benefit is making your staff’s day to day life just a little easier. Some organizations offer concierge services. At the employee’s cost, these services will help your employees plan vacations, plan parties, or find gifts. Have you considered a service that offers laundry or dry cleaning pickup at your office? Such services save your employees valuable time, so they can focus at work. Some organizations offer taxi rides home or a reimbursable meal if they work long hours. These “extras” go a long way!

Fun

I’m saving the best for last. Although you will have to consider your corporate culture, nonprofits can offer fun and memorable events in the workplace. What if you offered an office decorating contest? How about a costume contest next Halloween? Can you showcase staff talents during a talent show, or staff photography contest? A cross-functional committee can spread out the work of organizing such events, and help ensure the best ideas that mesh with your culture.

What creative, low cost benefits do you offer at your nonprofit organization?