Nonprofit professionals work together in a positive nonprofit culture

3 Ways to Create a Positive Nonprofit Culture Among Staff and Volunteers

So many nonprofit organizations put a heavy emphasis on fundraising. They focus on what’s coming in (or what’s not coming in). 

And for good reason! 

Much of a nonprofit’s success depends on raising awareness and support from donors. 

But there’s often an overlooked element – the internal nonprofit culture among staff and volunteers. 

And that’s what we’re helping you with today. We’re sharing 3 ways to create an even more positive nonprofit culture among your internal supporters so your organization can find more success. 


Two nonprofit professionals work together within a positive nonprofit work culture


Why is Organizational Culture Important in a Nonprofit? 

Before your nonprofit ever reaches external audiences and support (donors, sponsors, grantmakers, and more), your nonprofit has to reach internal support. 

It’s simply because an organization’s internal support, such as its staff and volunteers, is the foundation for the entire nonprofit. 

Without a positive nonprofit culture among your staff and volunteers, they’ll have a hard time propelling the mission forward. 

But with a positive culture, they’ll find joy, excitement, and optimism in spreading awareness about the mission. More staff and volunteers will understand the good the organization is doing and will want to help more. 


What Does a Positive Culture Look Like for a Nonprofit? 

With all the talk of positive culture, you may be wondering – what does positive culture look like? Is your organization already there? Can there be improvements? 

The truth is a positive work culture can look different from one nonprofit to another. And one of the best ways you can understand where your organization stands among your internal support is by going straight to the source. Ask your volunteers and staff members how they feel about the work culture, review their answers, and implement changes where needed. 

You can create a survey and ask your teams to fill it out as honestly as possible. Within the survey, ask questions such as: 

  • Do you know the mission of our organization? 
  • Do you know the values of the organization?
  • Do you feel as though the organization upholds those values to the best of its ability? If not, please explain where we can improve. 
  • Do you feel supported by leadership roles? If not, please explain how we improve. 
  • Do you feel as though internal communication across departments is thorough and efficient? 
  • Where else can we improve to better support you? 

In the meantime, if you’re curious about where your organization lies in terms of culture, these elements are often indicators: 


Staff and Volunteer Retention

People who feel invested in, people who feel valued and supported, tend to stick around. They want to continue working for organizations that make them feel as such. 

Take a look at your staff and volunteer retention. If there is a lower turnover rate, then your organization may be doing well in terms of a positive nonprofit culture! 

It is important to know that volunteer retention rate is usually lower than staff retention rate. So if the turnover rate is higher among volunteers, don’t panic! Instead, create your survey and ask volunteers to fill it out as honestly as possible. 


Nonprofit Brand Identity

Think of major brands like Hilton Hotels, Delta Air Lines, and Salesforce. They’re often quick to fill roles and keep them filled due to the brand identity they’ve created. 

When someone knows the brand, staff and volunteers are attracted to it. 

If your nonprofit creates a brand identity around the mission you’re working toward and the values you uphold, not only will staff and volunteers be attracted to it, they’ll want to stay. 


Minimal Workplace Politics or Gossip

With workplace politics and gossip comes toxicity. Now, it’s nearly impossible to create a workplace that doesn’t include it at all. But the ability to keep it to a bare minimum is often a great sign of a positive nonprofit culture! 

We’ll share more on how to do that in a moment. 


How Can Nonprofit Organizations Increase Morale? 3 Ways to Create a Positive Nonprofit Culture: 

Certainty or not in your nonprofit’s culture, there is always room for improvement! Here are 3 of the best ways to create a positive workplace environment for your staff and volunteers: 


1. Allow Your Organization to Get Crystal Clear on Its Values

If your nonprofit isn’t completely clear on its values, or if your staff and volunteers aren’t sure what they are (refer to our tip on surveying them!), then start here. 

If your nonprofit’s mission is the destination, then your organization’s values create the map to get there. 

It’s important to understand that a nonprofit’s values shouldn’t simply be buzzwords like “respect,” “diversity,” or “excellence.” While those sound good in passing, they don’t guide an organization. Instead, think of what your nonprofit will not sacrifice to get to its mission. Use those as the starting point to understand what the organization values. 

They’re the foundation of your entire movement. So make sure your organization has them clearly stated. Make sure incoming staff and volunteers understand these values and uphold them. 


Let Your Values Drive Your Hiring Decisions: 

Once you have your values set, allow them to drive your future hiring decisions. When you search for new talent, ask them what their values are in the interview process. Ask them how they feel about your nonprofit’s values. Ask them how they envision upholding those values. 

Doing so ensures that all of your incoming staff and volunteers align with what your organization is trying to achieve! 


2. Ensure Leadership Takes a Leading Role in Developing a Positive Nonprofit Culture

Your leadership team are the role models to everyone else in the organization. Staff and volunteers look to them to set the pace. Those in leadership roles teach internal support teams what’s tolerated and what isn’t tolerated in the workplace. 

Does your leadership team work well together, rather than gripe and gossip to one another? Do they collaborate to accomplish their goals? Do they communicate well with the rest of the organization? Do they have a wonderful work-life balance that others can emulate? 

Many workplace environment struggles stem from the teachings of the leadership team. And while it’s easy to say “Do as I say, not as I do,” that’s an unrealistic (and unfair) expectation for your support system. 

Establish a leadership team that is a positive force for staff and volunteers. Find a team that also puts a positive workplace culture as a priority and that is open to receiving feedback regarding it. 


3. Don’t Put Your Staff and Volunteers Last 

Hilton Hotels believes that if they prioritize their staff, their staff is more likely to better serve customers. 

Organizations everywhere can take note of that and implement it into their own vision for their staff and volunteers. 

Prioritize your staff and volunteers so they feel more valued and supported. In doing so, your organization can see more benefits, such as an increase in productivity, more effective and positive communication, and more efficiency in their daily operations. 

Here are a few ways you can prioritize your internal support teams: 


  • Offer workplace community get-togethers. Whether it’s through monthly luncheons, company outings, or even offering daily wellness practices together, offering bonding activities can create a stronger workplace environment. 

  • Prioritize a work-life balance for staff. It’s not fair to expect employees to work to the bone. Even if your mission is doing wonderful things for the world, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that people cannot fill from an empty cup. Allow staff to go home at appropriate times. Be flexible when life happens. And know that your organization will be rewarded for it with a loyal staff member. 



Creating a positive nonprofit culture will do wonders for your staff and volunteers. And in turn, they’ll do amazing things to propel your mission forward. 

If you’re looking for a way to bond your team members, try offering a community activity like daily wellness practices together! 

Try This FREE Training from CharityHowTo to Get You Started!

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