Practical Ways to Thank and Reward Staff

thank_youAt some point, most of us who work in the nonprofit arena have received a “thank you” from an event participant, member, or recipient of the organization’s services. But how often do we, as staff, recognize one another? Let’s face it: as nonprofit employees, we are frequently expected to play multiple roles, produce the same results as our for-profit counterparts with fewer resources, and bend our schedules around those of our volunteers. A word of gratitude can go a long way.

According to Dr. Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation, Inc. and co-founder of Recognition Professionals International, thanking staff members is more than a nicety. Showing gratitude in the workplace, he says, is essential in motivating employees to continue to do good work, to stay with the organization, and to serve as the catalyst for attracting new employees.

Rewarding employees can, and should, occur at both the individual and group levels and from peers as well as superiors. When a staff member goes above and beyond the call of duty or a team achieves a milestone, prompt and specific recognition will serve as positive reinforcement.

While a simple word of thanks is always appropriate, we’ve compiled some additional ways to reward staff, taking into account a nonprofit’s ever-present budget constraints.

  • Post a public note of thanks on your organization’s Facebook wall, tagging employees so the message also appears on their timeline and can be seen by their friends.
  • Working at a nonprofit can often turn into a family affair. In addition to writing a personal note to the staff member, send a letter to their family members telling them how valuable their mom/dad/son/daughter/husband/wife is to the organization and thanking them for their understanding and support.
  • Reward staff by giving them the afternoon free on oft-worked holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Or give employees a free pass to take a day off of their choosing without using vacation time.
  • Bring in a cake to celebrate the achievement of a team or organizational goal. Make sure the cake is decorated with “way to go,” “nice work,” or some other phrase that shows it was procured specifically for the occasion.
  • Create a trophy that moves from one person to another as they do something noteworthy. Have each person who receives the trophy add something to it that represents them or their accomplishment before passing it to the next recipient.

These are just a few ways to recognize employee performance and commitment. Let your imagination run wild and you will likely come up with others. It doesn’t matter which method you choose; just make sure to say thank you in one form or another and your organization will be stronger for it.

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