What is one way that a nonprofit can effectively retain young leaders at their organization?

To help nonprofit organizations retain their young leaders, we asked young nonprofit professionals and business leaders this question for their best insights. From being open to change to providing opportunities to lead, there are several strategies that may help you retain young nonprofit leaders at your organization for years to come.  

Here are nine ways to retain young nonprofit leaders: 

  • Build in Resources for Growth
  • Invest in Professional Development
  • Be Open to Change
  • Create Internal Growth Initiatives
  • Offer Mentorships
  • Keep Open Communication
  • Align Values for Better Retention
  • Provide Opportunities to Lead
  • Be Transparent

Build in Resources for Growth

One of the main things that young professionals are looking for in an organization is the opportunity for growth. In smaller organizations, opportunities for growth can be a tough one because there aren’t many positions into which they can grow. However, growth doesn’t have to be in the form of a new, higher title. Though, that’s nice too! It can be providing time or funding for training, creating opportunities for them to work with other departments to build new skills, or empowering them to try different things in their own roles. I’ve been with the same organization for close to seven years and this is a lot of why I have! 

Alex Kouumdjieva, Maricopa Corporate College  


Invest in Professional Development 

Invest in professional development for your employees. It’s much more cost-effective to train and upskill your current workforce than it is to hire and train new employees. The cost of turnover for a nonprofit organization is too high to ignore. Young leaders want to feel valued and appreciated. The best way to accomplish both is to create opportunities to learn and grow within the organization. Bonus points if young leaders are paired with more experienced leaders for mentorship!

Jennifer Granillo, Maricopa Corporate College  


Be Open to Change 

Young leaders can provide great insight regarding what speaks to younger generations. Investing in the professional development of young leaders also helps them know that the nonprofit sees their value, and wants them to succeed. Flexibility is also key; if a nonprofit can allow for remote work days or sick days or holiday observances, that will help young leaders feel valued as well. Additionally, offering competitive pay and promotions are also important ways to have young leaders stay.

Jasmine Young, Arizona Justice Project


Create Internal Growth Initiatives

In 2015, SSIR published an article that investigated the reasons why nonprofits were in such a deficit for leaders and found that 12% left for other organizations. This in turn led to two themes about the reason for their departures: needing more opportunities for learning and growth. In order to retain young leaders, stretch them. Bring them to the table where their perspective might be able to either shift or expand and investigate how much you are able to provide when it comes to resources to help them perform to the best of their capabilities. By providing proper guidance and handing them more opportunities to try new waters, in turn, young leaders can feel as if they are directly making a positive impact on the organization and can be exposed to new opportunities to gain critical leadership skills. 

Hunter Blackwell, Markitors


Offer Mentorships 

Mentor experiences positively influence the job satisfaction of new young leaders. Providing a positive environment, leading to increased job satisfaction, and a higher level of satisfaction is associated with reduced turnover and improved retention.

Alain Sobol,  Red Sea Diving College


Keep Open Communication

One way that a nonprofit can effectively retain young leaders at their organization is to communicate with them often. Let them know what your expectations are and encourage them to regularly engage with you regarding their work and any problems that may arise. Giving them regular feedback can help them feel more secure in their roles and build trust among the young leaders at your nonprofit.

Bill Glaser, Outstanding Foods


Align Values for Better Retention 

One thing that I learned very early on when running our law firm was that, in order to retain young leaders, we needed to focus on the values that potential lawyers for our firm had. You see, if we’d hired a lawyer who focused only on getting big cases, that individual’s work quality would drop when faced with smaller cases. By hiring lawyers who are client-focused, we ensure that they’ll put their all into each and every case they get and enjoy what they’re doing. We still give them the freedom to take cases they want to handle, but we know that they’ll always do their best because their values are aligned with our firm’s. This is a very simple example, but I’m sure you get the point, and this technique can be applied to any business for employee retention, nonprofits included.

Seth Price,  Price Benowitz LLP


Provide Opportunities to Lead 

Nonprofit organizations are not subjected to all the forces of the free market. Being often driven by the cause, they enable young leaders to organize events and reach out in unconventional ways. Those are often opportunities unavailable in the for-profit businesses which are often abbreviated to just their product or service.

Michael Sena,  Senacea


Be Transparent 

Young people and leaders want to see the impact they are making. As a nonprofit, be as transparent as possible. Show the results of projects to everyone on the teams, tell stories of the people impacted. When they see the changes happening, they will want to stay and make more positive changes.

Derin Oyekan,  Reel Paper


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