Non-Profit Gift Guide

Posted in office operations / vacation / staff team

Non-Profit Gift Guide

People take jobs at non-profits, especially small and rural non-profits, knowing very clearly that they will not be paid anything close to their counterparts in the for-profit sector.

Demonstrate an employee is valued.

That disparity in wages is usually significant enough that it can be as simple as a meddling board, an unreasonable donor, or a spouse with a better income, that will cause a non-profit employee to quit. I’m not talking about ‘here’s my 2-weeks notice’ kind of quitting. I’m talking about ‘an email on Friday night and never coming back’ kind of quitting.

That puts pressure on a non-profit to find other ways to show employees they are valued. Yes, a gift card for the holidays is nice. Yes, a pizza party after a major fundraiser is cheerful. But when a non-profit wants to do a little more to demonstrate they truly value their employees, there are a handful of other benefits they can provide.

Here are my top 10.

Let employees use holidays from day one.

  • Allow employees to use paid holiday time withOUT having to work a full year first.
  • It lessens the risk of losing a new employee who burns out because they don’t get holidays for a. whole. year.
  • Yes, there is a risk an employee might use all their holiday time and then quit. But that’s rare. Take the risk.
  • Using up holiday time keeps it out of the audited financial statements.

Provide a benefits and pension plan.

  • Find a health and dental benefits, and a pension plan that the non-profit and the employee can afford.  
  • Remember, employees share the cost.
  • True, the non-profit will have higher employee costs, but it will be a more attractive workplace.
  • Employees want coverage for themselves and their families.

Give a birthday day off.

  • Give each employee an extra paid day off each year, in addition to vacation or public holidays, as a birthday gift.
  • Employees don’t need to use the day on the exact date of their birthday but can save it for any day during the year.
  • A line in the HR manual will prevent unused days from being carried forward, so an employee must use their day within the year or lose it.
  • The extra day provides flexibility when employees need a mental health break, a kid gets sick, or they just want a day away.

Provide a benefits top-up.

  • The top-up is an annual pre-set amount that each employee can access to pay for medical or dental expenses that are not fully covered by their benefits plan.
  • It helps an employee pay for something like glasses, or major dental work, when the benefits plan clearly doesn’t provide sufficient assistance.
  • It costs the organization a little bit more each year, but usually isn’t much, and the official benefits plan must be used first.
  • It helps employees to utilize their benefits plan more fully.

Guarantee a short-term disability top-up.

  • A top-up ensures an employee on short-term disability receives their full salary while they are away.
  • An employee can work for decades and be valuable to their employer, but when needing to take a few weeks off for surgery, their wage is cut, sometimes by almost half. Suddenly the employee feels devalued.
  • Non-profits may be able to pay for the top-up by creating a reserve account without risk of losing grant funding. Best to talk to your accountant.
  • A short-term disability top-up means an employee feels supported by their employer, not only when they show up for work, but through the tough times as well.

Give days off to volunteer.

  • Give each employee a pre-determined number of paid days off each year, to volunteer.
  • This encourages employees to have new experiences and support other organizations, without losing a day’s wages.
  • An extra paid day or two away, is easily absorbed into day-to-day operations.
  • Employees can feel excited to have a paid day to pursue what’s important to them, such as chaperoning the kindergarten field trip, or participating in the local food drive.

Provide an annual wellness reimbursement.

  • This is an annual flat-rate reimbursement for any kind of activity the employee feels brings them wellness. Wellness is defined by the employee.
  • It takes the idea of wellness to another level, where it is about quality of life, and not simply counselling, or exercise.
  • It requires a budget commitment, but is easily absorbed, and predictable.
  • Valuing wellness helps employees feel empowered to pursue joy, not just fix problems.

Close the office over the holidays.

  • Unless there is a direct need to be open, close all offices for a 10–14-day period, over Christmas and New Years Day. Make the days paid days off not forced vacation days off.
  • Align with the school calendar, so parents don’t have to use holiday time because their kids are off school.
  • There is a need to let go of the notion that an employee can work a light shift over the holidays by going into the office to catch up on reading or filing. This is a very dated concept usually rooted in board members pouting that they don’t get perks at their own jobs.
  • Closing the office creates a required rest period for all employees. No exception. Everyone is off work. Everyone is still paid. It’s a gift.  

Create a lifetime vaccination reimbursement.

  • Reimburse employees for vaccination costs that far exceed benefit plans.
  • Sick employees can’t work, but healthy employees can. That’s good for everyone.
  • There is a cost to the organization, but it is a lifetime cost that is not repeated each year.
  • Vaccines like HPV and shingles are astronomically expensive, even with a strong benefits plan. This reimbursement ensures employees don’t put off getting protected just because they don’t have the personal budget room.

Encourage employees to choose their immediate family.

  • Support employees to designate their immediate family rather than be limited to the legal definition of ‘family’ when needing to use benefits.
  • In today’s world, the term immediate family has become embarrassingly out of date. Whether same sex partners, being a foster parent, or caring for elderly parents, being able to choose the people we call our immediate family is essential.
  • External benefits plans may not recognize non-legal definitions of immediate family, but an employer can easily fill in the gaps, even if there is a budget commitment.
  • This embraces a much more inclusive, and honestly, a much more realistic, support for families.

Where does existing policy fall short?

Implementing new benefits is an exciting opportunity for an executive director to find new ways to ensure employees, and themselves, feel valued. An easy place to start is flipping through the current HR manual and seeing where benefits fall short.

This is a great process for an ED to complete WITH the team, to learn what really matters, and to uncover gaps. Trying out new employee benefits should be started by keeping an eye on the budget and implementing when possible.

Feel loved.

Finding creative, and meaningful, ways to make non-profit employees feel valued plays an important part in employee retention. Non-profit employees usually love their jobs, they just want the organization to love them back.

Your turn.

Your turn. What kind of non-traditional employee benefits does your non-profit provide? Do your employees feel truly valued? I want to know! Please use the form on the side of the page to let me know, ..or send me an email, ..or message me on socials.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts doesn’t provide practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation. Leadership development tips don’t really resonate when you are also taking out the recycling and cleaning the washroom.

I created so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job – no matter how big or small that job is.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is the real, operational, and practical solutions I use every day.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

© Christie Saas 2023 All Rights Reserved

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