Ready, Set, Inspire! 7 Tips for Motivating Your Fundraising Team

Image: Stuart Miles at

Image: Stuart Miles at

In the nonprofit sector, you might hear advice about how to motivate your board members or other volunteers around your mission. But what about your staff? Part of your job as a nonprofit leader is to help motivate STAFF to work towards your mission.

Here are 7 tips to help inspire, motivate and empower your staff to do great things. As a bonus, many can work to motivate your volunteers also!

1. Hire the Right People

Does this seem obvious? Half the motivational battle is building a team that is aligned with your mission. I often hear successful fundraisers say things like, “It’s easy to raise money for our mission. I really believe in the work we’re doing and love helping donors to connect with our work.”

During the interview process be sure to ask questions that get to the heart of this. Sample questions might be, “Why do you want to work for The Awesome Nonprofit?” or “What is it about our mission that inspires you?” If you hear a response along the lines of, “I need a job.” it’s probably not the best fit.

2. Encourage Ideas

Good ideas can come from anyone. Be sure your staff knows that you appreciate their good ideas and consider them. Almost without exception, when brainstorming a better way to do something, a member of my team will suggest a solution that I had not thought of. Employees are more motivated when they feel needed, heard and valued.

3. Find Inspirational Stories

Do you already use stories to engage your donors? Good! Now try using these inspirational stories to connect your staff to the work of your nonprofit. In this regard, stories work better than data. A good mission-moment story will motivate your staff much better than would a general mission statement or a list of statistics about your nonprofit’s impact. Seeing your mission firsthand is best, so encourage your staff to find their own stories by observing your programs in action.

4. Don’t Micromanage

All of my favorite supervisors – and those I was motivated to work hard for – had one thing in common: They did not micromanage me or my work. Your staff will excel if they are supported when they need help but otherwise left alone to accomplish tasks in a way that works best for them. Will your staff’s approach always be the way you might approach a project? Likely no. But what matters is the end result, not how it was achieved. 

5. Recognize Accomplishments

Praise liberally (and sincerely) and give credit where credit is due. Few things are as demotivating as a manager who takes credit for a project that YOU did most of the work on. Be sure to recognize the good work of your staff when it’s warranted. It doesn’t cost you a thing to give kudos for a job well done—and it feels good to shine the spotlight on a member of your team. Smart managers know that when their teams do well it reflects well on them. 

6. Align Responsibilities with Strengths

Whenever possible, pair your staff with projects that allow them to shine. People are motivated by tasks they believe they can do well. For example, don’t ask a shy staffer to call and set up meetings with five donors she doesn’t know. On the other hand, asking a staffer who enjoys planning parties to organize the annual staff appreciation event is an easy way to set this person up for success.

7. Take Note: Money Talks

Let’s face it, nonprofit salaries don’t often stack up to those in the for-profit sector. Thus monetary perks can go far with your nonprofit staff. And I’m not talking big fat bonuses, just small tokens of appreciation to let your staff know that you value their contributions to the team. Consider gift cards to local coffee shops or small cash awards at holiday time.

Now get out there and inspire your staff to do more for your mission! Best of luck!

What examples do you have of ways to motivate nonprofit staff? Please share in the Comments box below.

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).