In the non profit world one of the leading causes of problems is retention of qualified, well trained, and skilled employees. Non profits have to compete with not only each other, but with the for profit world in keeping their pillars of their organization.
One of the lessons we have learned in the past few months has been the importance of motivation in keeping employees, staff and volunteers satisfied to continue doing the hard work that is so necessary. We have had numerous ideas thrown around about what is most effective, but I think i can sum them up here quite succinctly.
First, get to know your staff. Your staff are more than the skills they bring to the office or organization. One of the most successful ways is to do an activity outside of the workplace that is purely for entertainment. Sustainable Seattle just had an event this last Saturday that was at Gas Works park. We played Soccer, Frisbee, and mostly just sat around and ate picnic foods and watched all the various wedding parties, family groups and a particularly large group of adult "Nerf" gun-players.
Second, find out what little things a staff member really enjoys either directly or through observation. I can't tell you the amount of loyalty is garnered when someone makes some cookies that are nut free in response to my asthma inducing allergy. Little things that speak to the importance of a person's presence can be as simple as a food product, small compliment, or even something like sharing a lunch break.
Thirdly, constantly let the staff and volunteers know that their time is appreciated. Nothing says to someone that you could care less about their dedication than either ignoring them or never giving them acknowledgment of their efforts. Do not waste volunteer's time. If you cannot find anything for volunteers to do that requires a bit of brains and elbow grease, then thank them for their commitment and send them home. Stapling papers or taking out trash does not a satisfied volunteer make.