What’s the secret to happy NFP employees?

by Cameron Edmond20 Jun 2013

Not-For-Profit (NFP) organisations have a happier workforce when compared to the broader Australian business-world, a recent report from Maxxia has found. In contrast, HR managers in NFPs are harder to hold on to.

The study, which covered employees from 45,000 Australian NFPs found that 66% of NFP workers are “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” in their current positions, compared to 56% of the total workforce. Fifty per cent of HR managers at NFPs have considered leaving their jobs, compared to the 36% of managers across the total workforce.

NFP employees most satisfied with their work were found to be women, those over 55 years old, and those working part time. Maaxia stated the draw to NFP work from over-55s signified an opportunity for NFPs to gain passionate workers due to the aging population in Australia.

The wish for NFP HR managers to leave their organisations can be attributed to a number of factors. Performance targets, career prospects, and performance-improving feedback were all found to be areas that NFP managers had lower perceptions of than the broader workforce.

The challenges of retaining staff, finding suitable managers, lack of funds and managing staff morale were all highlighted by HR managers as key struggles in working in NFPs, and could also be indicative of their desire to find alternative work.

While NFP employees were found mostly to be drawn to a role due to expertise – with 54% citing their skills and qualifications as their reason for pursuing work for NFPs – only 5% of NFP HR managers felt the same. The majority of HR managers (60%) stated positively impacting the lives of others as their primary reason for joining their current employer.

These divergent viewpoints were demonstrated across the board; NFP HR managers did not view flexible hours, work-life balance or job stability as key motivators, whereas employees did. Maxxia commented that this may indicate NFP HR managers underestimating the drivers of their employees, creating a disconnect that could feed into managers’ desire to find alternative work.


Maaxia included the following tables to illustrate the study’s key findings:

Satisfaction with key aspects of employment:


Working environment

Sense of achievement

Sense of belonging

Level of enjoyment

Level of recognition

NFP employees






Total workforce







Reasons for working in the sector:



Flexible hours

Work-life balance

Job stability

NFP employees





NFP managers







  • by Greg 21/06/2013 9:16:49 AM

    A major issue I've found in my small NFP is ethical issues due to family ties and resistance to change, even if the change is a legal requirement. This is both extremely challenging and frustrating as a manager.

  • by avi kumar 21/06/2013 9:27:33 AM

    I disagree. I ahve worked as the HR Manager at a NFP that operates in regional and remote Australia fot the last 4 years. I moved from a Corporate-City environment to join this NFP and have found it to be the most rewarding career opportunity I can get at 34. I have flexible hours, job stability and the opportuity to be engaged in the community as well as maintain a contemporary corporate HR function as we have alomst 200 staff across 3 states. In short, my job challenges me and I love it.

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