The Ins and Outs of Remote Work for Nonprofits | npENGAGE

The Ins and Outs of Remote Work for Nonprofits

By on Apr 25, 2019


You never thought remote work would be the new norm for today’s workforce. But in the last ten years, telecommuting has grown by 140 percent.

Nonprofits have joined the trend. The number of nonprofit employees working remotely has increased by 20 percent in the last six years. And it’ll only continue to grow.

Remote work has its benefits—employees are more productive, companies cut costs, and employers can find the best talent when not restricted by location.

But—it’s only half the equation. Employees feel isolated, communication suffers, and collaborative efforts plummet. Worse, it’s a significant security threat when your nonprofit deals with confidential and vital material.

Can your nonprofit benefit from all the pluses of remote work while not falling victim to its vices?


This post will teach you how.

You’ll discover what the ins and outs are for remote work—the benefits and the disadvantages. You’ll learn how your nonprofit can secure its important documentation. And best of all, you’ll find ways to adapt to the trend with simple steps you can implement now.

How Your Nonprofit Can Benefit from Remote Work

Is the hype surrounding remote work warranted?

The short answer—yes.

Think about the costs associated with running your nonprofit.

Employed workers make up a considerable chunk of your monthly expenses. It’ll be a constant.  You’ll always need employees to keep the organization operating smoothly. Each worker gets a salary plus benefits packages.

Salaries are here to stay. But—your fixed expenses change when you offer remote work. You’ll save tons of money when you provide the chance for your employees to work from home. You’ll decrease spending on building size, rent, furniture, workplace insurance, and energy.

Saving on these common costs isn’t the only benefit. Let’s say you have an opening for a program manager. Your task is to find the best talent to fit the position. Why limit the search to your nonprofit’s physical location?

Offering the remote option allows you a wider talent pool to fish from. And the best part—the top talent stays. Companies who offer a remote option saw a 50 percent employee attrition decrease. You’ll save even more time and resources not having to fill the position so often.

By far the largest benefit you’ll get from remote work is a massive productivity boost from your employees. Research shows telecommuters give a boost equivalent to a full day’s work. And workers benefit from it as well.

Your employees spend half of the work week commuting. You won’t hear employees say how they have to leave early or if they are late to the office. Working remotely makes them more focused on their daily tasks and less distracted from the hectic commute.

Let’s not forget the ecological benefits of having your employees work remotely. Your organization can boast that it reduces its carbon footprint.

The Pitfalls of Remote Work

Benefits are bountiful for remote work. But—are there any downsides to it?

Yes—and it can do a ton of damage to your organization, employees and your mission. Let’s start by seeing how it affects your team.

Remote workers suffer from isolation and loneliness. It’s the major downside to not coming into an office every day. And you’d think with all of the technological advancements in communication, there wouldn’t be an issue when it comes to communicating with others. But, it isn’t always true.

21 percent of people who work remotely believe collaboration suffers when they’re removed from the office. This is a major risk for the nonprofit sector where collaboration on projects is critical. Someone might need an answer right away regarding a specific project, and if they have to wait for hours for an answer, then it affects productivity and worsens team morale.

Collaboration is key to creativity as well, and face-to-face meetings really matter in this case. This is difficult in remote working spaces. Teams are disjointed and people are apprehensive. Solving problems is more difficult when people don’t want to voice their concerns.

If nonprofits do take on remote work, then each step of the project should be traceable; this helps to overcome the lack of transparency. Checking in on project managers is critical to keep the employees engaged. You don’t want an employee to rush out a project task one day out of the week when they should spend several days working on it.

Secure Your Remote Workers

The largest downside to remote work for nonprofits is security. You deal with a lot of confidential information and should secure yourself from being hacked in today’s digital age. Here are a few tips on what you should do to implement better security for remote workers.

  • Don’t trust the WiFi. Make sure the connections your employees use are safe. You may consider adopting a policy prohibiting employees from using public WiFi on their work devices.
  • Consider high-level security. Get your employees set up with an encrypted laptop and make sure they sign into a secure VPN to help protect extremely sensitive IPs.
  • Use secure cloud-based services. Make sure to have solid security measures in place to protect your data. Leverage email and collaboration tools that allow users to securely access office applications and share files using computers and mobile devices.
  • Never use USB devices. Or at a minimum, require remote workers to only use USB devices that have been cleared by your IT department. However, if you are using secure, cloud-based platforms, your workers should not have the need for USB devices.
  • Create complicated password requirements. The age of using simple birthdays and children’s names are over. Make sure your guidelines advise employees to not use words or sentences, and to instead use a long string of characters, numbers, letters, and symbols together. Advise employees of approved, secure password managers to help them recreate and remember all of the passwords they’ve created for your systems.

Final Thoughts

You know you’ll have to adapt to the remote work trend in some way. Maybe you’ve already done so, to varying degrees of success.

So—start by implementing these simple steps. You’ll know how to secure yourself from the downside of remote work while reaping all of its benefits for your nonprofit and employees.


Roger is a career writer at Zety who has a passion for helping nonprofits and startups achieve the best possible growth imaginable. He’s a world-renowned taco enthusiast. He loves poetry and old Americana literature.

Comments (34)

  • Heather says:

    Interesting thoughts and advice. Thank you!

    • Roger Maftean says:

      Thanks Heather!

      • Nate Laning says:

        Great tip on public WiFi. It’s been something I’ve been fearful of with some of our traveling employees. The easiest way to connect is not always the safest.

        • Roger Maftean says:

          Hey Nate!

          So what would you do in this case? Would you rather your employees not connect or do you want them to still do it regardless because a project lies in the balance?

  • Karen says:

    The most important pieces I gathered from your article are the isolation of remote employees and the security of confidential electronic information. I have worked remotely and you are correct, it does get lonely and it is difficult to collaborate.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice.

    • Roger Maftean says:

      Hi Karen! Thanks for the kind words! What did you do to make yourself feel less isolated? Were you able to come into the office from time to time? I feel like that really helps, or even having other events where you can meet outside of work too.

  • Tonya HIggins says:

    Working remotely definitely has pros and cons. With effort and teamwork it can be a positive experience for all. Communication is key! Video conference calls through a good conference call platform with all participants having stable internet helps make meetings better. I am seriously considering trying out one of the “tablet on a segway” robots.
    Happy telecommuting!

  • Debra Talbott says:

    Enjoyed the positive information regarding office expenses and rent. I agree the collaboration suffers when you do not see others to interact. Sometimes things get bogged down when you are not sure where the employees are working and when you will see them again.

    • Roger Maftean says:

      It gets even worse when you have certain processes where a single employee is in charge of them and you can’t find them online. I’ve seen this happen too many times, where we’re talking with a donor, need a certain update on a process, and the person in charge of it gave us some notes on what to say, but it’s never enough. I don’t like having to tell clients all the time, “I’ll check in on that process and get back to you”, it feels as if we don’t manage our team well then.

  • Michelle Booth says:

    Working remote it is the way of the future. Communication is definitely key and making sure everyone has a presence in the office at least a few days a week to collaborate with coworkers.

    • Roger Maftean says:

      I think the part of having coworkers in the office each week is critical — but then, it doesn’t offer you the chance to get great talent that works remotely 100% of the time :/

  • joann strommen says:

    Great insights. I’ve worked both ways for many years and agree with the pros and cons.

  • Cammi Derr says:

    I’ve worked both ways. A combination of them work pretty well especially. The security threats and explanations of the lack of it on public WIFI is especially important.

  • Mary Sommer says:

    Good ideas for security. I do think much of the collaborative process and impromptu meeting would suffer.

  • Christine says:

    I think having clear guidelines regarding the Organization’s expectations around use of calendars, file sharing sites, and meeting technology is critical to creating a remote team that feels cohesive. Also, periodic all-staff reviews about meeting etiquette can be very helpful.

    • Roger Maftean says:

      Hi Christine! This is actually a great point. It’s something that I should add when I do some other follow ups to this piece! Thank you!

  • Dan says:

    As a non-remote worker in an office with a few remote employees, it is also hard to get to know those remote workers and their ability so you can best help them. Sure, while the ease of jumping on a screen share is not the obstacle it used to be there is still that disconnect.

  • Lynn says:

    I am so thankful to be able to serve my nonprofit working remotely in a different state. Great tips on the WiFi protection.

  • Claudia says:

    Great article. Those security tips are a great starting point for a nonprofit looking to implement policy too!

  • Carlene Johnson says:

    I’m grateful to have the flexibility to work remotely at times – but am always super concerned about the security end of things. Great tips and reminders I can share with my team!

  • APS says:

    I think it’s great to have this flexibility and choice. In addition, I think it is equally important to have a safe place to work and making sure employees telecommuting also follow safety rules in their own home. Companies should employ a standard operating procedures on safety as well as checks to make sure employees follow those standards.

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    It makes sense that solving problems is more difficult when people don’t want to voice their concerns -a concept not limited to remote workers. Working remotely seems like it would be worth the challenges, at least to me.

  • Jennifer Vincent says:

    It would be wonderful to be able to move somewhere for personal reasons, while being able to retain the job you love. With the increase in remote options, I wonder if we will see an increase in employee retention. I would love to have the flexibility to work remotely – especially when working on a large project. My office is very close to the microwave, which means a lot of casual drop-in conversations.

  • Stephanie says:

    Many years ago, I worked at an office that let some folks work from home. There was a real problem with accountability and proof of productivity with those workers. One even started working a different full-time on-site job with a different company and kept the current full-time remote job – only doing actual work for the remote company on breaks at the on-site job. It was several months before his remote manager was able to prove that he wasn’t in fact working full-time for the remote company, and was fired. I’m all for flexibility, but employers with remote workers do have to make concerted efforts to closely monitor the remote workers’ productivity or they will be taken advantage of.

  • Julie says:

    Great article with great points on both sides. I think whether working remotely works really depends on the individual. It would never work for me. I am too much of a social; butterfly and do better in an environment with face to face contact.

  • Susan Chomsky says:

    I like a mixed remote and on-site work environment. Interesting article. We need to address the pitfalls and highlight the plusses.

  • Rochelle Webb says:


    I have spent many years working remotely and can attest to both the negative and positive points you raised. When security concerns are address appropriately, remote work is an excellent option for employees that do not need in person collaboration and can excel using virtual collaboration tools. We use Workfront and Skype to keep remote employees connected.

    Although I am back in the office in my current role, I would love to return to remote work if given the opportunity.

  • Susan Leslie says:

    This is a great article to see both sides of the issue. I am allowed to do both in my current position and at times I feel that I can get more done remotely without all the commotion that comes along with working in a busy office. I do not think it would be possible for me to go completely working remotely. With all the one on one communication that is needed, it would make somethings harder, more stressful and take more time.

  • April says:

    I think if you do a combo of remote and in office it will help balance out the pros and cons.

  • Jo Strommen says:

    Worked remotely for over 15 years. So agree with increased productivity and the negatives of isolation and collaboration. Product forums were a great way to help relieve the isolation.

  • Jean McCoy says:

    Working from home is definitely more productive for me. I start in my pajamas when I wake at 5 am and work until about 7-8 pm whereas if I were going into the office I work 8-4 and have to leave to pick up my dog, etc.

  • Kimberley says:

    I think supporting remote workers is a great sign of trust in your employees!

  • Chelsea says:

    This is great! Thanks for sharing perspectives of both sides of the issue.

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