Nonprofit work is people-centered, and we work with diverse people with different realities, experiences, and needs. Your nonprofit may engage workers as paid employees, volunteers, interns, and/or independent contractors to move forward the organization’s mission and work. As an employer, what are the key values, commitments, and actions that serve as grounding for the people who complete vital work for the organization?

What do we mean by employer philosophy?

Employer Philosophy: A clear statement of how the organization seeks to treat people who complete work in the organization. 

Having an employer philosophy strengthens your ability to achieve your mission, creates an engaging workplace culture, and supports workers to thrive. This philosophy grounds your practices in your nonprofit’s values while meeting organizational legal obligations as an employer in the state of Washington.

Get clarity on your employer philosophy

A nonprofit is a type of corporation created to accomplish a public benefit. The organization does not have owners other than the community at large, and it cannot be setup for the purpose of generating an income or profit for the organizers. Nonprofits are unique in their operational needs, yet, over time we have adopted “best” employer practices developed in public institutions and for-profit organizations. These approaches may not reflect the employer practices and values that a nonprofit wants to center. Therefore, getting clear and intentional about your nonprofit’s philosophy as an employer is important to make sure the practices you are adopting are aligned with your organization’s mission and values.

Below are some examples of values statements that could be included in an employer philosophy.

For example...

  • We recognize workers as vital and dynamic to our organization’s mission.
  • We affirm the dignity of work and treat workers as an integral part of our organization.
  • We strive to offer fair compensation to all of our employees at a level above the living wage for our area.
  • We seek to recognize, recruit, and retain workers who have lived experience with the services we provide and the issues we address.
  • We acknowledge that each worker has had different levels of privilege and exposure to work, and we commit to invest in our workers where they are in their development.
  • We recognize that labor laws are only the minimal requirements for our organization to follow. We seek to advocate for policies and practices that go beyond the minimal legal requirements supporting our workers to not only survive but thrive.
  • We recognize that workplace culture must reflect our humanity. We seek to integrate holistic and equitable practices that support all types of workers and work.
  • We recognize the relationship between the organization and the worker will change over time. When employees leave the organization, we seek to maintain positive relationships and build a network of ambassadors for our mission and organization.


Does your nonprofit have a clearly stated employer philosophy? If yes, what does your philosophy convey about the relationship between your nonprofit as an employer and the worker as an employee? If not, what is the assumed or perceived relationship between the nonprofit as an employer and the worker as an employee?

As you work to get clarity on your employer philosophy, here are some reflection questions to get you started.Capture your responses in a notebook or shared document with your team.

How is your employer philosophy…

  • Aligning with your organizational values and structure?
  • Guiding the way you attract and recruit workers?
  • Centering people most affected by the issues your nonprofit works to address?
  • Providing workers engagement and advancement opportunities within the organization?
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