January 29, 2015

Making Nonprofit Work Better Than Just a 9-5 Job

Welgos, Archive Photos, Getty Images

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In this episode of What’s the Big Idea?, Ari Ratner, a fellow at the New America Foundation, delves into the concept of "weltschmerz," a German word for the pain people feel when the world doesn’t live up to their expectations.

The word, which was first used to describe a sense of displacement during the first wave of industrialization, is just as useful in describing the way many feel today, says Mr. Ratner.  

The big institutions that defined America in the last century, like traditional media, are ill-equipped to handle today's world, he says. With the Internet era and a changing economy, employees—especially millennials—aren't as satisfied with just having steady 9-5 jobs as previous generations were.

But what can leaders do to keep employees satisfied? Start by listening to them, offer more than monetary incentives, and institute work-from-home options and flexible schedules, says Mr. Ratner.

Allison Fine, a nonprofit leader, author, and expert on technology and communications, discusses research in other fields that apply to nonprofit work. Ms. Fine incorporates suggestions and questions from readers into her podcasts and invites you to e-mail her at Look for new installments once a month.