1.1 Background of the Study

            Working in the nonprofit sector offers a career path that is both challenging and fulfilling. The diverse range of missions and goals within the sector addresses crucial societal issues, and its continuous growth attracts more individuals who choose to dedicate their professional lives to nonprofit work (Word et al., 2011).

The nonprofit sector serves as a significant employer and is experiencing notable expansion in terms of employment opportunities. Due to demographic and socioeconomic shifts, nonprofit organizations in numerous countries have directed their focus towards labor-intensive sectors, particularly healthcare and other care services (Salamon and Sokolowski, 2005, p. 20). While technological advancements are expected to reduce job opportunities in various sectors, the nonprofit sector remains relatively optimistic about its future, despite the likelihood that even personal care will eventually be influenced by artificial intelligence (Coeckelbergh, 2012; Metzler and Barnes, 2014).

In the midst of an economic downturn, the demanding nature of many jobs in the nonprofit sector has intensified due to increasing demands and limited resources. Within the nonprofit sector, one can find employment in renowned, large-scale organizations or in smaller organizations that are in the early stages of establishment. What unifies work in the nonprofit sector is the frequent involvement of employees in causes and communities, surpassing the level seen in for-profit and government organizations.

Previous research has shown that many nonprofit workers prioritize their belief in the organization's mission as a significant factor in choosing their current jobs (Word & Carpenter, 2013).  However, recent surveys indicate that up to a third of nonprofit employees are disengaged, with the challenging economic conditions contributing to a deteriorating work environment (Watson, 2009). 

Employees serve as the foundation of all organizations, and the success in achieving goals largely depends on their talents and dedication. Given the difficult challenges faced by communities worldwide and the vital role of nonprofit organizations in addressing those challenges, it is more crucial than ever to fully harness the talents, passion, and intellect of employees in the most effective ways possible.

The engagement of talent within the nonprofit sector holds significance not only for the existing workforce but also for attracting future leaders and employees to the sector. Employee engagement goes beyond benefiting communities; it also creates a better work environment where individuals feel valued and supported by their organization, promoting their personal well-being and professional growth (Word et al., 2011). This has led to increased attention from HR scholars and practitioners in the past three decades, as they recognize the advantages of employee engagement, such as improved performance and reduced turnover (Albrecht et al., 2015).

Nonprofit organizations face the additional challenge of operating within strict budgets that rely on uncertain donations and government funding. Many nonprofits heavily rely on government assistance, which can come in the form of grants, matching programs, or serving as a safety net during periods of financial shortfall.

The decrease in budgets at the state, national, and municipal levels has led to a decrease in available funds. As a result, most nonprofits receive less funding than they desire or require, and some are left without any funding at all (Philanthropy Circuit, 2023).  Limited resources often force nonprofits to carefully manage their budgets and expenses, which may sometimes result in the recruitment of cheaper or volunteer labor to support their operations. Volunteer-run organizations often have minimal or no labor costs (Kenton, 2023).

In a 2015 report conducted by Quantum, employee engagement levels were examined across 18 different industries in the United States. The findings revealed that the nonprofit industry had the third lowest levels of engagement, with public administration ranking second lowest and healthcare at the bottom. Nonprofit employees were reported to be 7% less engaged compared to the average engagement levels across all industries. Recognizing the significance of employee engagement, disengaged employees can impose considerable costs on organizations (Griffin et al., 2015).

The nonprofit sector heavily relies on the commitment and passion of its employees to drive social change and address complex societal issues. When employees become disengaged, their motivation to create an impact and contribute to the organization's mission becomes compromised. This can adversely affect the effectiveness and influence of nonprofit organizations in meeting community needs and advocating for social justice.

Given the importance of employee engagement in the nonprofit sector, this study seeks to evaluate low-cost employee strategies for nonprofits, with a specific focus on Covenant Nation, Portharcourt.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

            Engaged employees play a vital role in the success of an organization by demonstrating a sense of ownership and responsibility, as well as a strong belief in their ability to perform effectively (Natrajan et al., 2019). According to a study conducted by Natrajan et al. (2019), employees tend to exhibit high levels of engagement when they first start a job. However, after approximately six months, this sense of engagement decreases by around 38% and may eventually stabilize at only 20% of the initial level. This highlights the importance of implementing effective strategies to maintain and empower engaged employees. The study further suggests that having the appropriate strategies in place for engaged and empowered employees can result in improved overall performance (Natrajan et al., 2019).

            Engaging employees within the nonprofit sector presents distinctive difficulties as a result of limited resources, budget limitations, and the growing demands placed on these organizations (Kenton, 2023). Although employee engagement holds vital importance for the success and long-term viability of nonprofit organizations, there is a noticeable lack of research focused on evaluating cost-effective strategies specifically designed for engaging nonprofit employees. This research gap calls for an investigation into the effectiveness and feasibility of such strategies in the nonprofit sector, particularly in the case of Covenant Nation in Port Harcourt.


1.3 Aim of the Study

            The aim of this study is to evaluate low-cost employee engagement strategies for nonprofits, using Covenant Nation in Port Harcourt as a case study.


1.4 Objectives of the Study

            The objectives of this study are as follows:

  1. To examine the current level of employee engagement within Covenant Nation, a nonprofit organization in Port Harcourt.
  2. To identify and analyze low-cost employee engagement strategies implemented by Covenant Nation.
  3. To assess the effectiveness of the identified low-cost employee engagement strategies in enhancing employee engagement within Covenant Nation.


1.5 Research Question

To achieve the aforementioned objectives, the study will address the following research questions:

  1. What is the current level of employee engagement within Covenant Nation?
  2. What low-cost employee engagement strategies are implemented by Covenant Nation?
  3. How effective are the identified low-cost employee engagement strategies in enhancing employee engagement within Covenant Nation?


1.6 Research Hypothesis

The following research hypothesis will be tested:

H0: There is no significant relationship between the implementation of low-cost employee engagement strategies and employee engagement within Covenant Nation.

H1: There is a significant relationship between the implementation of low-cost employee engagement strategies and employee engagement within Covenant Nation.


1.7 Justification of the Study

            This study holds several implications and significance for the nonprofit sector, specifically for organizations like Covenant Nation, as well as for researchers and practitioners in the field of employee engagement. The findings of this study will contribute to the existing body of knowledge on employee engagement in the nonprofit sector, providing insights into the effectiveness of low-cost strategies. The practical recommendations derived from this research will guide nonprofit organizations in enhancing employee engagement, ultimately leading to improved performance and mission fulfillment.


1.8 Scope of the Study

            This study will focus on evaluating low-cost employee engagement strategies within Covenant Nation, a nonprofit organization located in Port Harcourt. The research will be conducted through a case study approach, involving data collection from employees and relevant stakeholders within the organization.