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10 Best Practices for an Effective Nonprofit Hiring Process

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The employees are considered as one of the nonprofit’s most valuable assets. These people are notable for completing the organization’s mission, raising funds, and keeping the organization operating at its best.

The nonprofit sector had a difficult year in 2020 losing over 7 percent of its workforce. Although it is a tragedy to lose any apt and skilled employees, nonprofit organizations still have to hire people, and there is a significant pool of talents to interview.


Furthermore, a report from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 states the nonprofit sector remains the third-largest in the economy, with more than 12 million jobs. It is said that nonprofit organizations will continue to be a great industry for placements due to a rebound in fundraising and private sector spending in 2021.


However, placing talents in nonprofits can be tricky since top-tier candidates would probably prefer to align more with the organization’s mission, vision, mandate, and efforts. Moreover, compared to bigger companies, nonprofit organizations don’t have quite the placement power when seeking the best talent. This puts nonprofits at a disadvantage.


Not only that, common constraints like lack of time, budget, and resources are some of the challenges that nonprofits are facing in search of new employees. The process of finding and hiring the right employees requires a lot of steps and can sometimes lead nonprofits to failure.


Attracting new talent or keeping the existing employees might be arduous, but not impossible. It is just a matter of attracting them to join or stay in your organization. That said, here are some of the best practices that you can follow when hiring talents for the nonprofit sector:


Step 1: Determine your Hiring Needs

Most of the time, nonprofits’ first instinct is to start hiring for new positions after they sense a lack in a certain department or any other area of the organization. These instincts may probably have merit, but it is not wise to act on them alone. It is imperative to thoroughly assess your organizational workflow to understand the bottlenecks, the areas that truly need development, and how this new or vacant position fits into all these.


Step 2: Develop a Strategic Plan

The road to success begins with a clear plan of action. After determining your hiring needs, you have to communicate your expectations. To show how professional and organized your nonprofit is, it is important to streamline the hiring process. Candidates expect an intuitive and fast hiring process in recent years, which is not surprising why some of them are online (e.g., digital application). Make sure to test out your application beforehand to know how quickly it goes and how it keeps candidates engaged. Remember, nonprofit candidates may lose interest and will consider or pursue other opportunities after weeks of waiting. In addition, now is the time to decide the hiring staff, budget, timelines, and so on. What are the value and rewards of working for your organization? Taking the time to lay down all these steps makes the process linear.


Step 3: Create a Detailed Job Description

Job posting makes or breaks the hiring process. Many nonprofit organizations list the required skills and experiences but still fail to fully describe the position. This is where step number 1 comes in. When creating your job description, go back to why your organization created or opened this position in the first place. Look at the gaps and the necessary skills to fill them. If you still feel lost and need some guidance, you can take some time to answer the following questions:

  • Who are you as an organization? This is a no-brainer. Every job description must include the name of the organization and a brief description of itself. Apart from describing the role and its responsibilities, adding the organization’s mission statement, core values, and clear expectations for potential hires in the job description results in a smoother hiring process with a more productive workforce. And why is that so? Because organizations will most likely hire candidates who share those same value sets. However, make it clear and simple. Avoid being overly particular about required qualifications when writing job posts because it may unnecessarily exclude highly capable applicants. To avoid missing any good candidates, try to clearly distinguish the must-have skills from the desirable experience. Remember: the job post should not just be informative. It should be exciting. After all, most people in nonprofit organizations are working out of their passion. This is a great way to convey your enthusiasm about your mission and how energized your team is in achieving its goals.
  • What is the required level of experience? To understand the type of experiences and qualifications required, the hiring manager must determine the needs of his or her unit or department and identify the candidates’ expectations for the job. This includes the salary, benefits, bonuses, etc.
  • What’s in it for them? Why would someone want to work in a nonprofit organization, especially if the candidate comes from the private sector? What makes this position so attractive that candidates will be willing to give up what they currently have to work for your organization? What are the things that will motivate them to join you? The answer varies. It could be skills development. It could be an opportunity to be a part of a fulfilling mission. It could be a chance to work with reputable industry experts and other incentives that accompany nonprofit work.


Step 4: Make Good Use of Different Recruitment Channels

Finding the right talent means expanding your reach by accessing different channels to promote open positions in your organization. You can’t just saturate one channel, then call it a day. To find the perfect candidate, you must utilize different channels such as LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder along with nonprofit-specific websites such as Idealist, Foundation List, and the National Council of Nonprofits. The more avenues you tap into, the more exposure the position gets. More exposure means more chances of getting the position filled.


Step 5: Recruit Outside the Box

Nonprofit organizations tend to seek people with traditional nonprofit experiences, which can significantly limit the search. When nonprofits restrict their talent pool, they might be missing out on a large pool of candidates with advanced skillsets out there. When people work in different sectors, they bring valuable expertise to the table, which may potentially better serve your mission. Leveraging these candidates and their varied experiences is beneficial to fulfilling organizational goals.


Step 6: Try Proactive Recruiting

Most professionals have a network of connections, which can come in handy when filling in new or open positions. They tend to contact colleagues from another organization who may be suitable for the position or know someone they could refer. Scouting out talents through your network saves time when waiting for positions to be filled. Others use ATS or Applicant Tracking System, which helps store candidate information and make communication and interview scheduling much easier.


Step 7: Seek Help from a Nonprofit Recruiting Firm

Oftentimes, nonprofit organizations conduct executive searches on their own in finding the most suitable candidate. Despite all the efforts done, there are times when nonprofit organizations feel stuck and clueless. Either they attract a lot of applicants, but most of them are mismatched or junior, or they find a highly qualified candidate, but he or she didn’t last long and left the organization due to culture shock. In these cases, you can turn to executive search firms that specialize in nonprofit placements. Most of these firms already have talent pools filled with candidates that can be approached for job orders. Executive search firms, like CARRHURE, can connect you with their network, and many of them, including our firm, offer discounts to nonprofit organizations. Hiring an executive search firm provides efficient and timely hiring and onboarding process.


Step 8: Be Flexible

Sourcing and recruiting highly competent and skilled candidates comes with a lot of surprises and unpredictable circumstances. Setting interview schedules, especially for candidates from different time zones, contacting references with busy schedules for feedback, and even simple tasks like reserving hotel accommodations for the finalists may cause frustrations not only to the recruiters but also to the hiring manager and the selection panel. When these things happen, it is important to remain flexible in the hiring strategy to reduce the stress. Accepting the fact that not everything can be under your control keeps you in perspective and will help you to move on to the next best step of the process.


Step 9: Interview Candidates Effectively

Interviewing candidates is the core of the hiring process. Some candidates may seem qualified on paper, but fail to answer difficult questions, especially about pressing matters. Interviews help the recruiters see how the candidate’s personality fits with the organization and the team, how they think on their feet, and what their expectations are for this job. This is also an opportunity to sell your organization to the candidates and show them why they should work with you. Oftentimes, there will be a series of interviews – initial, medial, and final. During the final interview, finalists are invited for an in-person or virtual conversation with the selection panel, before proceeding with a presentation by the candidate. The format and progression may vary depending on your specific needs.


Step 10: Professionally End the Hiring Process

After deliberating and making the final decision, it’s time to give your offer to the chosen candidate. Don’t forget to let them read and sign an agreement specifying the agreed salary, benefits, bonuses, allowances, and other important details. Once the selected candidate agrees, it is time to contact the other finalists to let them know about the results and thank them for their time and efforts. Onboarding is also the key to making them feel comfortable on their first day. It’s important to introduce them to the people and the teams they’ll be working with and send them materials to educate them on the organizational structure, the status of your organization, the steps taken, and the successes and failures of the organization.


Devoting time and resources to find, and eventually hire, the right person for the job brings great relief to everybody. If you’re faced with hiring challenges, remember that other factors come into play, and not everything is your fault. The stellar candidate is out there. All you have to do is to be flexible with your recruiting approach.

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