7 Takeaways for Finding Elusive Talent for Your Nonprofit

As a consultant who has worked in this industry for over 20 years, I can list out the famous “Top Ten To-dos,” but what is more important is the strategic process and continual attention that leadership, HR, and employees must focus on today and every day.

As with any strategic process, finding talent starts with an analysis of where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Long ago, I led an HR team that did a focused recruitment initiative to hire 100 nurses in 100 days. We hit the target, but 12 weeks after the end of the initiative, we had lost 39% of those newly hired. Why? One reason is that we recruited for open positions — not the culture of the organization. The takeaway: Know your culture. When was the last employee (and volunteer) survey that you completed? Who did your employees/volunteers say you are? Use this data to recruit the people that are a ‘fit’ with your culture.

Once you have a true idea of who you really are, you want to showcase this information. The takeaway: Marketing. Every communication has the potential to make a difference in how an employee sees their role within the organization. Are your communications (and management) lifting people up? Is it future-focused and highlighting your values? How are you engaging candidates in experiencing your mission and culture as they decide whether to join the organization?

In this day and age, organizations have to demonstrate flexibility in order to recruit talent. One flexibility is that of work options. Women make up about 75% of the nonprofit workforce with many of them being mothers. Given the last three plus years of the pandemic, we have all seen (and maybe experienced) the impact on mothers. The takeaway: Offer flexible work schedules and work-from-home options. We have seen this type of work expand ten times faster than other areas of the workforce. To find and keep talent, the nonprofit sector must consider more ways to implement creative staffing methods that certainly meet the business needs while also considering the needs of employees.

Creating flexible work situations isn’t easy and can feel daunting. The takeaway: Create part-time and/or short-term paid positions within the organization to build your talent pool.  Offer people a taste of what your mission is and if it aligns with theirs, you may just snag them long-term.

As the oldest child of six kids, one of the hardest things for me to do is to ask for help. But in today’s interconnected world though, we can’t do it alone. Think about ways that you can create a call to action with recruitment. The takeaway:  People want to help solve problems. This could be as easy as an active, impactful referral program or putting together an employee focus group to vet creative recruitment ideas. Remember that people want to be asked to step up to help.

Historically, data showed that pay was top of mind for employees. Certainly, we want to pay the team appropriately, but we are hearing more about the importance of the manager/employee relationship and investing in professional development to help employees grow their skills. The takeaway: Engage in regular discussions about how an employee wants to grow. This is a key method to retaining talent. More importantly, I believe that this aids in the development of an authentic relationship between parties.

Lastly, I will leave you with the concept of potential talent. For too long, we have over-emphasized specific requirements in hiring, such as education or years of experience. It might be time to adjust your hiring criteria. The takeaway: Look for energy, work ethic, and passion.  Most jobs have functions that can be taught. You’ll have greater success when you hire the person who has the desire to learn.

If interested in taking a deeper dive into one of these processes or other HR needs, feel free to reach out. I’m passionate about helping nonprofits grow through their greatest asset — their people.

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