This article is part of a series titled “Lessons from the Biz World” where we explore valuable aspects of the for-profit sector that can be applied to nonprofit management and translate into a more efficient, stable and successful organization with a greater impact.
Lesson 2: Invest in good people
When it comes to finding passionate, experienced and intelligent people to work for your Nonprofit, it’s important to budget appropriate funds to attract top talent. Just like at a for-profit company, acquiring and retaining people who have the proper skills and drive might come at a cost, but it is the sort of investment necessary to create long-term success conditions within an organization.
“Some of our youth are on the cusp of either making it or not. When I say not making it, that could mean living in a park, incarceration, death, or falling victim to human trafficking,” says Carlos Leija, Chief Development Director for Orangewood Children Foundation. “So we really invest in who we hire ‒ knowledgeable individuals who truly know what it means to work for a Nonprofit, who want to make an impact and, in our case, foster youths.”
Find the Right Talent
How can you find the right talent for your Nonprofit? Network, network, network! Leverage your professional and personal connections on sites like LinkedIn and even Facebook to post job openings and discover candidates. This is going to be your least expensive option since it only requires your time.
Don’t hesitate to use your board as a resource for finding and developing new employees. “We’re fortunate to have a very strong and influential board of directors. They bring business sense, leadership and knowledge, as they generously invest their time to help us guide and govern our organization,” Leija explains.
You can also make some small investments in recruitment. Place job postings with leading job listing sites such as CommonGoodCareers.org or Idealist.org. You can also hire a recruiter to take the lead if you lack the time or skills to manage the process, but that can be expensive so you may want to use this option as a last resort.
Make a Competitive Offer
Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, it’s time to make a competitive offer to get that talent onboard. Check the latest salary trends before entering negotiations. You can use sites like Salary.com or GlassDoor.com, but check multiple sources because job valuations can vary quite a bit. Establish an initial salary offer you think is fair based on the candidate’s qualifications, the job and standards within the industry. It’s also important to set a maximum salary above your initial offer that your board would be comfortable with to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you get a counter offer.
Many Nonprofits have a hard time competing on employee compensation alone. If you can’t offer a high starting salary, try getting creative with “lifestyle” benefits such as flex-time and working remotely to entice those who have to balance work and home life. This can especially appealing to young mothers who are interested in returning to work but can’t do 40 hours a week at the office.
Set Goals and Track Progress
Once you’ve acquired new talent, set achievable goals for new employees and track their progress. Use this data to demonstrate to board members how talent influences the bottom line so you can get support and funding for additional employees as the organization grows.
Invest in Existing Employees
In addition to hiring new employees, it’s important to invest in the people who already work for the organization. Offer programs and opportunities to help employees develop their professional skills. This shows you care about staff as well as your cause, and these efforts will boost employee engagement, morale, loyalty and productivity.
“Charitable organizations are typically very flat in structure, so we added an internal mentorship structure between senior and junior staff members,” says Melissa Beck, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. “We’ve tried to create career paths for staff with a few levels of opportunity for promotion. We have also implemented professional development programs and encouraged continuing education.”
For-profit businesses know that replacing an employee and training new people is an investment – it costs time, money and productivity – but investing a little more in the right people will almost always pay off in the long run. Nonprofits are notorious for having high turnover, which is why employee retention should be top of mind for long-term success.
“I’ve been here for seven years,” says Leija. “People in my position usually stay for 18-24 months and I think that’s sad because you can’t accomplish what you need to do in that short period of time.”
Breaking that cycle and creating conditions for success within an organzation means investing in good people to run it. “We don’t want to lose great people because of a ceiling,” explains Beck, “we want to invest in our future leaders.”