By: Anna Cowell on May 28th, 2024

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5 Nonprofit Hiring Practices to Help Find Passionate People

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Nonprofits are driven by passionate people who care deeply about a cause. Every day, these teams work hard to deliver on their mission and make the world a better place.  

But nonprofit doesn’t mean non-professional. Nonprofit organizations employee full-time employees, many of whom have in-demand skills, such as accountants, marketers, and IT experts. Salaries for these roles are typically higher in the private sector, and this competition can make it hard to attract great candidates.

In this article, we’ll look at some nonprofit hiring best practices that can make life easier. But first, let’s talk about some of the biggest challenges. 

Main hiring challenges for nonprofits 

Nonprofits, like all employers, require a streamlined hiring process that will help them find the talent they need to achieve their goals.  

However, nonprofits also face some challenges that make it harder to find the right candidates:  

  • Compensation: Nonprofits generally can’t compete on salary and benefits against private sector and government employers. 
  • Commitment: Nonprofit employees should be passionate about the organization’s mission. It’s not always easy to gauge this kind of engagement at interview stage.  
  • Culture: Organizational culture plays a huge role in how nonprofits approach their mission. New hires need to be assessed for culture fit and ready to integrate into the team.  
  • Expectations: Applicants to nonprofits might have unrealistic expectations of the role. For example, they may want to be directly involved with communities or in political action. If the day-to-day role doesn’t match these expectations, it could cause trouble down the line.  

Acknowledging these challenges when defining your hiring process is important. With the right planning, you can overcome all of these barriers to making great hires.  

5 tips for better nonprofit hiring  

To build a non-profit team, you'll need to pay close attention to your hiring strategy. Here are some tips to improve outcomes:  

1. Clearly explain your work and programming

When recruiting for a nonprofit, it's essential to explain your programming and the language you use to describe it to candidates from the very beginning. This is particularly important for candidates who may not be directly involved in programming, such as those in administrative roles like finance or IT.

Start each stage of the recruitment process, from the job post to the recruiter screen and interviews, with a summary of the organization and your work before asking the candidate any questions. This ensures that you and the candidate are on the same page and gives them insight into how you talk about your organization. 

Be sure to clarify any nuances in your work, such as the difference between an organization that implements programs versus one that focuses on research. If your organization advocates a particular viewpoint or has controversial programming, describe it to candidates upfront and explain how it may impact their role.

Additionally, make sure to use consistent language when referring to your stakeholders (e.g., patients, clients, or community members) and your organization (e.g., organization, institute, association, or society). While this information may be available on your website, reinforcing it during the hiring process helps candidates mirror your language when discussing their experience.

2. Be transparent about salary and benefits

Salary ranges can vary widely within the nonprofit sector, and even the top of the nonprofit market may be lower than for-profit or government organizations. To save time and attract the right candidates, be upfront about the salary range you plan to pay for the position in your job posting. Increasingly, candidates expect to see the salary range in the job post, and some may not even apply to positions without it. 

As you screen and interview candidates, inform them of the salary you're likely to offer someone with their experience within your range and confirm that you are still on the same page. Remember that people committed to your mission are still usually working for a living, and you don't want to go through the full recruitment process only to have an offer declined because it fell short of expectations. 

Don't forget to highlight your benefits package, especially if you can often offer strong retirement contributions, health care coverage, leave programs, or other benefits. Work-life balance is also important to candidates, so let them know if you offer remote work or flexible hours. 

3. Set clear job expectations

When assessing candidates, dive deeper than just their interest in the organization. While it's great when someone is drawn to your mission and their values align with the organization, you must carefully consider both their qualifications for the role and their interest in the day-to-day responsibilities.

Take the time to give them a preview of what a typical day, week, or month would look like in the role, and help them understand any nuances to your work. Make sure that they have a clear idea of how they'll fit into the team and help your broader mission. 

During initial conversations, describe not only your mission but also your programming approach. Then, go into more detail about how the position contributes to the larger organizational goals. This is especially important in the nonprofit world, where excitement about the work can sometimes overshadow the nature of many jobs, particularly for candidates who may be new to mission-driven work. 

4. Assess skills and competencies thoroughly

Don't get distracted by a candidate's enthusiasm for the work. Ensure that you are assessing their skills and competencies for the role throughout the recruitment process. Ask a mix of technical, behavior-based, and situational interview questions. Consider having them complete a demonstration or written exercise similar to the work they will be doing so you can fully assess their skills. 

While it can be flattering to have people excited about your organization, and you should be proud of the great work you are doing, the best way to continue your mission is to hire people who are best qualified for the role. If an applicant shows the right passion but doesn’t have the required skills, look for other ways to involved them in your work. 

5. Preview the organizational culture

Share your organizational culture explicitly in every conversation you have with a candidate. Consider aspects such as work-life balance expectations, busy periods throughout the year, and any additional expectations beyond core job responsibilities (e.g., attending organizational events or contributing to fundraising efforts). 

The strongest organizations have cultures that reflect their mission and values. Before speaking with candidates, reflect on how you would describe the experience of working for your organization. Think about what keeps people engaged and excited about the work and what they might find challenging.

Proactively explaining these aspects of your organization will help attract the right candidates who will thrive in your work environment and allow those who may not be a good fit to self-select out of the process. 

Need help finding talent for your nonprofit? 

If you're struggling to find great people, it's important to go back to the beginning and ask: what is our hiring strategy? You might find that your approach is not attracting the right type of candidate, or that your candidate experience is driving people away. 

It's easier to hire when you've got expert help. That's where Helios HR comes in. Our team of experienced HR consultants can help you with all aspects of your recruitment process, increasing your chances of finding the people you need. 

Book a call with a Helios HR consultant today and let's talk about your hiring strategy!

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