3 Hiring Tips for Growing Nonprofits

By Elizabeth Chung
People in Waiting Room
Reading Time: 3 minutes

By nature, nonprofits tend to do a lot with little. Manpower can be at a minimum, with many staff sizes in the single digits. But as organizations make strides in their missions, there comes a time when your team must grow.

The way you approach your hiring and leadership development process can have long term effects on your nonprofit’s health. You must be thoughtful and careful with how, why, and whom you hire. Putting the right people in the right positions can help achieve your mission. Failing to do so can derail or set back your efforts.

Here are a few hiring tips to help you plan your organization’s growth and evolution.

Hiring Tip #1: Map Out Your Vision for the Future

In order to understand future leadership needs, your first step is to define your organization’s strategic goals for the coming years. After all, you have to define your nonprofit strategy in order to fulfill it. With this roadmap, you can identify the key leadership roles and capabilities you need in order to achieve your mission.

Once you’ve defined your nonprofit’s priorities, ask yourself: What expertise and skills will be needed to fulfill these goals? Then define the types of positions that are required to achieve those goals.

Answering these questions will help you envision the team that you need, so make sure to be as specific and detailed as possible. It will directly impact how you define new positions and assess the potential of candidates to meet your needs.

For example, let’s say your nonprofit plans to dramatically increase its number of events. This could require you to hire an event coordinator, along with people with media-related skills, such as a photographer or videographer.

Hiring Tip #2: Understand Your Team’s Current Skills

After you’ve defined the skills needed to achieve your mission, take a look at your current staff and determine how their talents (and potential) measure against your needs. Understanding your team’s current skills will help you identify what is missing. Assess whether the talents you need can be found through internal development or must be brought in. Consider evolving job descriptions, or promoting staff that show potential to take on leadership roles.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits—especially smaller ones—feel the need to combine multiple, distinct roles into one position. The same person can be responsible for the organization’s website and social media, grant writing, event planning, and donor relations. Not only does this scattered focus create an immense workload, but it also reduces the person’s chances of executing every task extremely well.

Position your current staff in a way that will unlock their potential. Determine whether your team members are performing below, at, or above their current responsibilities. Then consider whether they can succeed in an advanced role. You should also ask your staff about their own aspirations. Continue to develop their skillsets. But make sure to hire when a) the workload is too much, and b) you need experts that specialize in a core skill that help you achieve your mission. You want all of your staff to succeed in their roles and fulfill organizational goals.

Hiring Tip #3: Find a Cultural Fit

When you choose to hire, you’ll obviously look for people with the right skills and experience. But it’s just as important to look beyond applicants’ professional capabilities; you want to make sure the person is a right cultural fit for your organization.

Especially for smaller, growing nonprofits, each new hire will directly affect the working dynamic of your team. Bring in people that will align with your organization’s core values, contribute to a productive atmosphere, and invest wholeheartedly in your mission.

Of course, in order to find the best cultural fit, you need to first have a deep understanding of your nonprofit’s culture. There are a variety of ways you can evaluate it, but a good place to start is by defining your organization’s core values. Here are a few questions to help you start developing a list:

  • What is the atmosphere like in our office?
  • How do our team members work? Independently, collaboratively, or both?
  • How do we approach our mission and work? Do we strive to innovate? Do we stand by core systems and processes that work?
  • How do we communicate with each other and our supporters?

Once you assess and define your organizational culture, you’ll be able to identify the type of person that will align with it and power your nonprofit’s vision. This should be an important part of the evaluation process.

To ensure the ongoing health and growth of your nonprofit, you must build a pipeline of competent leaders and staff. To do this effectively, define the organizational goals you want to achieve, and use them to map out the leadership team you need to build. Understand your team’s current skillsets, and assess how you can fill in gaps with new hires. This will help ensure you have the team members you need, when you need them.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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