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Elizabeth Chung
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3 Tips to Help Your Nonprofit Decide Who to Hire Next

The lean budgets of social impact organizations typically result in small staff sizes. This makes the decision to expand your team a very important one, and the way you approach your hiring should be strategic. We talked with Lori Fitzmaurice, COO from More Than Me (MTM)—an organization that provides Liberian girls with education—to gain insights into the steps they take before expanding their staff.

Here’s what you need to know.

Identify the Critical Gaps in Your Organization

The decision to expand your team is an important one, so you should consider it only when it’s truly needed. Certain circumstances might simply demand better workflows and efficiencies rather than a permanent nonprofit hire. A seasonal or one-time project, for instance, may require short-term help rather than a permanent position. If your staff is struggling with their workload, first explore whether there’s room to improve time management or efficiencies.

If you uncover a real need to add team members, your next step is to determine which gaps are most important to address first. Always prioritize the ones that endanger the stability of your organization.

You need to look at all the systems that are necessary to maintain the integrity of an organization.” – Fitzmaurice

For More Than Me, in their attempt to restore stability and normalcy within their organization after responding to the 2014 Ebola crisis in Liberia, they realized their first critical gap was finances and operations. “The organization is at risk when you don’t have your operations and finances well-maintained, so that obviously became our first priority.”

Soon after, the staff member who managed MTM’s fundraising transitioned out of her role, so Fitzmaurice then focused on this next critical gap in their organization—formalizing their fundraising with a hire who had years of experience.

In your own organization, consider whether you have the resources you need to be effective at achieving your mission and remaining accountable to all of your stakeholders. These would include your staff, board, constituents, donors, and community. Address holes in your organization’s structure—such as finances, operations, and fundraising—that prevent you from stewarding your resources.

You may have to take a step back if you realize you need someone who can help you identify those gaps within your infrastructure.

“When there was a lot of transition [within the organization], I was brought in as Chief Operating Officer to try and bring a little more attention to the organization’s structure. Everybody wanted to, but they didn’t have the experience. So I was recruited to come and start building that focus, as well as a more strategic orientation for our next expansion.”
– Fitzmaurice

Decide Which Role Would Make the Greatest Impact

After you address the roles that secure the organization’s stability, you should turn your attention to the ones that will have the greatest impact. After MTM hired leaders for their finances, operations, and fundraising, they realized their next area of expansion should be marketing.

Our organization is strong in social media. It’s an area that benefits us to invest in, because we can bring a return on investment.” – Fitzmaurice

While this could be different for other organizations at different stages of growth, the main takeaway is the same for any nonprofit: consider what role would bring the biggest ROI for your brand. Whether it’s a graphic designer or major gifts officer, focus on what would most impact your relationship with your fundraising community and help build your support network.

Consider Whether a Full Time Position Is the Right Way to Go

Depending on the nature of the role, you should carefully consider whether it makes sense to hire a full time staff member or a temporary position.

When hiring for the critical gaps in your organization, such as finances or fundraising, you should most likely find a trustworthy person who can commit to your organization and help you build it for the long-term.

When you identify roles that impact the organization’s integrity, it’s important to have stability in that role and choose the right person. With finances, for example, that person has access to important information, so it does not make sense to hire a consultant or contracted worker because of the risks involved to the organization.” – Fitzmaurice

However, it might be beneficial for you to consider freelancers for positions that you are unsure will yield high ROI. Fitzmaurice says,

Marketing seems to be the area that lends itself well to bring in temp-to-hire, contractors, or freelancers for work such as graphic design, photo journalism, or consulting. It’s also strategic because hiring someone is a large investment, so you want to make sure that you have the right fit.

Hiring a contractor or freelancer can be a great way to vet how much you’re actually going to use that position, whether the hire is a cultural fit, and whether it makes sense to invest long term dollars in a full-time position. You should also consider these shorter-term hiring options when your workload is seasonal, you have a one-time project, or a staffer is temporarily absent.

Consider carefully when and how you choose to make your next nonprofit hire. Address the integrity of your organization by filling operational needs first. Then consider the roles that can help build its brand and community. Consider contractors or temps for positions where you can test the role’s impact and the candidate’s fit within the organization. Your staff is the engine of your organization’s success, so make sure you structure it accordingly.

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