How Hiring for Culture Fit Reduces Nonprofit Turnover

By Ellie Burke
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The nonprofit industry is no stranger to turnover, with a sector turnover rate of 19 percent. Among the causes of staff downsizes, one of the biggest is the failure to consider culture fit during the hiring process. In fact, it can be a very expensive mistake. A lack of culture fit that leads to turnover can cost organizations 50 to 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

If your organization takes steps to identify and understand your culture, communicate it to potential hires, and ensure that hired employees are a good match, you can save your operation thousands of dollars. You can also take steps to retain these employees by maintaining the culture as your team grows over time.

To dig into how organizations can do this, we sat down with Classy’s own People Team. Here’s what they had to say about hiring for culture fit:

Identify and Communicate Your Culture

In order to attract the right talent, it’s important to first have a firm understanding of your organization’s culture. Only then will you be able to openly communicate what it means to join your team. This clear communication will serve as a beacon for individuals who are passionate about your cause, the work that you do, and the way in which your staff operates.

Here at Classy, our core values remain at the forefront of all that we do. From the walls of our office, to the information on our careers pages, to the conversations we have about our goals and growth, we work hard to keep our core values top of mind. This internal focus naturally makes it easier to convey what’s important to our organization to prospective hires.

We asked our head of HR, Dina Rulli, how other organizations might build this approach into their hiring strategy.

Q: What advice would you give an organization hiring for culture fit?

A: I think they have to live their truth. They have to be committed to their employer brand. It’s like consumerism. For example, if you’re going to buy a new TV, you’re probably going to go on Amazon, read all the reviews, and ask your friends for advice.

Similarly, job hunting is consumerized. You ask your friends who are happy in their jobs for referrals, you go to sites like Glassdoor to check out an organization’s brand and whether it’s recommended. Organizations can choose not to engage and let their brand be whatever other people want it to be—or they can direct their brand.

Key Takeaway: Maintain an active presence online in order to manage the conversation around your brand. An engaged Glassdoor profile is one example of how you can communicate your brand.

Showcase the values that are important to your organization and sought after in new hires on your website. You might even create specific content to help highlight your culture. Take this example of a recruitment video that Twitter created in 2011 to convey their culture and attract applicants.

Infuse Culture Into the Recruiting Process

To prioritize culture fit in the recruitment process, you will first need to work closely with the hiring manager to understand the sub-cultures of particular teams. For example, it’s likely your marketing team has its own sub-culture within the overall organization, and that sub-culture differs from the sub-culture of your development team. Work to understand how each team operates and what they look for in an ideal candidate to best match the new hire to their needs.

After you’re clear on the type of person the team hopes to bring in, you can then use different tools and resources to assess fit. For example, if you’re on the fence after a phone screening, you might go online to further investigate a candidate. At Classy, our People Team often uses social media profiles to assess culture fit and learn more about what’s important to potential hires. A well-maintained LinkedIn or Twitter profile might help you see how they self-identify and discover shared interests.

Beyond the screening process, your hiring team can also develop a set of questions for the formal interview that probe for culture fit. This will help standardize the process across applicants and ensure the hiring team is covering the questions that will reveal important candidate qualities.

Pro Tip
The core values you look for in potential employees can be found in people with many different backgrounds and experiences.

According to Katie Bouton in her Harvard Business Review article, “Recruiting for Cultural Fit,” “It’s important to understand that hiring for culture fit doesn’t mean hiring people who are all the same. The values and attributes that make up an organizational culture can and should be reflected in a richly diverse workforce.”

Test for Fit in the Interview

It can be a difficult thing to evaluate, but culture fit comes down to how well an individual would perform within their department and as a member of the larger organization. Do they butt heads with certain personalities? Are they interested in growth? Are they passionate about your specific organization? These are all pieces of information that will indicate if a person is likely to commit to your mission.

We spoke with Renee Boyd, a recruiter on the Classy People Team, to get her perspective on assessing culture fit. She suggests that organizations ask certain types of open-ended questions. Follow up each question with a qualifying question if the answer isn’t immediately clear.

Q: What are some specific questions you typically ask to gauge whether someone will be a good fit?

A: Typically, I will go through someone’s background and experience. Then, towards the end we’ll start talking about “why Classy.” I will ask:

  • What attracted you to our organization?
  • How did you find out about us?
  • What’s your ideal role?
  • What type of company do you want to work for?
  • Do you want to work in a startup setting, or at a large corporation?
  • In what setting do you think you’d be most successful?
Assess Culture Fit
Download this PDF for a printable list of interview questions that can help you test for culture fit in your hiring process.
Check it out

Perform an Organizational Culture Pulse Check

Over time, you may experience shifts in your culture—especially if your organization grows. To ensure you stay intentional in your efforts to maintain culture, Renee recommends a pulse check among the executive team.

I think culture needs to be reevaluated every year because it can’t always look the same when you move from 50 employees to 500. Have a meeting once a year to come together, reevaluate, and ask, ‘Do we continue on this path?’

Renee Boyd

Make a point to pause and consider your culture at regular intervals. Ask your team what words they would use to describe your organization and what it’s like to work there. Examine these sentiments alongside your short and long term goals. These conversations help you check if your organization is simultaneously grounded in the right values and primed for growth, or if you need to make changes.


When you focus on culture fit, you make hiring decisions that benefit both your organization and new team members. Not to mention, you save precious dollars in the long run. Are you in the process of recruiting a new hire? What questions do you make sure to ask in your interviews? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments below or @Burke_Writes.

30 Interview Questions to Assess Culture Fit

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