Best Recruitment & Retention Strategies for Nonprofit Professionals

How to compete for talent

The nonprofit sector has grown tremendously in the past few decades, it has also increasingly professionalized. This has created a talent shortage at all skill levels and increasingly so for senior roles. Without a natural education track and fewer opportunities for advancement over the years, there are significantly fewer qualified professionals ready to take on senior leadership roles. Regardless of the seniority of the role, here are a few tips on the best ways to recruit and retain talented nonprofit professionals.

  • Maximize your salary budget and titles

Our industry has developed the reputation for humility and sometimes underpaying staff because staff has traditionally had passion for the cause. Increasingly, the competition for talent is so fierce that many corporations are also appealing to candidates’ passions. Additionally, some of the retention issues in our industry are due to professionals switching organizations just to get a $5,000 or $10,000 raise. The revenue loss from replacing a front-line fundraiser is usually $70,000. It is definitely more cost effective to fairly compensate employees in order to keep or attract them. Beyond salary, another major consideration for nonprofit professionals is job titles. Many organizations have outdated job titles or a hierarchical structure which is not up to date with current trends for flatter structures. If you can, consider job titles that accurately or ambitiously reflect the responsibilities of a role. More importantly, think about the audience and importance the title will convey to potential donors. 

  • Offer flexibility and opportunities for advancement

These factors are critical for attracting and retaining more junior staff, but also play a key role in senior leadership roles. Increasingly, professionals are looking for roles that offer flexibility in terms of scheduling and working from home, while focusing on results and productivity. Opportunities for advancement is another main factor that is driving turnover among fundraisers, so anticipate promotions every 3 years and provide staff with lots of opportunities to take on special projects related to and beyond the scope of their role.

  • Culture and leadership

A good organizational culture and charismatic leadership are great recruitment and retention tools. Sometimes it is hard to assess culture internally and it is important to take advantage of external validation opportunities like best employer rankings, staff retention metrics and employee engagement surveys. If you are undergoing a transition and challenging times, it is important to be honest and upfront with candidates. Those who are aware of such issues ahead of time are better able to find ways to fit in and cope with challenges. Additionally, strong leadership with long tenures and excellent professional reputations can attract talent as well. An investment in the profile of your leadership along with an investment in their leadership skills can offer a great payoff in staff retention.

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