How to Approach Nonprofit Recruitment

How to approach nonprofit recruitment depends on your organization’s needs, priorities, and growth stage. This statement is not meant to dodge the immediate and urgent question of “how do I recruit the best nonprofit professionals?” Rather, the statement helps you focus on developing an ideal persona of the job candidates that will help your particular nonprofit organization succeed. Let’s take that statement and look at each piece.

Nonprofit Employment Needs

Every business–profit or nonprofit–begins with a core group of employees. At the very beginning, this may just be the founder. Regardless of the starting point, when a nonprofit seeks to add talent to its organization, it should first consider the talent it already possesses. This will prompt a couple questions and considerations:

  • Are the people we employ in the right positions? It’s not uncommon for nonprofit job seekers to gravitate towards organizations or missions that resonate with them. This may mean that they take any open position, rather than wait for the right open position. Consider: Is there an existing employee who can fill an urgent talent need better than the one they currently fill? This preliminary consideration will help ensure that recruitment efforts are focused on adding the right nonprofit professionals.
  • How will the employee grow with the organization? Employee growth is mostly expected. Job descriptions offer it, and job candidates talk about wanting it. However, it’s helpful to include context and a timeframe to this question. One nonprofit may need someone to build a marketing department over the next five years, while another may need a nonprofit professional to “do marketing” and other operational work indefinitely. Consider: Will the organization offer a growth path for the position? Being clear and honest about the growth potential for a position can help organizations avoid employee turnover or frequent reorganizing of staff roles.


Improve your employee experience: Guide to Choosing the Right HR Software.

Nonprofit Talent Priorities

Not all nonprofit organizations are built the same. Just as mission, vision, and values will differ from one organization to another, so too will the priorities. As it relates to nonprofit recruitment, employers will almost always have to make trade-offs during the candidate selection process, and so it helps to prioritize selection criteria to develop a candidate persona in advance. Let’s take a look at a couple criteria for prioritization.

Experience vs. Education

This is a standard consideration for almost any open position, but for nonprofits, the stakes are often higher. It is common for nonprofits to operate on limited resources– the refrain “do more with less” comes to mind. But a couple dangers may exist here.

One is to under-prioritize experience–maybe with the intent to save on salary and utilize “on-the-job” training to fill experience gaps. This can certainly work, but it will require more time to ramp-up a new hire. For smaller organizations or lightly staffed nonprofits, this time investment in training can negatively impact other areas of operations.

Another danger is to under-prioritize education–perhaps done with the assumption that having done the work will always trump knowing how to do the work. Having a “doer” on staff is a great asset…as long as they are doing the right thing, in the right way. Effective applicant screening and candidate interviews can mitigate this danger by verifying that the candidate’s experience comes with quantifiable accomplishments and examples of how the experience matches an organization’s needs.

Nonprofit Professional vs. For-profit Professional

Using again the example of recruiting for a marketing position, an employer could prioritize recruiting a marketing professional, a nonprofit professional who can “do” marketing, or (the gold standard) a nonprofit marketing professional. This is not semantics. Thinking through how these different candidate personas align with the needs of an organization is vital to not just making a good hire, but in making the right hire.

Additionally, prioritizing the skills and experience that an organization requires will tighten the recruitment target and, in turn, produce better candidates and a more efficient hiring process. If a nonprofit truly wants to do more with less, a well-defined recruitment target is essential.

Nonprofit Growth Stage

A nonprofit organization in year-one will need to approach recruitment quite differently than an organization with decades of institutional history. Differences may include the amount of resources (people and capital), organizational structure, community of supporters, network of partners and advisors, and scale of operations.

It is important for an organization to account for these differences as it considers nonprofit recruitment strategies. Strategies are not one-size-fits-all, and any approach to recruitment should aim to leverage existing advantages and resources without requiring significant investment in new ones.

Recruiting Strategies that Scale

It is tempting to follow the lead of larger organizations and attempt to implement their recruitment strategies. After all, those strategies often produce great results in acquiring widely-known and accomplished talent. However, these strategies are not always effective when scaled down to smaller organizations. Trying to do so will create an unnecessary risk of over-investing in a process that under delivers on results. And it cuts both ways too, when larger organizations underinvest by using small-scale strategies in recruitment.

For example, a multi-regional nonprofit may contract with a recruitment firm to fill high-level executive positions. The needs and resources of this large nonprofit may allow for this investment as part of a recruitment strategy. However, a smaller nonprofit would have trouble justifying such an expense, even for a relatively high-level position. It would be better off tapping into its existing network of supporters, advisors, and partners to fill the position.

The goal should not be to hire the most qualified candidate at all costs, but to hire the best candidate for the organization at the right cost.

Defining Your Approach to Nonprofit Recruitment

The unique characteristics of your nonprofit organization will determine your best approach to recruitment. Developing your approach is first a matter of identifying your needs, determining your priorities as it relates to those needs, and creating an ideal persona of the job candidate that will help your organization succeed.

Finally, be sure that your recruitment strategy takes into account your organization’s growth stage–including its size, resources, and scale of operations. Your best approach to nonprofit recruitment should not solely focus on the desired hiring outcome (hiring the best), but also on the desired impact of hiring (advancing your organization’s mission).


Nonprofit hiring software discount


Feature Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Applicant Tracking Systems for Not-For-Profits

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) can be appropriate for many different industries and many different business sizes…the right system for your organization will depend on the unique needs or your business as features will vary depending on the software application. In this blog, I would like to focus on how applicant tracking software can be beneficial to a not-for-profit organization.  Many think that a nonprofit means that an organization has little money or no budget, this is not necessarily true. Not-For-Profits are run similarly to many other organizations when it comes to their financial controls and hiring processes.  Most however, do a have strict set up guidelines and a board of directors to monitor and regulate key business decisions.

Here are several reasons why Not-For-Profits would benefit from having an ATS:

Applicant tracking systems make hiring more efficient

Often, these organizations run pretty lean on manpower so it’s important that every aspect of their processes are efficient. This is no different when it comes to hiring. Using an ATS will help quickly launch new job postings with minimal manual effort; as well as, sort out applicants that best fit the needs of the organization based on custom filters that may be predetermined by the organization.

Having the right software makes hiring less costly

It’s no secret that hiring a new employee can be costly so it pays to make the correct decision the first time around.  Our applicant tracking software is especially budget friendly to nonprofit organizations and is suited well for small- to medium-sized companies.  Hiring right the first time keeps costs down, as well, and allows HR staff to spend less time re-training and on other busy work activities that cause an organization to be less productive in the long run.

Leaves applicants with a positive impression

Using ATS software allows you to have a streamlined and consistent hiring process. This is a bonus for your employment brand, as well. More specifically, your jobs portal will make it easy for applicants to search for available positions and then apply in a consistent, standardized manner each time. You may even include an FAQ page on your career site to answer common questions so that your potential applicants know what to expect from your hiring process. Your company, big or small, will be seen as professional and attentive to the needs of its applicants and employees. That’s a huge plus when you want to create a working environment that is engaging to employees who are passionate about the mission of your nonprofit organization.

Grows your passive applicant database for future reference

Any applicant that has applied to a previous job in your application will be stored and may be easily referenced by searching for items such as name, email, phone, and various keywords. If you are trying to source candidates for a specific position, you can always search your database of previous applicants to see if one of them fits well with the needs of the new job.  Contacting those people that were finalists for previous jobs can be a great way to reduce your time to hire for critical positions for which you need to make hiring decisions quickly.

These reasons are all noteworthy for not-for-profit businesses, but can certainly be applicable to other industries, as well. As with any potential change to your recruiting and hiring process, keep your company culture top of mind when implementing software tools and designing screening process steps to make the overall experience a positive one for the candidate and the company.

For more information regarding our HireCentric applicant tracking software and our other hiring software solutions, please visit our resources page or contact us today.

Unique Job Specific Screening Questions Part 2 – Nonprofit Leadership

For those of you who read my first Unique Job Specific Screening Questions blog, then you know that many of the deal-breaker and essay questions sampled in this piece are especially common to high-volume positions for which one may recruit frequently. But what about your organization’s leadership roles? While you may not be creating these types of job listings in your applicant tracking software very often, it is still critical to identify the make-it-or-break-it questions for these high-level positions, as well.

In this follow-up, we’ll focus on the nonprofit industry. Easy-to-assign screener questions are just one of the many benefits available to not-for-profits that use technology to go paperless. A special thank you goes to Bryan Orander, Founder and President at Indianapolis-based Charitable Advisors, for sharing some of his preferred job-specific screening questions for certain key leadership roles in the nonprofit arena.

Download our hiring process questions guide

First Executive Director Screening Questions

  1. Tell us about your experience working with a nonprofit board of directors to help them add meaningful value to the organization and the relationship you strive to create with the board.
  2. Tell us about your experience and success in building relationships for fund development that could apply to this position.
  3. Based on either your personal knowledge of our service area or your research, what do you see as some of the greatest opportunities in our service area?
  4. Tell us about how you have exhibited the skills that will be needed as the First Executive Director of this organization. Consider that you would be wearing many hats and expected to work frequently at the community visioning level; and, that you would be hands-on with people, projects and paperwork while you work to grow the organization and build a staff team.
  5. Tell us about your experience in engaging businesses and neighbors in efforts to benefit their community…ideally, in a multicultural setting.

President Screening Questions

  1. Describe what you feel are the essential components of successful fundraising.
  2. Describe your most significant accomplishment.
  3. Provide an example of how you have taken on a leadership role to make our community a better place to live.
  4. What role could or should our organization play in making our community a world class place to live, and what initial steps would you take to make that happen?

Executive Director/CEO Screening Questions

  1. What fundraising approaches would you see as most important to an organization like ours, and how have you used them successfully?
  2. Describe how you have successfully engaged board members in sharing your organization’s story and taking ownership for raising funds.
  3. The Executive Director/CEO will be leading the Board’s evaluation of the organization’s current name and brand identity. Tell us how you would approach conducting such an evaluation.

If you would like to share your own ideas for screening questions for leadership positions – in any industry – please comment on this blog. We can certainly all greatly benefit from our combined collective knowledge of hiring and selection tips. For more specific information about how to leverage job-specific screening questions in your own selection process, please contact ExactHire to learn about our applicant tracking software options.

Download our hiring process questions guide

5 Reasons for Nonprofits to Use Human Resources Software Applications to Go Paperless

Today, I’m going to take some time to review the common struggles that nonprofit organizations face when it comes to leveraging technology in the human resources space. While these charitable organizations may already have many resources in terms of volunteers, connected board members and the intellectual capital of staff members, what they often don’t have is a robust set of technological resources to aid them in running the business of their organization – especially in the HR department, where individuals are often tasked with doing more with less.

So how do you make a business case for funding and implementing human resources software programs for your non-profit organization? Here are five reasons that non-profit organizations use HR software companies and implement a paperless HR process:

1. The Professionalism and Image of Your Organization

Career FairWhile many nonprofits seem to have embraced social networking and do a savvy job of emailing about volunteer opportunities and fundraising outreach efforts, when it comes to advertising available job openings and collecting applicant data, many fall behind the curve compared to other organizations their size (and even smaller). Read: Are you managing your applicants in an Excel spreadsheet or meticulously organizing resume emails into different Outlook folders on your desktop?

Or, when you are actively recruiting potential employees at a career fair or on campus for college recruiting or internships, are you collecting resumes in hard copy form due to the absence of an easy means for applicants to submit their employment application and resume on your organization’s website? If so, then you are left with a disheveled stack of resumes that don’t necessarily indicate to which job opening one should be associated (and that can be tedious if you happen to be subject to any compliance reporting requirements that task you with matching up applicants’ expressions of interest to a specific job opportunity). Plus, applicants don’t always answer the questions you need to know about one’s specific qualifications for an opening in the content of a resume.

So, ramp up your HR technology to be as credible as the rest of your operating procedures. By utilizing an affordable applicant tracking software application, you offer interested candidates the ability to submit their employment application and resume electronically right on your organization’s website. The branding of the ATS portal can even match that of your own site so that many applicants do not even realize they are exiting the organization’s website.

With this approach, gone are the hassles of collecting paper resumes at job fairs – simply hand out business cards that direct interested job seekers directly to your applicant tracking portal website. The added benefit is that only truly interested people will make the effort to apply and that means you spend less time wading through candidates who aren’t even passionate about working for your organization.

2. Organized Volunteer Application Management

Volunteer ApplicationIf your process for allowing individuals to apply for paid positions with your nonprofit organization is less than efficient, then odds are that your process for collecting volunteer position applications is not much better. But how can you streamline this process using web-based technology when your volunteer positions require that different questions be asked of applicants compared to questions asked of applicants for paid positions?

Look to your recruiting software portal to potentially accommodate the ability to have more than one version of an external application. One version will tend to be your regular external employment application, while another version may be used as your volunteer application. Then, you may list both open paid positions and volunteer positions as opportunities on your website.

Take it a step further and utilize the job-specific screening questions that should be available to you. Associate specific questions with different volunteer opportunities to help screen volunteer applicants up front before any in-person interviews are conducted.

3. Empower Decentralized Hiring Managers to Manage Job Listings and Applicants, and Onboard New Employees

Depending on the size of your non-profit organization, you may have many people working in different areas across different locations. This can lead to the creation of silos within the organization, and that means that communication isn’t always a two-way street. When it comes to managers’ awareness of job listings available outside of their own department, or applicants that have applied elsewhere that should be considered within a manager’s own area, the manager is often in the dark. Or, I probably don’t need to remind you of the struggles that can be associated with collecting employment paperwork from new non-profit hires during the onboarding process. But there are ways to overcome these obstacles with an infusion of the appropriate software-as-a-service (SaaS) application for human resources.

Demo Site Applicant Tracking SoftwareWith an applicant tracking system, hiring managers may be assigned their own restricted login credentials so that when they use the ATS, they will only access job listings and/or applicants that are specific to their assigned span of control. If you want to facilitate managers’ ability to proactively seek applicants across different areas of the organization, then allow managers to consider applicants who may have applied for similar positions, but in other departments or branches. An effective applicant tracking solution will also allow managers to collaborate via the web-based portal to assign qualified candidates to other managers for consideration, either via status code and/or email notification.

By setting the proper expectations and giving hiring managers more autonomy in the applicant selection process, human resource professionals can free up time in their day to devote to other more strategic and/or pressing HR responsibilities.

Non-profit organizations may look to employee onboarding software to make the process of onboarding new hires paperless. Instead of passing paper copies of required forms back and forth between HR and different organizational facilities, new hires are invited to submit answers to questions on basic employment paperwork via an easy-to-use survey-style web portal that even allows individuals, hiring managers and HR staff to approve and electronically sign paperwork.

4. Do More with Less When Charitable Contributions Are Down

While an economic downturn affects businesses beyond the nonprofit realm, its effect on this industry is very apparent when considering the charitable contributions to and funding for such organizations. Nonprofits are normally accustomed to “doing more with less” given the lack of profit; however, when the economy turns sour, the cliche becomes real.

The possibility of spending money on a web-based application for your organization may seem daunting, or even wasteful at first. After all, haven’t the Excel spreadsheets always been “good enough?” But as staffing numbers have shrunk and individual contributors in HR are responsible for sorting through the sea of applications and paperwork, the opportunity cost of not implementing an efficient, time-saving application is negligible when compared to the lower productivity of your existing team and/or the cost of hiring more people to manage the workload (since the absence of HR technology requires manual processes which inevitably take longer).

5. Engage New Employees in the Same Way You Want Them to Engage the Beneficiaries of Your Non-Profit Organization – Oh, and be Green Too!

Go GreenNot everyone is interested in working for the nonprofit segment, as it may be hard to turn down the sometimes more lucrative compensation and benefit plans offered by the for-profit world. But many people who do work in nonprofits tend to be especially passionate about helping others and the mission of their organization, and any sacrifices that may accompany that choice are worth it.

Employees of non-profits strive to create awareness within the community, and within the target audience for the services of the organization. This of course requires them to be actively engaged with their non-profit’s goals, procedures, communication methods, etc. so that they can effectively convey this information to others. A significant part of ensuring this employee engagement starts with the effective onboarding of new employees to the non-profit organization. You want their initial experiences with your organization to be nothing but positive after they have made their decision to join you…no “buyer’s remorse.”

Using technology to make the process of collecting new hire information more intuitive will give your new employees a favorable impression of your organization, and at the same time, its a great green initiative for being environmentally conscious. Employee onboarding software advantages include reducing data entry errors while also speeding up the process of obtaining approved paperwork – despite the possibility of multiple facilities at different locations in your organization. Your new employees are anxious to get started on the real work of your non-profit…don’t stall them by making the onboarding process tedious or unnecessarily difficult.

How have you created a business case for HR technology in your own nonprofit organization? Learn how to leverage technology to gain efficiencies in your own organization. Schedule a live demo with ExactHire today!

Header image credit: paperless office? by rosmary (contact)