ANONYMOUS QUESTION: Hiring and Retention

In every Nonprofit Jenni Show podcast episode, I answer an anonymous question submitted by someone who works for a nonprofit or serves on a nonprofit organization’s board of directors. These questions may cover controversial topics, or may just come from someone who doesn’t want to be publicly associated with asking the question. Please subscribe to my podcast to make sure you catch all the advice I give from my anonymous Q&A segment!

In my recent episode on non-sexy nonprofit causes, I answered the question, “How can I hire and retain talent without a big budget?”

First of all, I would try to avoid seeing your small budget as a disadvantage to your hiring efforts. I realize this can be difficult because you probably think your small budget will make your open position less attractive when job seekers compare your job with jobs at for-profit corporations. However, you need to remember that in general, your best job applicants aren’t interested in a position at a for-profit company, and they usually understand that nonprofits have a smaller hiring budget. It’s better for you to hire someone who is deeply passionate about your mission than someone who is looking for the best paying job they can find.

In order to attract qualified applicants, you need to have a very clear and accurate job description. Be as specific as possible when outlining the duties of the position you’re trying to fill. One mistake I see often in nonprofit job descriptions is too much emphasis on the organization’s overall mission, and not enough on the expectations of the new employee. It’s easy to find people who care deeply about your mission, but you need to focus on finding someone who also has the skills and experience necessary to carry out the job.

Before you post the job description, have multiple people look over it--especially people who don’t work with your nonprofit on a daily basis. Ask them to read over the description, and then describe to you what they think the position entails based on what they read. This is an easy way to find out if you haven’t been clear enough to job seekers.

Once you have the description nailed down, it’s important to post about the position in all places that would be relevant for your target audience. In addition to posting on your website, post about it on your social media pages, e-newsletter, and LinkedIn account. These are the places where your biggest fans will be on the lookout for ways they can support your organization, and becoming a staff member is a huge way they can support you! Also, make sure your whole board knows about the position and thinks about contacts they may know who are looking for a more fulfilling career.

When it comes to employee retention, it’s important for you to always keep in mind the reason your staff started working with your organization in the first place: They believe in your nonprofit’s mission. The best way you can keep them excited about working for you is to continually let them know they are an integral part of fulfilling your mission. Have regular staff meetings where you describe every significant “win” your organization has had since the last meeting. These wins can include mentions in the news, milestone achievements in social media follower numbers, stories of success about your organization’s clients, new major donations that have come in, grants that have been awarded to you, or anything else that would give you a little adrenaline rush to learn about.

In between staff meetings, make sure you’re complimenting your staff on the great job they’re doing. Recognize their achievements out loud, in front of other people, so they can get a healthy ego boost every once in a while. Also, make sure you’re being flexible with their personal lives. Working for a nonprofit can be more emotionally exhausting than working for a regular company, so your staff needs time for self-care. If they need to take a long lunch so they can go to a doctor’s appointment, or need to come in on a Saturday instead of a Monday so they can spend time with family members who have come in from out of town, do your best to allow them that respite.

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