How Nonprofits Can Stay Competitive in the Hiring Market

Business is booming in the nonprofit sector. Charitable donations rose after the most recent Presidential election, and 51% of nonprofits expected to increase their staffing last year. While that’s all good news, it’s not the full story. Finding the right people for these roles is often difficult for nonprofits.

Also read: Mentoring and Hiring the Right People

Hiring for a nonprofit is more complicated than it seems at face value—and staying competitive in the hiring market can be one of the biggest challenges organizations face. While most people want to help support charitable causes and organizations, there are some major challenges that recruiters run up against. Let’s take a look at why it can be tough to land top talent in the nonprofit sector—and ways these organizations can remain competitive.

Limited Salary and Benefits

Of course, one of the main reasons nonprofits can have trouble bringing on qualified candidates is that they can’t (or won’t) offer competitive salaries. It’s not always an option due to limited resources—although some nonprofits can and do bring people on at industry rates.

Many candidates come into the search expecting these limitations, but nonprofits also regularly lose out on talent due to limited salary and benefits.

Social Enterprises and Nonprofits Vying for Candidates

One of the challenges that has been emerging in nonprofit hiring in recent years is the rise of the social enterprise. Social enterprises are for-profit businesses that also have a social or environmental cause woven into their operations. TOMS shoes is a good example of this type of organization—for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, another pair goes to someone in need.

Also read: Money (really!) isn’t Everything — What Benefits do People Want?

Because nonprofits and social enterprises both allow employees to participate in a good cause, they are now in direct competition for the same talent. Social enterprises often offer better salaries and benefits, making it difficult for nonprofits to compete, and these enterprises also tend to leverage tools like social media more effectively, bringing in a larger talent pool.

Ways to Stay Competitive

With these challenges, how can nonprofits compete with social enterprises and the rest of the private sector? Salary isn’t the only thing candidates are looking for. Here are some strategies nonprofits can use when hiring:

  • Up the budget. If at all possible, invest in the organization by offering competitive salaries. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, but other nonprofits have a little more leeway and can recruit better talent by offering higher compensation.
  • Leverage social media to find talent. 65% of adults use social media, and the generations entering the workforce look to social sites for everything from financial advice to cat pictures to jobs. This recruiting tactic is very inexpensive and can attract younger workers who want to find a job with a purpose.
  • Offer better perks. You may not be able to provide Google-level benefits, but there are some options that workers value even more than better compensation, including flexible hours, work-from-home options, and transit passes.
  • Network online and in person. 85% of critical jobs are filled via some kind of networking during the hiring process, and it’s important to keep the pipeline full by employing both online and in-person networking. Encourage your employees to refer candidates, attend events, and find out where your ideal candidates hang out online.
  • Create a hiring procedure. Many social enterprises outperform nonprofits because they have a more formal recruitment and hiring process. Nonprofits should sit down and create strategies and procedures for finding the best talent—the organization’s mission alone isn’t enough to get the best talent.
  • Check your culture. Hiring is an important part of your staffing concerns, naturally, but retention is just as important. Ensure that your leadership is excellent and always developing, and create pathways for employees to advance within the organization, so they will remain invested in remaining part of the organization.

The Good News for Nonprofits

While it might be disheartening to consider the challenges of hiring at a not-for-profit, there is some good news. For one, there are a ton of great online resources for hiring employees and marketing your company.

Simply studying resources, putting in a hiring process, leveraging social media, or rethinking benefits packages can be very effective in bringing new talent into the pipeline.

Nonprofits need to get creative when it comes to staying competitive in a fierce recruiting atmosphere—and they need to realize that qualified candidates aren’t going to just walk through the doors without some effort.

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