Attracting + Retaining Nonprofit Professionals In An Evolving Market

In today’s recovering economy, many employers have been faced with a new challenge: how to attract and retain talent in a candidate-driven market. For the nonprofit sector, however, this situation is a little more unique. According to Giving USA’s 2015 report, donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations reached a record breaking $358.4 billion – making the 2009-2014 recovery the fastest on record in 40 years.

“The last record was set in 2007, and leading experts had originally believed that it would take longer than a decade for donations to reach these pre-recession levels,” explains Samantha Wolf, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Temporary division who specializes in the Nonprofit space. “Fortunately, giving is actually at an all-time high, which means nonprofit organizations are busier than ever! While this has naturally led to an uptick in hiring, many of our clients have found it difficult to fill these positions, and are therefore juggling a very heavy workload.”

The reality of the situation is there simply aren’t enough candidates to go around. In fact, the most qualified candidates know their skills are in high demand – putting them in a position where they can be very selective with where they choose to work. If they feel their needs aren’t being met at their current employer or in a job offer, they will simply take their talent elsewhere.

That’s why it has become critical for nonprofit organizations to adapt their current attraction and retention strategies to this candidate-driven market. Here are 3 ways to start:

Make better, faster offers:

With the nonprofit industry facing a major skills shortage, a strong candidate can be hard to come by, and when they do, you can expect them to be interviewing with other nonprofits. “This means that taking too long to make an offer – or not leading with your best offer – can cause you to miss out on a top candidate who has a better experience elsewhere,” warns Samantha. She suggests that employers try streamlining their process by reducing the number of interviews, having candidates interview with multiple parties in one day, and covering more ground in each interview.

If you still feel that your process will be on the longer side, you’ll also want to ensure the candidate is always up-to-date on their status. For example, a lack of updates was cited as the most frustrating part of the interview process amongst job seekers and working professionals in our 2016 Hiring Outlook.

Stay up-to-date on the latest tech trends:

With professional development top of mind, the most talented nonprofit professionals always make the effort to keep their skills up-to-date with the latest industry trends. In this digital age, this involves utilizing the latest technology, ranging from computer infrastructure to streamlined database systems such as Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce. “Nonprofit professionals want to work for organizations that are going to give them the tools they need to enhance their marketability,” explains Samantha. “If you don’t make an effort to adapt to the latest trends, you not only risk missing out on top candidates, but also losing your best employees. I’ve seen candidates turn down offers for this very reason. They were concerned that accepting a role with an organization that used outdated technology would limit their growth potential in the long run.”

Expand your candidate pool:

When hiring, many nonprofit organizations make the mistake of overlooking applicants from the for-profit sector. “There’s a common misconception that the best candidates have the relevant experience and right set of industry-specific skills,” notes Samantha. “However, this is not an efficient strategy in today’s job market where there is a major candidate shortage. Holding out for the ‘right’ person can negatively impact an organization’s ability to fulfill their mission, so it’s important to keep an open mind about professionals from different industries.”

Instead, Samantha suggests focusing on cultural fit and transferrable skills. “When meeting with these candidates, consider your organization’s identity and hire people who reflect it,” advises Samantha. “Those serious about making the transition will work hard to learn the technical skills required of them for success in the role. However, you can’t teach them the inherent soft skills – such as flexibility, adaptability, and personal accountability – that would make them a long-term fit with the organization. Most importantly, you certainly can’t teach them to be passionate about your mission. That has to come from within.” After all, those given a chance to prove their skills and feel that their employer is truly invested in their growth, are the employees who will go above and beyond and will remain loyal to the organization.