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Nonprofit Staffing 101: What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know

Teamwork HandsFrom your volunteer coordinator to development director, it’s no secret that every nonprofit professional plays a crucial role in running your organization. After all, your staff is the heart, mind, and soul of your operations and as a nonprofit leader, it’s your job to not only recruit the best in the business but also form a multi-talented team that stays in sync.

Every nonprofit aims to reach this optimal level of teamwork, but not everyone knows how or even where to begin in the hiring or executive search process.

That’s why we’ve mapped out the nonprofit staffing essentials your organization must know to move forward in your personal and professional growth:

  1. How to Write a Knockout Job Description
  2. How to Design a Well-Rounded Promotional Strategy
  3. How to Organize Effective Interviews and Onboarding

Many organizations will tell you that a nonprofit is only as accomplished as its staff; that’s true! Start grooming your nonprofit dream team by following along with our top staffing tips.

How to Write a Knockout Job Description

The first item on your agenda will be to create a thorough and inviting job description that outlines your exact needs for a new nonprofit team member.

To attract top candidates, there are three areas in particular that your nonprofit should pay close attention to while crafting a job descriptionlet’s take a look.

Establish Clear Duties and Expectations

You may think this goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many job descriptions leave out crucial details or take the opposite approach and pack too much information in.

While most job posts will go over the main duties of a nonprofit position, some organizations won’t clarify the day-to-day tasks that the candidate should expect, including but not limited to:

  • Communicating with donors and staff via email, phone, or social media.
  • Answering donor and staff inquiries in a timely fashion.
  • Using prospect research tools and your donor database to build donor relationships.
  • Creating donor solicitation materials for the fundraising team.

Keep in mind that your fundraising leadersdevelopment directors, major gift officers, planned gift officers, etc.must also be prepared to research and draft nonprofit grants on a routine basis.

Another aspect to feature in your job description is a list of preferred and required fundraising tool expertise you desire in a candidate such as:

  • CRM software (think: marketing, online fundraising, and peer-to-peer fundraising).
  • Prospect research and wealth screening tools.
  • Donor database software.
  • Marketing materials (think: peer-to-peer fundraising or crowdfunding resources and donor solicitation templates).

Finally, due to the hands-on, people-oriented nature of nonprofit work, it’s better to place higher priority on experience rather than education in your job description. However, it never hurts to consider additional fundraising degrees or certificates an applicant may have such as a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) credential.

Utilize Job Description Templates and Downloadable Resources

If you’ve never drafted a nonprofit job description before (or maybe need a little refresher) you may want to do some research on professional job description templates.

These helpful resources can provide clear direction on appropriate tone and language to use as well as key factors to hit on right away to grab an applicant’s attention.

You can choose between more traditional job board templates or a take a personalized approach with a job description letter that singles out an individual you feel is best suited for the job.

Get a firsthand look at a model nonprofit job description template by reviewing Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s four tips for writing a development director job description.

To make your job post really stand out in the eyes of nonprofit job seekers, another solid best practice is for your nonprofit to attach a downloadable resource to your online job description.

This separate document is perfect for candidates to print, reference, and keep on file. It also provides a fantastic opportunity for branding and more room to expand on your nonprofit’s mission, location, and application requirements.

The bottom line: Your job description is likely the first point of contact between your nonprofit and a potential new staff member. Make this exchange count by emphasizing the right information and employing a job description template and downloadable resource.

How to Design a Well-Rounded Promotional Strategy

Composing your job description is only half the fun; now it’s time to get the word out about your nonprofit job opening with a well-rounded promotional strategy.

We’ll start by covering some of the top digital and traditional ways to market your job position and then move into how to make the most of nonprofit job boards.

Factor in Online and Offline Marketing Techniques

In today’s tech-savvy world, digital marketing has never been more efficient or easier to take advantage of. That being said, there are still many traditional forms of marketing that should not be discounted by your nonprofit.

For starters, one of the major benefits of online promotions is the focus on creating shareable content to reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time. Likewise, it’s simple to tailor your marketing strategy to attract your top percentage of job contenders.

Namely, the top digital marketing resources your nonprofit should be on top of include:

  • Social media and email marketing.
  • Weekly e-newsletters.
  • Creative digital content (think: flyers, images, and videos).

One way to make these operations even easier to coordinate is by investing in reliable nonprofit marketing software. This type of nonprofit technology can help make email and social media marketing a breeze while managing all of your virtual job promotions from one convenient place.

Your nonprofit can also rely on a variety of tangible marketing tactics to connect with job candidates like:

  • Personalized job description letters to top-choice professionals.
  • Donor thank-you letters.
  • A print newsletter or press release.

These print resources allow your nonprofit to directly target prime job prospects in a way that is more likely to stand out against the flood of daily emails they most likely receive.

For instance, if your nonprofit has relationships with outstanding grantseekers who have grant team experience, then you should tailor job description letters that specifically engage them.

Although offline recruitment tactics are not as speedy as their online counterparts, the above-and-beyond consideration they represent are guaranteed to help you draw in and develop meaningful relationships with nonprofit leaders.

Use Nonprofit Job Board Marketing Solutions

However, when it comes to showcasing your job description to prime nonprofit professionals, no marketing method will better suit your needs than online nonprofit job boards.

As opposed to a more general job search engine, online nonprofit job boards are customized to meet the needs of nonprofit employers with marketing solutions that successfully highlight your job description.

For instance, while every nonprofit job board differs in promotional services, some useful tools that a nonprofit employer could potentially expect may include:

  • Sponsored listings on the job board’s homepage or e-newsletters.
  • In-depth employer profiles and contact information.
  • Bulk-posting job descriptions.
  • Job description and downloadable resource branding tips.

In addition to helping you showcase your job description to the right professionals, nonprofit job boards also usually take it a step further by allowing organizations to easily manage resumes and applications through an online system.

For a list of exceptional nonprofit job boards that feature these above-and-beyond resources, simply check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s definitive ranking.

The bottom line: Whether you’re leaning more towards online or offline methods (or a healthy combination of both), marketing your job opening with a variety of resources will definitely generate significant buzz.

How to Organize Effective Interviews and Onboarding

The final and arguably most important parts of the executive search are the interview and onboarding stages that identify and train your newest staff member.

To ensure your organization gets the most impact out of these steps, follow along with us as we break down three critical items that can make or break your hiring process.

Form a Top-Notch Executive Search Committee

To begin with, no nonprofit executive search could survive without the help of a trusted executive search team.

It’s up to these professionals to select a candidate they can all envision working with by conducting application screenings, interview rounds, and onboarding initiatives that successfully integrate new team members.

A team that comprises individuals from all departments and skill sets will best serve your executive search by providing diverse insight into hiring key staffing positions like executive directors, development directors, or major gift officers.

Furthermore, your executive search team can assist your nonprofit in developing your job description and job promotional strategies before the interview and onboarding steps.

Develop Constructive Interview Questions to Fully Assess Applicants

Your nonprofit deserves the best and brightest staff possible and the best way to get there is by nailing down an effective and reusable interview strategy.

A lot of your interview preparation time will consist of developing questions that get to the heart of your applicants’ professional capabilities and experience.

However, sometimes the candidates that appear perfect on paper end up not being the right fit for your organization. That’s why it’s equally important for you to get a good idea of a candidate’s personality to determine if he or she will mesh well with your company culture and team.

To get the ball rolling, try reshaping some of these top interview questions to fit your nonprofit staffing needs:

  • How diverse is your nonprofit experience?
  • How would you cultivate a lasting donor relationship?
  • What are your best practices for seeking nonprofit grants?
  • What is your experience planning and executing major fundraisers?
  • What are your top strategies for promoting a fundraiser?
  • What are some of your favorite nonprofit software and technologies?

Some nonprofits will even offer interview tips and resources for candidates to review beforehand like informative blog posts or videos on your website.

These opportunities not only give your job applicants a leg up in the interview but also make it easier for you to tell who has a genuine passion for your nonprofit.

Have an Onboarding Plan in Place

Some nonprofits fall under the misconception that once you settle on a worthy candidate to join your team, the executive search process is over.

However, that’s not exactly true. In actuality, the last part involves onboarding your new hire by making sure they receive the proper training and resources to not only feel comfortable but thrive at your organization.

Luckily, your executive search committee can be of assistance in this area. Collaborate with them in advance to organize a training team and program for your new hire to rely on in the early stages of onboarding.

Your training team can divvy up responsibilities for successfully preparing your new hire such as:

  • Providing them with the proper workspace and tools.
  • Outlining your general decision-making process/chain of command.
  • Clarifying independent work vs. collaborative work processes.
  • Reviewing communication policies with staff and donors.
  • Covering schedule and deadline procedures.
  • Providing handouts or digital resources for them to reference.

During onboarding, it’s also a good idea for your training team to go over opportunities for growth in your new hire’s role such as promotions, raises, or any additional duties they can take on.

The bottom line: Establish an in-depth and effective interview and onboarding process for your nonprofit executive search team to reuse time and time again.

There you have it; a condensed guide on everything you need to know to master the nonprofit hiring process. Once you have a remarkable staff in place, there’s no telling what your nonprofit can accomplish!

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Aly Sterling's decision to start her own consulting business in 2007 was driven by her belief in leadership as the single most important factor in organizational success, and her determination to work with multiple causes at one time to scale societal change. Today Aly manages the direction and growth of her firm while advising clients on the organizational challenges that affect their sustainability and mission success. Most recently, she partnered with a legal aid foundation in Los Angeles to lead their first-ever capital campaign for a new building headquarters, and currently serves as fundraising counsel to a prominent healthcare system managing multiple regional and national campaigns raising more than $85 million. In 2015, Aly led her firm to membership in The Giving Institute, an exclusive and highly respected professional organization for nonprofit consultants. The Giving Institute is best known for publishing the annual Giving USA report. Aly’s expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, search consultation and board leadership development for the well-positioned nonprofit. She is regularly sought for comment by trade and mainstream media, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy and U.S. News & World Report. She has contributed to publications of BoardSource and The Governance Institute, as well as the Toledo Chamber of Commerce and The Giving Institute. Her workshops and keynote presentations have been featured at the meetings of the National School Foundation Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and a variety of foundations around the country. Today, Aly serves on the board of trustees for St. Ursula Academy and the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, as well as the advisory board for the University of Toledo Family Business Center. Aly is past president of the Northwest Ohio chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has served on the boards of Leadership Toledo, David’s House and Advocating Opportunity, an organization formed to stop human trafficking.

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