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Nonprofit Staffing Strategies: Four Expert Tips for Success

A chain is only as strong as its links. And if rust begins to form–even if you may not notice–pulling the chain taught will snap the lengths. Since your nonprofit is only as strong as its staff, do not let your staff begin to rust!

If you start to see signs of inefficiency, lowered morale or disparate workloads, it’s time to address your issues and strategize for staffing success.

We’ve compiled strategies in this article that are bound to revitalize your nonprofit’s staff. With the proper solutions in place, your organization can recruit committed talent and maximize current talent to ensure your focus remains on your mission, not on staffing or retention issues.

If you’re looking to strengthen your nonprofit’s staffing approach, try incorporating some of our favorite solutions:

Nonprofit Staffing 101: What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know

  1. Perform a self-evaluation to determine your staffing needs.
  2. Recruit the team you need to reach your goals.
  3. Craft a strong workforce staffing plan.
  4. Create an efficient hiring process.


Are you ready to learn all your nonprofit needs to know to skyrocket your staffing strategy? Let’s go!

1. Perform a self-evaluation to determine your staffing needs.

Before your organization can begin adjusting staffing processes, take a reflective look inward. The ability to self-evaluate is necessary to identify your organization’s weaknesses in your current staffing strategy and begin the process of removing debilitating rust from those chain links. Without self-evaluation, your organization cannot determine any issues or any remedies, with a lack of either leading to stagnancy. In order to grow, you must reflect.

Therefore, the first step in your nonprofit staffing strategy is to conduct a workforce planning evaluation to determine current and future staffing needs. Using the evaluation, your organization can delve into the details of each task, each position, each opportunity and any other item that is imperative to achieve your mission.

In this self-evaluation, your organization should strive to define your current staff structure:

Define your current staff structure. 
When determining the organizational schematics of your nonprofit, try to:

  • Perform an evaluation of current job positions and descriptions to identify areas where needs are currently met, any areas of unnecessary overlap in job descriptions and places or departments where your organization is currently understaffed. By conducting a thorough job review, you can determine your current staffing needs and better plan for future hiring or staff reorganization. 
  • Clarify your organization’s operational overview to mitigate misunderstandings of duties and promote proper collaboration between the right individuals and groups. To optimize your organization’s growth, you need to set parameters for each position, outlining the duties, expectations and optimal outcomes of each staff member.
  • Conduct staff assessments to gain insight into the everyday experience of your employees— hurdles, triumphs, and overall workload. Try asking your current employees to describe their position to you and what staffing needs they believe they fill. Use these staffing assessments as a basis for your actionable plan.

Determine areas of improvement in your organization. 
Here are some of the most common questions nonprofit organizations face when restructuring:

  • Is our fundraising strategy working?
  • Could we improve our donor relations?
  • How can we build a winning grants team?
  • Can we enhance our employee engagement?

These preliminary evaluations will be the foundation for determining your staffing needs, fulfilling current and future needs, and ensuring staff productivity and morale.

Because these evaluations are so vital to your entire staffing strategy, you want to make sure you have an unbiased opinion about the answers. It’s hard to see our own flaws! Hiring an expert consultant to evaluate and determine improvement opportunities for your fundraising strategy will provide these unbiased opinions and lead your strategy and staffing decisions in the right direction. 

For more information on nonprofit staffing and operational success, check out re:Charity's take on consulting firms to help you choose a firm that will best suit your needs.

2. Recruit the team you need to reach your goals.

After you’ve evaluated your current strategy, your organization needs to build out your team to help you reach your future goals. However, don’t assume that you need to immediately hire the first person who knocks on your door. Carefully consider the different team expansion options your nonprofit has, for instance, you could: 

Hire a new employee.
If you plan for major internal expansion for your organization, it may be a good time to hire a new employee to take on some of the additional workload. 

Large-scale growth and expansion should be supported with the staffing you need to complete the work that will help you achieve your mission. 

However, don’t fall into the trap of hiring for a temporary campaign or project. Too many nonprofits hire employees for this temporary work but don’t grow enough as an organization to provide adequate workload or maintain fair compensation for that new employee. This can result in inefficient use of funds and resources. 

Hire a consultant.
If your organization is hosting a large-scale campaign, you may consider hiring a capital campaign consultant to help facilitate the process. This is a great long-term option to help you reach your goals, reduce the stress of current staff members and is perfect for this temporary campaign for which you may not need a whole new employee.

Plus, capital campaign consultants bring in their expertise and objective opinions to help you succeed, making them (many times) more qualified than a new hire in an entry-level position. 

A consultant can help navigate your nonprofit through each phase of the campaign process, including:

  • Conducting an unbiased feasibility study.
  • Establishing the best strategy for your campaign.
  • Crafting a convincing case for support.
  • Training your leadership team.
  • Planning your marketing strategy and materials.
  • Overseeing prospect research and major gifts.

However, not all consultants are equal. You need to find the right consultant for your organization. Here are some things you should ask yourself and other organization members before jumping into the hiring process:

  • What are my organization’s needs and our fundraising goals?
  • What services do I need? Just a feasibility study or full capital campaign management?
  • Which fundraising consulting firm exhibits values that align with my nonprofit’s mission? Do they have client testimonials? Do they specialize in what my organization needs?
  • Would my board members prefer to work with a local consultant for on-site support or a remote consultant for an external viewpoint?
  • Does the consulting firm seem like a good fit for my organization?

Ensure you spend time researching the right consultant for the particular needs of your campaign. This consultant hiring guide by Aly Sterling Philanthropy will help get your research started for your next big campaign. 

Expand your existing volunteer program. 
Your volunteers are the consistent supporters of your fundraising opportunities. They offer varying skills, leadership qualities and the necessary force to accomplish your fundraising goals. Plus, they care deeply about your nonprofit’s mission, ensuring they’re driven to help you succeed. 

Try to seek out especially gifted volunteer members to promote from within your team. Delegate responsibility and allow volunteers to lead committees, solicit gifts, draft communication and much more, so your nonprofit can focus on the bigger picture.

Hire a nonprofit intern. 
Hiring interns provides a great opportunity for both your nonprofit and the interns themselves. Your organization can hire an intern as a great temporary employment option, which may turn into full-time employment as your nonprofit expands! 

Hire them to get into the weeds of fundraising, tech design or other needs that arise at your organization.

Providing relevant opportunities for your interns also provides training and work experience to help them build their resumes. They can learn about the nonprofit sector and decide if that’s where they want to work full-time later on. 

3. Craft a strong workforce staffing plan.

Once your evaluation of your current staffing situation is complete, you can lay out all of your future staffing needs and construct a workforce staffing plan best suited to your organization. 

It will be beneficial to your staffing plan if you focus on the following:

Developing a specific plan of action.
Your plan should be actionable and specific, detailing the strategies for developing your existing staff into an effective unit and the strategies for filling the necessary positions.

Try crafting a chart to visualize your staffing needs and identify key areas of improvement like:

  • Imperative tasks.
  • The job category most associated with those tasks.
  • Any certifications or requirements necessary to fulfill the tasks.
  • The job titles that encompass the needs and expectations of fulfilling each task.

You can either list the name of the current employee fulfilling the imperative task or leave it blank to signify that the position must be filled.

Completing this visual will help ensure that your organization has the correct number of people equipped with the necessary skills for their optimized position.

Enhancing employee engagement.
Strengthening your nonprofit’s staff will strengthen your nonprofit’s mission. Employee engagement is a huge factor in enhancing the workplace environment and, therefore, workplace retention.

Ask yourself these questions to identify opportunities for enhanced employee engagement:

  • Am I providing challenging assignments that encourage professional development for my staff?
  • Am I moving current employees into new roles to augment their skill set and their professional progression?
  • Are our mission, values, and objectives tangible and meaningful to our staff? Do they know what they’re working toward?

Your organization can work toward enhancing your employees’ engagement and staffing progression by providing them with accurate and detailed job descriptions, and by conducting regular performance reviews.

Employing these measures will help solidify the expectations for each role and provide a channel of dialogue between your organization and your staff. Your organization needs to understand its employees in order to create an effective team. The feedback given and received can also be used during future workforce evaluations.

With great changes in your staffing strategies comes great responsibility for your current staff. Be sure that you maximize their success and yours with Foundant’s tips for working as a team.

4. Create an efficient hiring process.

Armed with an actionable strategy, it’s time to hire strategically. You’ve set up the strategy to enhance employee engagement, so enhance your employee search to find the best people for the job. Your nonprofit staff members are an investment for your nonprofit. Start off on the right foot and help them succeed!

It’s no secret that public expectations of nonprofit organization’s operational costs are limiting nonprofits’ ability to expand their effect. However, it’s time to start squashing the stigma that nonprofits cannot pay their employees well. Make an investment in your staff and reap the rewards of hard-working, passionate employees.

In order for your organization to see a return on its investment, you need to employ the best people. Try recruiting top talent for your organization by:

Selling your mission. Nonprofits encourage hard work and embolden their employees to continue to fight for a good cause. There are plenty of talented individuals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector because their ambitions extend beyond the salary.  They want to make a difference in the world, so emphasize the difference they could make by working with your organization.

Use the employees you have to recruit new staff. Your current staff understands the culture and impact of your organization well and loves working for it. They may have suggestions for candidates they know would fit well with your nonprofit. Try offering an employee referral rewards program to maximize the number of qualified candidates you interview.

Consider the personalities you’re bringing on board. If you’re looking to expand donor stewardship and fill the vital role of a major gift officer, be sure that the charismatic candidate your choose will both inspire your major gifts donors and integrate with your lower-level fundraisers. For further reading on major gifts, check out this insider’s guide.

Successful Onboarding: The most important step to building your team

Ensure a seamless and successful onboarding. Onboarding is one of the most important steps to build your team and guarantee that every new hire is as engaged, educated and encouraged as your current staff. Properly prepare by creating a checklist for training materials, orientation, and other useful tasks.

By focusing on instilling an environment of engagement and dialogue with your new hires, your nonprofit’s staffing processes will see major improvement.


A strong staff makes for a strong nonprofit. If you let your organization’s staff become weak with complacency and rust, your organization will crumble. But, now that you know these four expert tips, you can get rid of the grime and let your nonprofit’s staffing strategy shine!

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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