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Nonprofit Staffing Strategies: 4 Expert Tips for Success

Your nonprofit depends heavily on its staff. From leading impactful community programs to planning fundraising campaigns, staff members play a special role in your organization’s ability to create change. However, your nonprofit’s productivity will decrease if your staff are overburdened with heavy workloads or start to feel less connected to your mission.  

To build a team of committed nonprofit players, you’ll need a concrete plan to revitalize your staff. A huge component is recruiting new talent and maximizing your existing staff’s skills and interests, leading to a happier and more efficient workforce. As a result, your nonprofit can stay focused on its mission, not on staffing or retention issues.  

Incorporate these essential strategies to strengthen your nonprofit’s staffing approach: 

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

Assembling dedicated staff doesn’t have to be difficult. By using these best practices, you’ll be well-prepared to identify staffing shortages, locate room for improvement, find talent to pursue your organization’s objectives, and develop a passionate workforce eager to navigate through challenges and push your mission forward.  

Perform a self-evaluation to determine your staffing needs 

Before your organization makes any adjustments, take a reflective look inward. The ability to self-evaluate is necessary to identify the weaknesses in your current staffing strategy so you can begin the improvement process. 

The first step is to understand the “big picture” and how your staff fits into your nonprofit’s goals for the future. To do this, you’ll need to create a strategic plan. A nonprofit strategic plan creates a clear roadmap for how you’ll achieve your mission and navigate any challenges to stay on track. This includes identifying your top priorities, the projects that will help you meet these priorities, and who will lead these initiatives.  

For instance, you might find that your nonprofit needs a more robust marketing strategy to expand its reach. This may include developing a comprehensive website that leaves a lasting impression on site visitors, effectively converting them into loyal supporters that connect with your nonprofit brand. However, after looking at your existing staff, you determine that you don’t have anyone with the necessary skills to lead this project.  

Within your nonprofit strategic plan, dive deeper into your staffing needs by creating a workforce planning evaluation. Using the evaluation, your organization can delve into the details of each task, position, and any other factor that is imperative to achieving your mission. 

In this self-evaluation, strive to define your current staff structure using the following steps:  

  • Evaluate current job positions and descriptions to identify areas where needs are currently met, areas with unnecessary overlap in job descriptions, and areas 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 collaboration between the right individuals and groups. To optimize your organization’s growth, you need to set parameters for each position, outlining each staff member's duties, expectations, and optimal outcomes. 
  • 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 and the staffing needs they believe they fill. Use these staffing assessments as a basis for your actionable plan. 

Because these evaluations are vital to your entire staffing strategy, make sure you have an unbiased opinion about the answers. According to Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s guide to fundraising consultants, hiring a neutral, third-party consultant to evaluate and determine improvement opportunities will lead your strategy and staffing decisions in the right direction.

Recruit the team you need to reach your goals 

After you’ve evaluated your current strategy, your organization may determine that it needs additional team members to reach your future goals. Carefully consider the different team expansion options your nonprofit has. For example, you could: 

  • Hire a new employee. If you’re taking on a new large-scale project or expanding your organization, it may be a good time to hire a new employee to take on some additional workload. Especially when it comes to large-scale growth and expansion, your staff should be able to complete the work necessary for achieving your mission.  
  • Hire a consultant. If your organization hosts a major fundraising campaign, you may consider hiring a capital campaign consultant to help facilitate the process. This is a great long-term option for reaching your goals and reducing current staff members’ stress. Capital campaign consultants also bring in their expertise and objective opinions, making them more qualified than a new hire in an entry-level position.  
  • Expand your existing volunteer program. Your volunteers are 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 and are driven to help you succeed.  
  • Hire an intern. Hiring interns provides a great opportunity for both your nonprofit and the interns. Your organization can hire an intern as a great temporary employment option, which may turn into full-time employment as your nonprofit grows.  

As you expand your team, remember to set clear expectations for each new member. Detailed job descriptions ensure that you’re attracting applicants that are a good fit and ready to commit themselves to your organization.  

Create an efficient hiring process 

For your organization to see a return on its investment, you need to employ the best people. Recruit top talent for your organization with strategies like these: 

  • Sell your mission. Nonprofits encourage hard work and embolden their employees to strive toward making the world a better place. Many talented individuals choose to work in the nonprofit sector, and 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 being part of your team. They may have suggestions for candidates they know would fit well with your nonprofit. Try offering an employee referral rewards program, such as giving out nonprofit merchandise, to maximize the number of qualified candidates you interview. 
  • Consider the personalities you’re bringing on board. For example, let’s say you’re looking to strengthen your fundraising strategy by hiring a major gifts officer. Be sure that the charismatic candidate you choose will both inspire your major gifts donors and integrate with your lower-level fundraisers.  

Ensure a seamless and successful onboarding process. Onboarding is one of the most important steps when building your team, and a solid process guarantees that every new hire is as engaged, educated, and encouraged as your current staff. Prepare by creating a checklist for training materials, orientation, and other useful tasks. 

Strengthen your workforce to maximize 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. After all, employees that feel like they are intellectually and emotionally fulfilled will feel more passionate about coming to work and helping your nonprofit achieve its goals.  

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 sets and 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 enhance employee engagement and staffing progression by meeting regularly with employees or offering feedback surveys. This gives employees an opportunity to voice their likes and dislikes about their positions and suggestions for improvement within their specific teams or across your organization. Employees will feel more connected to your nonprofit if they feel heard.  

Bringing in a consultant can be invaluable to your employees’ performance. Employees will feel more comfortable voicing their opinions, especially unfavorable ones, to a neutral figure. A consultant can then help you create a plan to strengthen and energize your employees for increased satisfaction and efficiency.  

According to Management Consulted's list of top nonprofit consulting firms, you’ll want to work with an expert consultant with vast experience in strategic planning and helping nonprofits grow through challenges. With a top consultant’s support, your organization can weather any storms and set itself up for fundraising success.  

Your staff members are the driving force behind your nonprofit, so it’s crucial that you invest time and energy into revitalizing your workforce. Understanding and addressing your organization’s staffing needs is an ongoing process. Review staffing needs regularly to ensure that your employees are engaged, passionate, and comfortable with their workload. To navigate this process seamlessly, work with a consultant to optimize employee performance. Good luck!  


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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