May 28, 2022

How to Improve Your Nonprofit Staff Recruitment

You can increase your staff recruitment success by thinking inside the box.

What if one-fifth of your staff came from former clients and customers or their family members? Would that reduce your nonprofit staff recruitment problem?
Today’s job market is no picnic. As a nonprofit leader, you have always hustled to compete with for-profit wages, and now you compete with your desperate nonprofit peers.
Experts forecast that staff recruitment and retention will continue to challenge all sectors. According to Michelle Meyer, in a New York Times article, “Even if the labor force returned fully, there wouldn’t be enough workers to meet employers’ needs.”
Just as you need a board pipeline, you now need an employee pipeline to recruit new staff. To fill your pipeline, consider exploring new options—even ones you rejected.
Bear with me here. I need to give you a framework for how else to view internal recruitment.
You’re aware of nonprofits that focus on employment from vocational training programs, such as Metro Ministries Inside the BoxChrysalis, and recidivism employment programs, right?
And, they don’t work for you. Your mission doesn’t focus on employment. Instead, you serve toddlers and pets or foster the arts or environment or another sector where employing clients and customers is  out.
However, you miss potential job candidates because you decided your mission’s not focused on employment.

Hiring from Within: It’s Bigger than You Think

While studying how nonprofits responded to diversity, equity inclusion, and access headlines last summer, Philip Tavill reminded me of Children First’s success and its efforts to recruit parents. Ninety-eight percent of their clients receive free or reduced lunches.
Listen up. You’re coming to the heart of this post.
One in five of Children First’s staff are from clients’ families and former clients.

What’s Does This Have to Do with Your Nonprofit Staff Recruitment?

You already suspect you will not solve your staffing issues by rinsing and repeating what you’ve always done. Instead, consider the Children First approach. Children First enhances its mission and reduces staffing issues by seeing the people assets around them and breaking down barriers to those people becoming outstanding staff members.
Like Children First, you can expand your staffing pipeline by identifying your people assets and then figure out how to eliminate what keeps them from joining you. The rest of this post invites you to explore the possibility of finding more homegrown candidates by recruiting internally from your customers, clients, and family members.
Your first step with this option is to take a fresh look at who is missing.

Drawing Your Nonprofit Staff Recruitment Circle Bigger

Your people collection resides in your Magic Circle of Next. This circle includes everyone you know and the people they know. (For how Your Magic Circle works regarding donors, read Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.) Following the Children First approach, turn your attention to prospective employees who join your staff because they are current and past customers or clients or connected with them.
Why select them? Collectively, these people “get” your mission and, in many cases, are an opportunity to deepen your mission impact. For starters, on mission impact, think of discussions at Thanksgiving.

Benefits of this Type of Internal Nonprofit Staff Recruitment

  • Better than Want Ads
They are in your circle of influence and have experienced your value.
  • Allows Advance Screening on Both Sides
For those you know, you can vet for soft skills in advance. Candidates can vet you, too.
  • Enhances Employee Retention
You already have a connection, working with you will be a chance to grow it.
  • Offers Matching Demographics
Candidates will reflect the community you serve.
Once you identify prospect groups, consider how to a.) connect with them and b.) reduce any barriers they face to becoming standout members. Is this more complicated work than placing an ad on Idealist? Yes. You won’t stop listing jobs if you adopt it. It is a way to develop more relationships around your mission and grow your employee pipeline.

Bottom Line

New times call for new approaches. Like Children First, you can expand your staffing pipeline by identifying the people assets in your Magic Circle of Next and supporting them as they grow the skills they need to excel.
Whom will you add to your employee pipeline who you ignored? How will you reach these prospects?
Need more help with staff? Karen is available for a mini-consult or more. Click here to email or here to set a time to chat.
Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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