How You Can Help Your Nonprofit Compete for Talent | Net Impact

How You Can Help Your Nonprofit Compete for Talent

In a recent blog post on Stanford Social Innovation Review, Net Impact CEO Liz Maw writes about the need for nonprofits to step up their game in the competition for top talent. This challenge isn’t limited to human resources and hiring managers; every nonprofit employee has the potential to play an essential role in attracting top talent to their organization. Here are a few easy ways that you can impact your nonprofit’s ability to compete in the talent market:

Map -- and tap -- your network 

Referrals are a tried-and-true source of top talent across all industries, especially for nonprofits that may not have the resources to invest in more costly recruitment options. To activate your personal network for candidate referrals, Commongood Careers suggests identifying a “go-to list” comprised of the following:

  • At least 10 prospective employees – e.g. individuals with strong track records of performance who have the potential to fit with your organization’s culture and mission
  • At least 10 connectors – e.g. individuals who have broad and relevant networks and could facilitate introductions

In building your list, think through the smartest and most mission-driven people you know from graduate school or past positions. Chances are if you studied or worked with superstars in the past, they should be in your referral network.

Once you’ve mapped out your network, stay in touch! Send congratulations for professional and personal accomplishments, share articles, and facilitate introductions between like-minded peers. Then, whenever your organization has an open position, contact appropriate members of your list. Don’t be afraid to be direct when asking for help; most well-connected people are happy to brainstorm about who they know. Share a bit of information about your organization and the role and then ask, “Who are the most talented people you know that my organization should hire?”

Build your organization's employer brand 

There’s tons of literature today about employer branding, and it basically boils down to this: Employer branding is the practice of positioning an organization as a great place to work.

You know why you love your job, right? Perhaps it’s the results-driven culture, ability to create measurable change in your local community, or super fun colleagues. Whatever the reason(s), it’s easy to leverage opportunities to illustrate what you believe makes your employer great. Post pictures of fundraising or staff social events on Instagram, tweet the latest news about programmatic successes, and participate in LinkedIn groups to promote your organization’s key issue areas. You don’t need to be a marketer or brand expert to do this; just be yourself and talk authentically about what you love about your organization’s mission and culture.

If your organization has invested in strategic thinking around its employer brand, talk to your colleagues (most likely in HR or marketing) to access any information or training around positioning, key messages, or being a spokesperson. Just as corporate brand management is all about consistency and repetition of specific messages, smart employer branding also requires a unified front. Additionally, your colleagues will appreciate any feedback you can share in response to your efforts – such as posts that make the biggest splash with your social networks – which can help to further refine thinking about how to position the organization in hiring.

Lend a hand to hiring managers 

Competing for top talent spans every stage of the hiring process. You can support your organization’s efforts across the full lifecycle of recruitment and hiring:

  • Volunteer to be a “culture ambassador” during the interview process. This could mean taking candidates out for coffee, conducting office tours, or participating in culture-fit interviews. As organizational culture is a major selling point for many nonprofits, you can help to ensure that candidates are sold on what makes the culture great, as well as contribute to evaluating the potential culture fit of candidates.
  • Conduct informational interviews. In a recent article about informational interviews, we mentioned that 30-minute informal meetings with interested prospects and connectors are a proven way to promote employer brand and build talent pipelines. Make time to meet with anyone who reaches out to you to learn about your organization and/or offer to speak with referrals from internal or external colleagues.

Collaborate with HR and/or management to promote a culture of recruitment. As highlighted in Commongood Careers articles on leveraging brand ambassadors in recruitment  and incentivizing candidate referrals, organizations that are intentional about building an internal culture of recruitment make great hires. To play a role in developing your organization’s culture of recruitment, we suggest working directly with HR or management to make recommendations for ways to encourage, recognize, and reward widespread employee participation in the recruitment process.

Helping your organization compete for top talent isn’t rocket science. It’s leveraging skills that you most likely already have and use on a daily basis – cultivating relationships, sharing information about your work, and collaborating with your team to reach specific goals. Through adopting the tactics described in this post, you have the power to help build your organization with the best possible talent – a reward which will advance your organization’s mission and culture, as well as contribute to your own sense of purpose and satisfaction at work.

About Dana

Dana Hagenbuch is Vice President at Commongood Careers, a mission-driven search firm for the nonprofit sector. Since its founding in 2005, Commongood Careers has led over 700 searches for 250 organizations in 33 states, making it one of the most experienced nonprofit search firms in the country. 

Dana is speaking at this year’s Net Impact Conference at What Impact Employers Want: Understanding the Sustainability Jobs Marketplace and Talent Matters: The Business Case for Investing in Talent.