6 minute read

Among their many responsibilities, nonprofit executives often spearhead the important process of recruiting and hiring new talent for their organizations. They’re faced with the challenge of finding smart, passionate and qualified employees that fit the needs of the position, as well as the organization’s culture. Attracting top performers to work in a sector known for limited financial resources, high emotional labor, and stretching employees thin adds substantial challenges.

Manager networking with a prospective employee

Even the most well-known nonprofit organizations struggle to attract the talent they need. These challenges often result in long-standing vacant positions, forcing organizations to “settle” for applicants who might not meet the necessary requirements. These all contribute to higher turnover rates down the road.

So, how can you set up your organization for recruiting and hiring success? Read on to learn about recruiting best practices, how to identify weaknesses in your hiring process, and how to fill the subsequent gaps effectively.


The Difference Between Hiring and Recruiting

Before diving into best practices, it’s important to understand how your organization structures its human resources department. This has a big impact on how you approach recruiting and hiring. Some organizations separate the recruiting function from the rest of their human resources. This splits the department into professionals who focus on the candidates and those who support people the company hires.

Some other organizations separate the payroll aspect from the human resources department. This keeps pay rates, benefits packages and other aspects of compensation out of the hands of the main human resources professionals. The benefit of separating the two is it allows the human resources department to focus on the people aspect of the job.

Discrepancies may also exist when it comes to how your organization approaches recruiting versus hiring. Even if one person handles both functions at your organization, for the purpose of this article, it is helpful to think of them separately.

  1. Recruiting: This includes all processes related to identifying open positions, creating job postings and posting job ads. It also involves identifying potential candidates by analyzing applications.
  2. Hiring: In contrast, hiring refers to the screening, testing and interviewing processes for the narrowed-down list of potential candidates. It also tackles the onboarding process for those selected for hire.


Manager reviewing a prospective employees resume

The 5 Best-Practice Tips for Recruiting

Based on the definitions above, you will find that the information here pertains specifically to the recruiting process. Covering the necessary tips for hiring requires an article to itself, which we will cover in the near future.

#1: Assess Your Hiring Needs

Too often do we come across organizations that hire for positions “just because.” These clients may base hiring needs on the initial assessment they made a decade ago when they first opened their doors. A lot has changed since then. Many of the roles previously left vacant for future expansion may have been filled by other workers over time.

Before hiring, always do a proper assessment of the vacant position. It’s a good idea to ask the following questions:

  • Is someone covering some of the functions now whose talent is better served in other capacities?
  • Would the person covering those functions make a better fit for the position than the one they currently hold?
  • If no one is currently holding the position, what are the skill sets that will make the next person a successful match?
  • How best can you reflect all of this information in the job description?

After assessing the needs of the position, you are ready to hone in on the ideal candidate.


#2: Write a Comprehensive Job Description

It’s not enough to write a job description that sums up the job and provides information on how to apply. Too often organizations post a job description and then wait for the best candidates to discover it and apply. The best candidates need more than a job summary. They need to see documentation that sells the job as the best place for them to work.

Job seekers today want to know what’s in it for them outside of a paycheck. What are some of the perks that might reel them in? Talk about the benefit packages you offer. Also important to recruiting for nonprofits is to include the organization’s mission and values. Nonprofits are driven 100% by a clear cause, and attracting employees that identify with that mission will allow the organization as a whole to create a bigger impact in that community. Moreover, the resource-strapped nature of the nonprofit sector means that mission-matched candidates may be willing to overlook some perks and benefits for the chance to make a real difference.

It’s also not enough to just attract top performers. Not every amazing worker makes an ideal match for the nonprofit environment. The competitive achiever chasing big paychecks may not remain motivated by solely doing good in the world for long. So, what exactly should you be looking for?

The best candidates are those that are driven to make a difference for your mission and those with previous fundraising, event planning or other skills common in the nonprofit sector. These candidates will have the highest likelihood of catching up and making a difference quickly.


How do you know if your employees are being managed correctly? Download our HR  Health Scorecard to get started.


#3: Include Compensation Information on Job Postings

Whether to include compensation information or not is an issue of great debate among nonprofits and for-profits alike. Worries stem from potentially not pulling enough interest or the wrong interest. Additionally, including compensation generally is perceived to decrease the amount of flexibility a company has during negotiations and impair their ability to offer compensation dependent on experience (DOE). However, what you may not realize about DOE job postings is it opens you up to potentially sticky salary negotiations before you even start the interview process. Some candidates will inquire about compensation before taking time out of their day to interview in order to be certain it is in their comfortable range.

Instead, consider listing a compensation range on the job ad itself. Anyone who immediately loses interest because the compensation doesn’t meet a certain dollar amount is really not the kind of candidate that fits your nonprofit anyway.

A range provides the answers job seekers need up front, while reserving negotiations for later on in the process. The candidate can then focus on displaying the best version of themselves in the interview process. They also remain focused on the do-good aspect of applying for employment with a nonprofit organization.

There are several benefits of listing a compensation range on a job posting


#4: Use an Applicant Tracking System

As the name implies, the ATS allows you to keep track of applicants during your recruitment process. It also helps you to generate more interest by distributing job posts to multiple job boards and portals. This saves you time and money, better invested in other key aspects of running your organization.

When you choose an ATS, consider one that has integrated Indeed into its platform. Indeed is widely used, cost effective, and maintains strong search engine rankings. This makes it a necessary addition to your distribution plan. If you don’t get this feature, remember to post to Indeed manually.

Finding a wide selection of candidates during recruiting is important, but more-so is utilizing an automated screening process to ensure that the ideal candidates rise to the top. An ATS can automate this process for you. When it comes to choosing a specific program, this depends on the needs of your organization.

Here are the three we recommend at Mission Edge and why each one may or may not best serve your needs:

  • ClearCompany: This is the ATS we use at Mission Edge. It is web-based and best serves micro to medium-size organizations. It doesn’t integrate with a lot of other programs but covers the basics, such as Dropbox and eSkill. Prices vary.
  • BambooHR: For a more feature-rich experience with mobile capabilities, consider Bamboo. Unlike ClearCompany, you can access the platform via smartphone apps. It, too, serves micro to medium-size organizations. It has the most integrations of the three options at 167 3rd party integrations. These include Indeed, Google Calendar and Greenhouse. Pricing starts at $99 per month.
  • ADP Workforce Now: Like Bamboo, ADP is app-friendly. It is flexible enough to suit small businesses to large enterprises alike. It is roughly as feature-rich as Bamboo and comes in at about 109 integrations. These include Microsoft Outlook and QuickBooks. Pricing is only available by quote.


Allow your organization to reach it’s fullest potential. Download our HR Health  Scorecard to get started.


#5: Encourage Candidates To Submit a Cover Letter

The keyword here is “encourage” not require. Why is this important? Finding candidates whose entire set of skills, knowledge and abilities match or blend with the organization’s mission and focus is essential. The right tests help match these potentials to the positions for which they are the best fit. Tests also help you to quickly identify those who do not match the profile of the ideal candidate.

The cover letter is an easy test at the start of the application process to weed out the people who are only interested in doing the bare minimum. You want a candidate who goes above and beyond the basic requirements.

A cover letter also has perks to you as an employer. It personalizes hires and provides a preliminary understanding of whether or not their work ethic and personality traits align with your organizational culture. Cover letters can be a drag to read at times and for busy nonprofit executives, may seem like overkill. However, in a sector driven so heavily by an impassioned workforce, why wouldn’t you want to give your job seekers a chance to put their mission-match on display?

Here’s what to look for when you do get a cover letter:

  • Does the person express themselves clearly and effectively? Use this to judge communication skills.
  • What are the qualifications the candidate lauds first and focuses on most? This gives you an example of the skills accomplishments they prioritize.
  • Does the candidate take the time to tie their qualifications to the specifics in the job description? If yes, you’ve received a well-thought-out cover letter, which signifies greater interest.
  • Does the candidate express passion for and/or connection to your cause?
  • Did the candidate do any research into your company? Do they mention any current programs they are excited to help run? Do they mention any ideas they would like to try implementing?


The Bottom Line

Recruiting is more than just attracting as many candidates as possible. When it comes to nonprofits, it also requires going beyond pulling in the high performers. It’s crucial to ensure a person’s values line up with that of your organization so passion drives their search for employment just as much if not more than dollars and cents.

Would you like to discuss a personal action plan for recruiting at your nonprofit? Mission Edge is here to help. We provide HR consultation services to nonprofits just like yours, so that you can attract the types of candidates you want to fill the positions your organization needs.

    Recent Posts

    Do you have an unhealthy organization?

    Download the HR Health Scorecard to find out.

    Most nonprofit organizations will agree that their employees are their greatest asset. But how do you know if they are being managed correctly? Mission Edge has created a quick and easy way for you to find out. Fill out your scorecard to accurately evaluate your organization's performance and determine problem areas you may need to address.

    Download Your Scorecard
    Org Health Scorecard