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Nonprofit HR’s Blog

Your nonprofit’s long-term strategy should not only outline your goals for the future, but also the talent you’ll need on your team to achieve those goals. Today, your primary focus may be on securing the team you need for your current initiatives. However, you should also consider the talent your organization will need further down the road.

Like many matters in the nonprofit sector, talent needs can be dynamic and unpredictable. How can you be sure the individuals you hire today will be the right people for your team next year, or five years from now? To improve chances of future success, be as transparent as possible about your organization’s culture and future growth plans with all job candidates.

Here are a few ideas that will help you foster greater transparency in the talent acquisition process so you can better prepare for the future with each new hire.

Understand and highlight your organization’s culture to prospective hires.

A key to properly preparing your organization for future challenges and opportunities is ensuring your team is well-versed in and well-aligned with your culture. If you seek to emphasize diversity, wellness or simply a shared passion for your mission –– even outside of the office –– this should be made clear to all prospective hires and demonstrated in the behaviors and attitudes of your current team members.

Sometimes, individuals enter into a new position expecting a certain working environment and culture, but experience something else entirely. When expectations about organizational culture are misaligned, retention is almost always a challenge. Unfortunately, nonprofit turnover rates are on the rise, and as you likely already know, costs of turnover are high. Focusing your attention on candidates who directly align with your nonprofit’s culture in the hiring process and then setting clear workplace cultural expectations can reduce the risk of turnover and save your organization from costly staffing missteps.

However, before you can communicate your culture to prospective hires and ensure alignment with your present reality and future vision, you first have to understand and define it yourself. Consider conducting a cultural needs assessment to ensure that the culture you think you’re building is actually the culture your team members are experiencing. A cultural needs assessment will also help you identify cultural problem areas that you can begin addressing proactively.

Keep in mind that today’s job candidates can learn about other candidates’ or employees’ experiences at your nonprofit through portals like Glassdoor and Indeed. Before you attempt to communicate a certain culture to prospective employees, take a look at those portals and see if they convey what you want candidates to know about your organization. If the same problems are highlighted repeatedly in employee or candidate reviews, be ready to communicate how you’re addressing those problems with job candidates.

One example of an organization that prioritizes and highlights culture during the hiring process is Faith in Action (formerly the PICO National Network), a client of ours at Nonprofit HR. When making talent decisions, Faith in Action often puts more weight on cultural alignment than talent or skills, with the understanding that while job functions can be learned, fit cannot. Before our direct hire team began their first staffing project with the organization, we focused on understanding Faith in Action’s culture inside and out and were able to bring that convey that understanding across all aspects of the candidate experience.

Be transparent about growth paths for candidates and your organization as a whole.

Most high performers have clear career goals. Do your organization’s talent practices and career path options align with the expectations of your candidates? This is crucial information that should be discussed during the interview process to ensure a candidate’s future alignment and long-term success at your nonprofit. In fact, career development opportunities are the number one reason employees leave one organization for another, even ranking above higher pay. Be transparent with candidates about professional development and growth opportunities, and ensure their goals and expectations align with those of your organization and your anticipated needs.

Also, consider whether your organization recognizes future leadership potential in job candidates, even at intermediate-level roles. Too often, nonprofits pass over their existing members when seeking replacements for senior and C-suite roles and instead seek to hire from other nonprofits or from outside the sector altogether. This is often a mistake. Current team members already have in-depth knowledge of your organization’s mission and initiatives that can give them a leg up for leadership roles and save valuable onboarding time. And of course, building an organization with clear opportunities for upward mobility can keep promising candidates from feeling stagnant and disengaged.

Many candidates care just as much about your organization’s overall talent and growth vision as their own career vision. Do you plan to grow your team over the next year? How about the next five? By how much? Make sure you have answers prepared for questions like these before you enter into an interview. We recommend keeping track of talent analytics so you can better benchmark and predict your organization’s talent needs. Data can only help you set more realistic expectations for candidates about where your organization is going from a talent perspective and how they might fit into your plans.

When securing the talent that will ensure long-term success and sustainability for your nonprofit organization, transparency with prospective hires is key. Download our resource: “10 Common Nonprofit Talent Acquisition Mistakes to Avoid” to learn more about how to more effectively find new team members that will help you further your mission and achieve your goals.

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