A familiar refrain in the nonprofit world is: The team is working at capacity and needs help. Even with the help of generous volunteers, the staff are stretched to raise enough dollars and to meet the ongoing demand for your services. Once you’re in the fortunate position of having a new position approved by your board of directors, everyone is thrilled.
But what begins as excitement can turn quickly into panic or disappointment without a good action plan. You’ve waited a long time for a new staff person so don’t rush – take the extra time to hire the right skill set.
According to the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report, the Triangle is the nonprofit mecca of North Carolina, comprising 10 percent of the private workforce, compared to 8 percent for North Carolina as a whole. With a large and diverse pool of potential candidates, let this be a time for you to carefully evaluate your needs and consider what skills you most need to help further your mission.
Steps to Hiring the Right Skill Set:
- Start with your vision and mission – If your board has recently completed a strategic plan, use this as your roadmap to consider your needs. Although you and your team are in the trenches every day, think about the bigger, long-term vision and how this new staff person can help move you closer.
- Create a search team of key board members and staff – Engage a few key members of your board and staff to help you throughout the process. This is a big decision and their input will create a shared culture of excitement and responsibility for finding the best fit.
- Conduct a mini-assessment to identify your gaps – Invite the staff into this process to help you evaluate what activities can be streamlined, identify which areas need more support, and define the skills that are needed to support your efforts: fundraising, volunteer coordination, marketing, operations, or program management?
- Create a job description – Add an introduction to the list of roles and responsibilities to help potential candidates understand your organization, your vision, and your goals. Develop a method to evaluate candidates by identifying the five most important qualities/skills you are seeking in a candidate and rank them. Which ones are a must, and which ones are good to have? Keeping this list handy during your interviews will help you evaluate skills sets.
- Confirm the salary – Before posting the position, work with your board to confirm the salary and benefits package. What are your peers paying for similar positions, what’s competitive, what intangibles do you offer that could make up for a lower salary: comp/ flex time, vacation, health, or retirement. Being mission-oriented doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider competitive wages.
- Post the position – Post the position in familiar nonprofit outlets, but also through your board and staff networks. Be proactive about seeking referrals, keeping a focus on the skills you are seeking. Be sure to ask candidates for a cover letter and resume, and writing samples if the position requires strong communication skills. Review candidate qualifications carefully keeping in mind the five most important qualities/skills you outlined.
- Develop a consistent set of interview questions – Consider group interviews with the search team so that you have the benefit of multiple perspectives.
- Conduct reference checks – Ask for a list of references but be sure to conduct circular references as well. While you want to be very careful with candidates who are currently employed (so that you do not jeopardize their current employment), think about widening the reference checks.
- Consider interim help – Evaluate if your team needs help now. A successful search can take two to three months at a minimum. Consider hiring interim staffing to help bridge the gap.
- Hire a search firm – Think carefully if you have the time and resources to conduct a search, and if you find you are too stretched, engage a search firm to help you with leading the search and hiring the right skill set.
Our experiences with Executive Searches and Interim Solutions staffing services have honed our perspective on what’s most important in the hiring process. Please reach out if moss+ross can help you develop the right action plan for adding the right skill set to your nonprofit.
Kim Glenn is a Senior Associate with moss+ross.