No matter your mission, the key to running a nonprofit successfully is having the right staff by your side to go the distance.

However, finding the best individuals to join your organization can be tough, especially considering how high employment turnover is in this sector.

Luckily, with the right staffing strategies in place (and the right nonprofit consultant), your organization can recruit lasting personnel as well as cultivate talent internally so you never have to worry about losing important members of your team again.

Want to strengthen how your organization approaches staffing? Check out some of our favorite nonprofit staffing strategies:

  1. Hire a nonprofit consultant to guide the staffing process.
  2. Assess the staffing needs of your nonprofit.
  3. Craft a nonprofit succession plan with your consultant.
  4. Cultivate internal leaders for future promotion.
  5. Work with your consultant to execute staffing recruitment.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

Bonus! Want to learn more about planning for a staff transition? Visit Aly Sterling Philanthropy to discover more about nonprofit succession planning.

1. Hire a nonprofit consultant to guide the staffing process.

One of the best ways that your nonprofit can set itself up for success in staffing is by recruiting the assistance of a nonprofit consultant.

While most nonprofits are familiar with retaining consultants for assistance in fundraising strategy, many firms also offer services related to staffing your nonprofit. These services can range from executive search to succession planning and more.

It can be tempting for nonprofits to take staffing into their own hands. However, with the right consultant by your side, your organization will be able to focus on fundraising while your consultant guides your team through your staffing needs.

Some of the benefits of hiring a nonprofit staffing consultant include:

  • Staffing expertise. Because these firms have experience working with nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, they already know the ins and outs of staffing. You’ll know that they’re equipped to help your team recognize its needs and find the right staffing solution because they’ve been there before.
  • Unbiased perspective. A huge challenge nonprofits often face in staffing is not being able to step back and look at their situation with an outsider’s eye. A consultant has the benefit of being a third-party to your organization, meaning they can look at the big picture and tell your team what it needs to hear.
  • Strategic oversight. If your team is also working with your consultant to develop a fundraising strategy, execute a capital campaign or tackle another project, they’ll be able to help integrate your staffing needs into the equation. By doing so, your nonprofit can rest assured that you’ll be on the right path.

With the right nonprofit consultant by your team’s side, there’s nothing stopping your nonprofit from finding the right staff members to join your organization!

2. Assess the staffing needs of your nonprofit.

Your organization may already have a specific vacancy you’re looking to fill. Or, you might recruit a consultant to help identify staffing inefficiencies and learn how you can create roles for needed talent.

Regardless of where you start out, not all nonprofits have the same staffing needs, and there are many ways that your consultant might approach your organization’s unique situation.

As you begin working with your consultant, they’ll sit down with your board, high-level staff members, general staff members and other important individuals with a stake in your nonprofit’s success.

By conducting a series of interviews, your consultant can gain insight into how well your team is meshing internally. Using the information they collect, your consultant can help paint a clearer picture of the shortcomings and strengths of your current staffing strategy.

During their assessment, your consultant will:

  • Define key roles at your organization.
  • Determine unaddressed needs of your current personnel.
  • Identify turnover risk of occupied positions.
  • And more!

Over the course of this preliminary phase, your consultant will collect the key facts of where your team stands in terms of staffing.

As they plan how to address your nonprofit’s staffing needs, they’ll leverage this information into smarter strategy so your organization can find the personnel you really need.

3. Craft a nonprofit succession plan with your consultant.

With the help of your consultant, another way to get prepared for staffing changes is by developing succession plans for key staff positions.

Nonprofit succession plans are outlines of how an organization will address a staff transition. It’s important that nonprofits have succession plans in place before they face a key staffing vacancy.

However, it’s never too late to get started. There are three main types of succession plans, including:

  • Leadership planning. When it comes to staffing, it’s always best to have leadership plans in place to grow internal personnel into future leaders (including for your executive director). These are long-term plans that address the cultivation and transition of staff into key roles at your nonprofit. (Learn more about leadership planning strategies in the next section!)
  • Emergency departure. This type of plan anticipates an unexpected departure of a key staff member due to resignation, termination, illness or death. Emergency departures provide your team with a clear plan of action to find the right individual for the vacant role (or an interim staff member to get you through the initial transition).
  • Planned departure. These plans give your team the tools it needs to plan for an anticipated departure of a key staff member due to retirement, resignation or a temporary sabbatical. Your consultant will work closely with the individual currently occupying the role to craft a staffing plan and construct a departure timeline.

Succession plans take time to develop. If your team wants to give yours the attention it needs, set aside at least twelve months to work on the plan with your consultant.

4. Cultivate internal leaders for future promotion.

When it comes to aligning staff roles at your nonprofit, your organization has no greater resource than the staff you have right now.

Since leadership planning is one of the most important staffing practices your nonprofit should adopt, your team should make time to work with your consultant to develop a plan that works for your organization.

Consider some of our favorite leadership planning strategies, including:

  • Proactive recruitment. A great way to ensure that your nonprofit always has talented staff members ready for promotion is to hire proactively. This means that even individuals in general staff positions are selected for their potential to transition into key roles in the future.
  • Direct communication. Quite often, nonprofits make the mistake of hiring proactively but not communicating with staff about leadership plans in place (or not developing clear succession plans to begin with). Your consultant can advise in strategies to connect with staff members who are a part of your leadership plan and communicate your intentions for these personnel.

Remember, while you can always recruit externally, promoting an internal staff member into a more advanced role can make for a quicker transition.

Additionally, since the individual has already proven themselves at your organization, they’re more likely to be successful in the new role as well as more likely to stay on over time.

Depending on your organization’s staffing needs, however, you may need to cast a net outside of your nonprofit’s staff to find leaders who are right for the roles in question.

For example, if your nonprofit doesn’t already have a staffing plan in place, it might be more appropriate to focus on recruiting for a vacant role with your consultant before diving into succession plan development.

Let’s go over a few ways you can get the staffing search process right:

  • Leverage your consultant’s assessment. When recruiting for a vacancy, it’s more important than ever to have a clearly defined position description and a set of criteria for candidates. Take what you learned in your consultant’s assessment of your staffing needs to finalize these important details before reaching out to external candidates.
  • Conduct a robust recruitment period. Although it’s important to fill the vacancy as soon as you can, your team still needs to recruit carefully. At least three months should be taken to identify candidates and another three months should comprise the interview phase. Don’t be afraid to look at individuals outside of your organization who also have a track record with your nonprofit, like volunteers.
  • Conduct robust onboarding and check-in. Ensuring success for your new recruit doesn’t stop at hiring. For staff, both internal and external, be sure to complete an onboarding period to transition them into the role. Your consultant can be involved in this process as well as in performing a status check-in after the transition period closes.

Bonus! Check out Double the Donation’s nonprofit succession planning guide to learn even more about finding the right individual to take on your nonprofit’s vacancy.

Finding the right staff for your nonprofit can be a complicated undertaking. However, with the guidance of a nonprofit consultant and the right strategies in place, your organization will surely be set up for staffing success!

Aly Sterling
Aly Sterling
Aly Sterling is an accomplished speaker, active board member and proud leader of Aly Sterling Philanthropy, a national consulting firm based in the Midwest. Her expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, search consultation and board leadership development for organizations of varying sizes and capacities.

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