By Robert Byers
One of the greatest challenges any organization faces is finding qualified, motivated and capable employees. Having a great cause and a brilliant strategy to meet a need is important, but without the right people to execute it, the best plans quickly fall apart. The problem of finding the best employees is a special challenge for the human resources professional in the nonprofit world—and it is a challenge that is getting tougher.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February of 2015 the number of unemployed persons per job opening reached its lowest point since before the recession began in December of 2007. That decline has greatly reduced the pool of available candidates for any given position. If you are getting a million resumes per year, as Google reportedly was a few years ago, the rest of this post will probably not apply to you. But if you are searching for high quality candidates to fill open positions in your nonprofit, there’s something you should do before you start your next round of interviews.
Take a trip down the hall to the Development Department and have a chat with people who spend all day thinking about how to present the goals and purpose of your company in the most effective way. The reality is that you are competing for talent, and often without all of the tools that for-profit organizations can deploy to the task. Your company’s development team can provide you a powerful insight into your own organization.
That is because they are focused on how to present your mission in a way that will grab attention. They know what Psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon revealed in recent research regarding donor motivation —that a single powerful story can have far more impact than mountains of research and statistics when it comes to motivating support. Being able to present your organization through such a powerful story can have an amazing impact on a potential new hire.
The right candidate is going to want to know about your compensation package and benefits offered. You will of course check their references, work history and qualifications. The basics have to be in place before anything else matters. But to attract the one person who will come on board and enthusiastically become part of your team and internalize your cause, it helps to talk to them—to “sell” them—on that cause up front. If you see the new prospective hire’s eyes light up when you tell him or her about how your latest project has touched the life a child in need, benefited an elderly war veteran, or provided water or electricity for a small indigenous village (remember to focus on one powerful story in this presentation) you may have found the right person.
The time you spend with your development team will help you present your organization in a more effective way. Ask them to walk you through recent major donor presentations. Take the time to read some of your direct mail and other donor communications. Perhaps the best question to ask is this: “If you could tell a prospective donor one thing about us to convince them that they should support us, what would it be?”
Management guru Bill Oncken wrote in Managing Management Time: “A map has no value if you only know where you want to go. It becomes valuable only when you know where you are.” For the human resources professional in the nonprofit environment, being able to powerfully articulate your organization’s vision and future plans may be the key to landing the perfect fit for your next open position.