Retain and Recruit Top Nonprofit Talent Like a Boss with Humane Hiring Tips from Industry Experts ๐Ÿš€

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December 19, 2022
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5 minutes

If you've been hanging out on LinkedIn or in the deep audio waves of the Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast (as all the cool kids do), you've probably heard talk of a new movement taking the global workforce by storm. And if you haven't had your ear pressed to the metaphorical ground of workplace news, consider this your lucky dayโ€”because the #HumaneHiringMovement is here. And we're sharing the best humane hiring advice from the best bosses in the (nonprofit) business.

Okay, we know what you're thinking.

"How does humane hiring pertain to nonprofit fundraising software?"

๐Ÿ˜… It's okay, we can appreciate a skeptic.

But what if we told you that humane hiring is a nonprofit fundraising strategy?

What if we told you that humanizing your hiring process will save you money that you can instead invest in programming?

What is we told you that hiring (and retaining) top-tier nonprofit staff will fundamentally strengthen the infrastructure of your fundraising program?

Well, believe it, funraisers. Believe it big timeโ€“โ€“because it's true. Now, read on.


Humanizing the workplace: Begin at the beginning

Who better to give advice on nonprofit hiring than the people who do the hiring at nonprofits? Probably nobody, tbh.

In service to you, fundraiser, we've listened to thousands of hours of interviews from the Nonstop Nonprofit Podcast to pull the best humane hiring advice from expert nonprofit bosses. Okay, maybe it wasn't a thousand hours (but maybe it felt like a long time if you were there).

Strap in, these bosses are about to change the way you think about nonprofit hiring

Top Humane Hiring Strategies from Nonprofit Industry Leaders

Here they are: the choicest nuggets for nonprofit hiring managers from nonprofit hiring bawses.

๐Ÿš€ Champion young people for the future of hiring.

In order to retain the future of the nonprofit workforce, we first have to champion young people and build a workforce that empowers them when they eventually get hired. Hear from our expert:

Deborah Barge, Chief Development Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters: ย 

It is time to come around the youth of today and ensure that not only do they have the opportunity to have [a] mentor, but that our workplaces are ready for them. That they're able to see each other and those like them in places of leadership and that the youth voice is honored... Look at what our younger generations led in social justice. We're creating this inclusive environment, building between diverse communities to ensure that our young people can thrive... We are uniquely positioned to tackle innovative engagement for young people and have their voice at the table as we develop it.

๐Ÿš€ Just like your donors, your staff are human, too.

If the pandemic and The Great Resignation taught us one thing, it's that we're all human. Humane hiring means offering workers flexibility and fairness to take up emotional and physical space. Hear from our expert:

Deborah Barge, Chief Development Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters: ย 

Some of them are working in their bedrooms and you're seeing their dog run by or their cat on the computer just like you.

As humans that โœจfeel thingsโœจ your staff will benefit from opportunities to connect with their work on a deeper level. Hear from our experts:

Christina Swarns, Executive Director, The Innocence Project:

Listening [to powerful client testimonies] over and over again is the most powerful way for us, I think, to inspire our staff to keep going right? You see, and you feel and you experience how important this work is, over and over and over again.

Angela Manginelli, Talent Acquisition Manager, Funraise:

Humane hiring is a shift away from treating people like a number. We know that on average in this is pre-pandemic, there were 250 applicants for every position that was posted. That's a lot of people, right? We hear these nightmare stories of candidates applying and they're like 'we never hear back from a company'. We have a really unhealthy way of approaching hiring...nationally and globally. And to me, humane hiring is an opportunity to really keep the candidate and their experience at the forefront.

๐Ÿš€ Celebrate every little victory

Ever heard "don't sweat the small stuff"? How about thisโ€”don't sweat the small stuff ...celebrate it instead! Reinforcing a positive, encouraging work culture that promotes retention is all about recognizing the contributions of all efforts, no matter how small. Hear from our expert:

Christina Swarns, Executive Director, The Innocence Project:

I try very hard to focus on the wins that you get. Most of the time, it's not a big win in the Supreme Court. Most of the time it's not an exoneration. Sometimes it's "I've managed to find a psychiatrist to come in and do second work with my organization. And the staff loves her." That's a huge win because ultimately that's going to make it possible for these people, this one-hundred people, to stay in the long game of this organization. And this work. And this fight. For fairness in the criminal legal system. I really do try to celebrate even really small wins, small in air quotes, because I really do recognize that all of them are contributing to the long arc. But I know it is so hard, so, so, so hard. And I'm in it with everyone else, but that's what I do. I try very hard to remember that even the small wins are making a big difference in the big picture of this work.

And why shouldn't you celebrate the little victories?! Your nonprofit staff are essential workersโ€”showing up and doing critical work every day to better the world. Hear from our expert:

Sean Goode, Executive Director, Choose 180:

I'm really proud of our team and the way that we've served throughout this pandemic season and how as essential workers, they continue to show up every day and find new and innovative ways to accomplish our mission, regardless of the many barriers that manifested themselves as it did for any of us operating in the nonprofit space across the country.

๐Ÿš€ Provide accessible mental health resources for your staff

It's not enough to encourage your nonprofit staff to rest and get "self care". Fundraisers are tired and burnt out, tbh. To be truly empowered to succeed and meet our fundraising goals, equip us with resources for when things get stressful and challenging. Hear from our expert:

Christina Swarns, Executive Director, The Innocence Project:

We are committed to providing various supports, [for example], with art therapy in the office. We have a psychologist, the psychiatrist that comes and talks to us about self care and secondary trauma. You know, we're really trying to take a very holistic view of this work because we know that it is taxing, right? To be constantly be fighting for people's freedom. I am very intentional about providing people with support and resources for being able to do this work for the long haul.

And with added mental health resources comes a structural attitude change around accessing mental health treatment. That comes with giving our coworkers (and ourselves) the grace to use the resources available. Hear from our expert:

Sean Goode, Executive Director, Choose 180:

One of the principal values that we carry as an organization is to lift grace over guilt. And we believe that grace is the greatest agent for change that anyone can ever experience..This foundation of grace is what continues to inspire us daily to know that that's always accessible because it's something we can always give

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The Great Resignation and You

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've witnessed large-scale pandemic-induced layoffs and a mass migration out of the traditional American workforce.

The Great Resignation was a pivotal cultural moment indicative of a much larger issue: inhumanity in the workplace. Issues like pay inequity, burnout, workplace anxiety, bad bosses, and daily stressors were exacerbated by the pandemicโ€”especially for workers with underrepresented backgrounds and identities.

The nonprofit industry has not been immune to The Great Resignationโ€”but we are the forward-thinking problem solvers who are equipped to make the workplace a more safe, fair, and equitable place to be. Because when nonprofit staff feel supported by their peers and leadership, empowered to do good work, and passionate about your causeโ€”that's retention, baby!

And when you retain your nonprofit staff with a long-term commitment to your organization:

(1) You build a stronger internal infrastructure and base of knowledge about your work and mission that will inform and strengthen your overall fundraising efforts and bottom line. Fundraisers are like fine wine, they grow better with age and experience in the position ๐Ÿ‡

(2) You save money on hiring due to frequent turnover and can invest that money into your programming efforts! ๐Ÿ’ฐ

(3) ย Humanity is good for business. Joining us on the frontlines of the ย #HumaneHiringMovement will lead to greater positive visibility for your organization both online and offline โ˜€๏ธ

Say it with us now: Humane hiring strengthens nonprofits. And strong nonprofits have strong fundraising programs.

If our experts made anything clear, making your workforce feel like they matter is the best way to support them in making sustainable, long-lasting impact through the vessel of your organization. And who doesn't want that, right?


4 #HumaneHiring takeaways to set your nonprofit organization up for long-term success:

  • Champion younger generations to build a workforce that welcomes them
  • Humanize your staff through flexibility and grace
  • Celebrate little victories and express gratitude for each contribution
  • Provide mental health resources and encourage your staff to use them

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