Four Staff Recruitment Strategies to Decrease Nonprofit Turnover

March 14, 2024

Recruiting and retaining staff can feel like scaling a mountain. Even when you think you’ve gotten closer to the summit, you most likely still have one or two more positions to fill or may even face staff turnover.

Recruitment challenges have been listed as one of the upcoming trends to look out for in 2024. This is no surprise as recruiting talented staff involves making your organization stand out in a competitive market and maintaining clear expectations, which is an area of improvement for many hiring organizations.

One of the best ways to attract talent is by creating a culture that encourages retention from the get-go. This guide will provide a framework for how you can recruit with long-term development in mind. 

1. Define roles and responsibilities clearly

Defining roles and responsibilities ensures that potential candidates have a precise understanding of your organization’s expectations and protects against any surprises. By posting descriptions that accurately describe a position’s duties and responsibilities, your candidates will be able to tell whether their skills and interests will align and if the position is ultimately a good fit for both them and your organization.

Ensure your job descriptions are comprehensive by covering the following items:

  • Soft and hard skills. Soft skills refer to intangible qualities like communication, leadership, and adaptability. Hard skills are measurable technical skills or certifications such as CRM management proficiency. Soft skills are typically shown through previous experience and hard skills can be measured through technical assessments. Depending on who you’d like to see fill your open positions, listing both of these skill sets will help you narrow down your eligible candidates. 
  • Necessary experience. Detail the minimum years of experience or relevant qualifications required. For example, a nonprofit looking to hire a volunteer manager might list 2-5 years of leadership experience in addition to a certain amount of hours spent volunteering and an undergraduate degree. 
  • Associated responsibilities. Expand on the role’s day-to-day responsibilities, providing context for how a candidate’s skill set or experience will contribute to success in the open position. Following along with our volunteer manager example, a nonprofit might list volunteer scheduling, outreach, onboarding, supervision, and training as part of the new hire’s duties. 
  • Preferred skills. Sometimes possessing certain skills can make a candidate even more qualified even though they may not be required. For this reason, your organization can list preferred skills in its job description. For example, a healthcare organization hiring for a data analyst position may list analytics platform proficiency as a preferred skill. 

Post this job description in multiple locations such as your company website, industry-specific job boards, professional associations forums, and any other relevant networks to spread the word. If you’re in the market for a very specific skill set, consider working with a recruiting agency to expand your candidate pool and identify more qualified leads.

2. Optimize the interview process

Once you’ve identified qualified candidates, it’s time to initiate a clear and efficient interview process that decreases the time to fill the position and ensures timely communication. Here are a few standard steps to follow:

  • Pre-screen your candidates by reviewing resumes, performing brief phone calls, and checking references to quickly filter out remaining unqualified candidates.
  • Conduct an initial interview with a predefined set of questions and criteria. Ask behavioral and situational questions to get a better understanding of the candidate’s role compatibility.
  • Offer a skills testing assessment to measure a candidate’s capabilities. This could include a quick cognitive exercise or a series of short quizzes.
  • If necessary, conduct another interview for more detailed insights. This could be a panel interview for a more comprehensive evaluation or an interview with a different department head for an additional perspective.
  • Gather post-interview feedback from interview conductors to make an informed decision. Discuss the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and let them know your final decision quickly.

Throughout this process keep your candidates informed and updated as you move through these stages. This shows respect for your candidates’ time and efforts and lets them know whether you are actively considering their application.

Additionally, don’t overlook cultural fit as you assess each candidate. Weave your organization’s values into your interview questions to find out if your interviewee would be a good addition to your existing team. For instance, you may provide a list of your team’s values such as peer recognition or quick decision-making, and ask for a time when a candidate put one of these values into practice. 

3. Strengthen your onboarding process 

Onboarding sets the tone for an employee’s time at your organization. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a strong process as 64% of new hires are likely to leave within their first year due to a negative onboarding experience. And, because you’ve already taken the time to select qualified and enthusiastic new hires, you’ll make sure they get started on the right foot.

That said, here are a few ways you can strengthen your onboarding experience:

  • Provide mentorship opportunities. 360MatchPro highlights mentorship programs as a meaningful way for employees to enhance their professional development. You can plan regular meetings between new staff and veteran employees who can explain organizational processes, best practices, and impart any other insightful advice for getting started. 
  • Provide relevant training and resources. Whether you use a video series, short informational document, or one-on-one training, it’s essential to provide new hires with the resources they need to be successful. For example, a healthcare organization welcoming a new provider would need to review EHR workflows and answer any of the new hire’s questions.
  • Offer ongoing communication and support. Set opportunities in place for new hires to ask questions, express concerns, and provide general feedback to their managers. This takes the guesswork out of how their time at your organization is going and helps address any red flags ahead of time. For example, you might ask new hires to offer their weekly win and challenge during the onboarding process. 
  • Give new employees a glimpse at their career path. Show new hires the different routes they can take to develop their career at your organization. For example, you might discuss the pathway to management or invite team members with similar roles to share their experiences. This way, new hires can consider the long-term benefits your organization provides.

Onboarding is a pivotal stage in welcoming new employees. By providing the above resources, you can ensure a smooth transition into their new roles. 

Gather feedback from existing employees to look for ways you can refine the process and better prepare new hires. You might ask the following questions: Were there any responsibilities or duties that you felt ill-equipped to accomplish? Did you feel that you had access to the necessary tools and resources to be successful? Answers to these questions will point you to ways you can improve onboarding in the future.

4. Proactively address retention concerns

Look out for retention concerns so you can address them early on, maintain a stable work environment, and encourage longevity. These signs could include but are not limited to indications of burnout, miscommunication issues, poor engagement, underperformance, or misalignment with workplace policies. 

Let’s say a new hire is not performing to the level expected but is still early on in their role. You could address this in a few ways. First, ensure that the new hire has an understanding of how they can track and adjust their performance to hit expectations. This may include reviewing performance tracking dashboards or discussing other successful employee wins.

Next, make sure this employee has a clear path set to succeed in their next project and provide a designated time where they can ask questions or run through strategies. Then, equip them with the tools and feedback they need to improve. 

When recruiting and retaining new team members, start with the end in mind. Clearly explain your expectations from the beginning and equip new hires with what they need to succeed. Pay attention to retention concerns and address them in a productive and timely manner so that each team member feels valued and supported.


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