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Nonprofit Hiring in 2015 is On an Upswing, Says Survey

By on Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey was released today, and it has some good news for a sector recovering from the Great Recession. The nonprofit sector  is poised to add even more jobs in 2015 and grow its 10.7 million workforce. In fact, a larger percentage of nonprofit organizations plan to hire employees in 2015 than for-profits. The results were not all rosy – the survey found that most nonprofits still lack formalized recruitment and retention strategies. I did an e-interview with Lisa Brown Morton, the CEO of Nonprofit HR, about this year’s survey, nonprofit overhead issues, talent retention, and social media recruiting practices among hiring managers.

Why do you think nonprofit hiring is on the rise in 2015?
We are finally seeing a full rebound from the recession, and nonprofit organizations are more optimistic about their growth now than in recent years. Improvements in the economy have resulted in the expansion of nonprofit budgets, and many organizations are able to increase the number of paid staff on their payrolls as a result.

Why is the area of greatest growth predicted to be in direct services (46% of new nonprofit hiring, according to the survey), in your opinion? What does this say about nonprofit hiring trends?
There are two primary reasons for the predicted growth in direct services. First, direct services positions are simply more prevalent than other types of positions at most nonprofits. Second, direct service jobs continue to represent front line positions where the fast majority of nonprofit services are delivered. Until we address many of the nation’s economic and social challenges, direct service jobs will continue to be in demand.

One of the concerns we hear about the overhead debate in the nonprofit community is that nonprofits are not investing enough in infrastructure and staffing because they are concerned about keeping a lean overhead rate. Do you think these survey results shed any new light on that discussion or offer some indication that nonprofits are more comfortable investing now in staffing after enduring the lean years of the Great Recession?
Absolutely! First, let me say that I believe that the overhead myth is just that–a myth. Nonprofits need a solid infrastructure, and most importantly, a skilled staff, to achieve their missions. Talent is not overhead. Talent is about mission delivery and sustainability. Second, I think our results indicate that many nonprofits are gaining a better understanding of the importance of talent in the discussion about organizational health. We believe that the sector is beginning to move from the old belief that keeping staff budgets as low as possible is good for the organization. Of course, the rebound from the recession has forced and will continue to force nonprofits to invest more intentionally in talent acquisition and retention.

The findings indicate that one in three nonprofits lack a strategy for hiring quality talent. How do you think that lack of strategy hurts nonprofits?
Without a recruitment plan, nonprofits are being held back from their full potential. They run the risk of wasting time and money on recruitment, or worse, losing out on top talent to organizations both within and outside of the sector who are employing more effective recruitment practices. This is especially important now, as the economy improves and the competition for top talent heats up. If you don’t have a recruitment strategy, you will be hard pressed to build a staff capable of moving the needle at your organization. Individual nonprofit organizations need to get smart about recruitment if they want to compete with their peers, and the sector as a whole needs to make recruitment strategy a priority or risk losing its best talent to the other sectors.

While many industries use networking to recruit new hires, why is that sometimes not the best strategy?
Often, networking puts us in touch with others who are very similar to ourselves. Hiring from within our networks can limit the diversity of our organizations, which can in turn limit creative thinking and decrease the quality of our organizational culture and the results that we produce.

The results indicate a majority of nonprofits are not using a social media recruitment strategy to locate talent. Why do you think so many are not using social media for talent recruitment?
Use of social media recruitment is still relatively new within the nonprofit world. I think there is still a lack of real understanding about how to leverage tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. However, social media recruitment is growing among nonprofits, and I think we can expect it to continue to grow.

When they do use social media to recruit new staff, why do you think some nonprofits prefer using LinkedIn and Facebook for talent recruitment? What makes these platforms appealing for them?
LinkedIn and Facebook are among some of the most widely used and accessible networks for hiring managers. LinkedIn specifically is very focused on professional connections, which makes sense in a recruitment setting. Facebook is popular simply because it is so widely used. Nearly every candidate you’re looking to hire can be found on Facebook, and most hiring managers use it in their personal lives as well, so it’s an easy transition. However, drawing the line between personal and professional is still harder on Facebook, which is what sets LinkedIn ahead of the pack for recruitment.

Why does the survey indicate that retention challenges are exacerbated as the nonprofit sector rebounds from the Great Recession?
Now that we’re rebounding from the recession, job candidates are becoming more comfortable with the idea of leaving their current jobs to search for new opportunities, and more nonprofits are beginning to hire. As new opportunities spring up and the competition for nonprofit talent increases, nonprofit employers must do more to retain top staff. While the ability to pay competitively is important, many non-monetary benefits, such as flexible work schedules, remote work arrangements and health and fitness perks can go a long way toward improving retention.

What can nonprofits do to address talent retention challenges?
The first step in addressing talent retention challenges is to find the source of turnover. Is there a recurring problem? Do people continue to leave because they don’t see growth potential within the organization? Or because they were offered a pay raise somewhere else? Or because your benefits are not competitive? Start implementing retention interviews. If you’re able to identify a central theme, you can move forward in developing a new talent retention strategy to address these wants and needs. A human resources firm that specializes in the unique needs of the sector can be a great help when it comes time to develop a retention or recruitment strategy.

READERS: What do you think? Are nonprofits hiring in your area, and how can social media be used to help recruiters?

Image courtesy of Flazingo Photos, via a Creative Commons license.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

2 thoughts on “Nonprofit Hiring in 2015 is On an Upswing, Says Survey

  1. 1

    Social media can be used by recruiters to help create an employer brand. Candidates want to know more than job duties and salary information when deciding to take a job. They want to know more about the company culture and social media can help display this.

  2. 2

    Thanks for commenting! Yes social media can really help people grasp the brand of a company – but only if it is authentically shared!

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