3 Essential Ingredients to Recruit and Retain Top Nonprofit Talent
Not too long ago, I got into a conversation with an executive director who brought up the survey that was published by Guidestar and Nonprofit HR. He recently graduated with a Master's in organizational development, and he genuinely wanted to see if he could recruit and retain top talent at his nonprofit organization with his newfound knowledge and expertise. He wanted to prioritize and spend time focused on the growth and sustainability of the group rather than spending so much time dealing with management issues.
Since I’m a little older than he is, I told him that the philanthropic sector had been dealing with recruitment and retention for a long time. I mentioned that I wasn’t surprised by the findings of the survey, which included some of the following gems:
- The total turnover for the industry was 19 percent in 2015.
- One of the top challenges for retention is the ability to pay a competitive wage as it compares to the private sector.
- Social enterprises and B Corps are increasing, and as they meld social good and profit, they can pay a more competitive wage. The market has become a job-seekers market.
I’ve been in management for a long time, and I suggested that a formula that had worked for me—even when I was the CEO of a nonprofit—was one that had three simple elements. I call them the "Three Ms." These characteristics within a nonprofit give it a competitive advantage over others that are mired in management issues (and I think there's lots of those).
1. Motivation: Today, team members have lots of options for work and because of technology, there's a lot more flexibility. They can work from home, office or have a variation on the theme. However, one of the critical things that team members want is to be part of a thriving organization.
Teams today work in flat environments with minimum hierarchy. The tech sector has also influenced organizations and groups to understand that humans need an environment that inspires energy, creativity and yes, even fun. The essential question to ask yourself the next time you walk into your office is: Do you feel that pulse of exciting energy? If you don't, you might want to see what you can do to lift the motivation in your environment and the power of your team.
2. Money: The report by Daniel Kahneman and Angus has often been cited, which found that the emotional well-being of team members increases the more money they earn for a salary up to the point that employees make $75,000 per year. At that point, other elements leading toward self-actualization begin to take a more significant role in well-being.
So, the reality is that, yes, money makes a difference. As an executive director of an organization that may have a tight budget, you might ask me, “How can I possibly pay a higher salary when I have to ensure the programmatic needs of the organization?" My reply to you would be that you're being short-sighted, if you are not looking into the salaries of your team as an investment into your organization. If you pay a competitive wage (and there are ways to structure capacity-building efforts), it will cost you less regarding turnover, and it will increase the work you will be able to do in your community.
3. Momentum: This last ingredient is about winning. The fact of the matter is that it's human nature, especially in our competitive country, to want to be part of the winning team. Success brings on more progress forward. While failure is part of the process toward achievement, let's face it. The reality is that no one is going to get pumped up about working at a moribund organization.
The more that your team members are focused on achieving success in their respective roles and working through failure, the more traction that happens and propulsion forward. The more forward movement that occurs, the more momentum you have. The more energy you have, the more people want to become part of your team and grow within your organization. Momentum is also significant for creativity and innovation.
The human spirit, the passion found in the philanthropic sector, is something that can never be replicated, even in the world of technology. Our team members are very much one of the most critical aspects of our organizations, because, as humans, we're innately driven to push forward. So, don't dismiss your team and focus on the "Three Ms," and you'll see that with the passage of time, you're going to get a new energy that is going to help your nonprofit grow and expand its services.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.