Hiring for Success

In the nonprofit world where raising funds is a constant focus and there is external pressure from donors to keep administrative costs low, there appears hypocrisy.

We have all heard Executive Directors exclaim that they need additional staff. While the reality of “too much to do, not enough people to do it” is a valid frustration, oftentimes the hiring process is not handled in a responsible, effective manner.

Time and again we have heard these highly intelligent ED’s advocate for creating a position based on an individual they deem talented rather than hiring a qualified candidate to fill a predetermined position.   In addition, in business (nonprofits are businesses), jobs should have a value or salary range that corresponds to the position. Value should not be determined by what the individual you are hiring makes at their current position in a different field. That thinking is not congruent with running an efficient organization. 

This reminder may seem self explanatory but is unfortunately necessary: hiring someone who does not fill a specific role is a nonstrategic thing to do. Hiring employees without considering budget, organizational culture, a job description and other factors is an easy way to go out of business or lose qualified employees by creating confusion and disrupting systems.

Many times organizations hire the wrong people for odd reasons like someone knows a board member or the person convinced the ED they could raise a lot of money.  We have seen these types of hires directly result in:

  • staff dissent over a bad fit,
  • the loss of good, dedicated staff members,
  • financial strain from paying a person who is not productive
  • the loss of time and resources to either replace the person or train them

These horror stories can come to life quickly and unexpectedly. One client hired an ineffective staff member into a managerial role.  This individual possessed no fundraising savvy, was completely unfit to be a leader, and power-tripped his way through decision-making without expertise while rejecting all input. The result was plummeting morale (to the point that some staff members quit), strained donor relations (one donor registered as their own 501(c)(3) to avoid dealing with this individual), lower fundraising income, and a year’s worth of wasted paychecks and money spent mitigating the problem all of which should have gone towards programming before the individual was finally let go.

The correct way to hire is to construct a job description based on the actual needs of the organization, hopefully determined by a strategic plan formed with board input.  The job description should have clear duties and expectations of the employee laid out, it should state the reporting structure of the position, list the skills a qualified applicant must possess, and include the salary range.

Planning ahead and proactively determining your staffing needs rather than hiring on a whim is a great step towards organizational stability and growth.

Need help writing a job description? Email us at teddy@dsaboston.com.

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