3 Ways to Attract Top Talent at Your Nonprofit

By Rick Arrowood.

Rick Arrowood, JD is chair of Northeastern’s  Nonprofit Management master’s program. His teaching and research interests include leadership development for the nonprofit sector to train tomorrow’s leaders and advise small nonprofit boards in both theory and real-world practice.

Hiring for a non-profit can be a double-edged sword.

The good news is that, as a nonprofit, your organization offers many of the “intangibles” that can lead to a fulfilling career by serving others.

The bad news is you most likely can’t compete with a for-profit when it comes to salary.

However, there are ways to overcome this discrepancy and still attract the best and the brightest. It’s key to remember that at nonprofits, every person goes to work with the belief that they will achieve something that day.

That’s what makes nonprofits exciting—it’s not about the salary, it’s about making a difference.

Here are three ways you can attract top talent at your nonprofit.

1. Find Their Motivation

Find out early during the interview process what motivates the candidate to pursue the job. You’ll need to go well beyond asking the standard interview questions to learn what the applicant would like to accomplish at your organization.

Find out how the candidate places value on your mission and how he or she truly wants to make a difference in the community or arena you work in.

2. Show What You Offer

Emphasize what your organization does offer. If you find that the candidate is motivated by your mission, highlight how he can not only make a living but also make a difference in specific ways by working for your nonprofit.

If your organization can’t raise the funds to pay a competitive salary, be sure to underscore other benefits that you can provide, such as work-life balance, flex time, paid time off, or tuition reimbursement. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when illustrating the unique benefits of working at a nonprofit.

3. Focus on Growth

Accentuate the opportunities for individual growth in your organization. Often nonprofit staffers are expected to wear several hats, such as grant-writer, fundraiser, and communications director.

This hands-on experience provides amazing leadership and career development opportunities that aren’t available in a for-profit business. As you move up, it becomes less about the salary and more about self-actualization and fulfillment, and in a nonprofit you can reach that much faster.