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5 Things to Do That Can Help You Make a Great Nonprofit Hire

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Is it time to hire someone new to work at your nonprofit?

That’s one of the most important – and intimidating – decisions you make if you’re at a growing organization. Staff is at or near the top of expenses, and their impact on revenue can be huge. When a new hire doesn’t work out, it can be devastating.

Whether you’re hiring to keep up with expanding workload or to replace someone who has left, here are some thoughts to help you make the best decision…

1. Carefully define your goal for hiring

If the hire is for a fundraising job, it’s important that the person will bring in more revenue than they cost – directly or indirectly. They can do this either by freeing current staff to do more profitable things or by doing activities that will bring in revenue. This goal should be at the top of your planning and decision-making. 

Focus on your goal for the outcome of this hire. Is it increased productivity for your current situation? Is it adding new skills to your staff? Be very clear about what you want and seek people who will help you do that.

Think also how much you will invest in the hire. Remember that the cost of compensation is salary plus around 40%. Nonprofit compensation is notoriously low, but this is NOT an area to skimp! 

2. Can you do it with outsourcing?

Outsourcing might be an excellent bridge over the time it takes to get the hire you need, or it might turn out to be a long-term solution. Outsourcing can keep costs low and provide experienced talent. (It’s much easier to find and hire an outsource person. And easy to stop if they don’t work out or aren’t needed any more.)

But outsourcing is not a substitute for competent in-house fundraising staff.  A good way to clarify whether or not something (or someone’s job) is possible to outsource is to apply this question to any task or person: Do only what only you can do.

You might be surprised how many duties can be outsourced. Even administrative work can be handled by Virtual Assistants. 

3. Be super clear about the kind of person you’re looking for

Try not to hire for completely unrelated combinations of skills. In small and one-person shops, this is common, but it’s not a good thing. For example, don’t look for a grant writer who builds relationships with donors and also manages direct mail production. That’s three completely different skill spheres, and it’s rare to find someone who can do them – even though you may have had to do them yourself.

If you need a donor liaison person to do major donor and/or planned giving work, look for a salesperson who can close deals fast. Charity experience is good, but being good at sales is critical.

If you need someone to handle Direct Marketing, look for someone with DM experience or training. It’s great if they know nonprofit DM, but having the experience outside our sector is good too. 

Keep in mind that many younger or recently trained direct marketing people understand digital marketing, but know little about mail. Make sure you and your new hire are clear about the important differences between digital and traditional direct response!

4. Respect the learning curve

Everybody has a learning curve. No matter how promising a new hire is, they will likely spend some time learning the new job. That means they won’t create less work for you – in fact, they’ll likely create more work as you train them. That’s okay, but it shouldn’t take too long.

To make sure a new hire is moving up the learning curve, put them on some kind of probation with decision targets for one month, three months, and six months. During that time, have at least weekly meetings with them to keep communication open and clear. After that, you can probably move to less-frequent meetings.

5. Keep reality checking

During the hiring process and for some time after you’ve hired, stay in touch with others who are not in your organization. An outside point of view can make things clear that may be confusing otherwise.

Looking for help with the hard decisions you have to make? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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