The Applicant Manager Blog

Subscribe to Email Updates


Recent Posts

What Employers Must Know When Drug Screening Applicants

What Employers Must Know When Drug Screening Applicants

Did you know that the percentage of US employees testing positive for drugs has increased over the past 2 years? This includes an increase in usage across nearly all workforce categories and drug test specimen types, according to Quest Diagnostics. Drug screening is...

The Challenges of Nonprofit Recruitment – and How to Make It Better

by | Nov 12, 2019 | Recruiting Process

Nonprofit Recruitment

All recruiting is not equal. Corporate recruiting is different from the process of sourcing and hiring in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit recruitment is more challenging and differs from for-profit efforts to find talent in three key ways. Here’s why nonprofit recruiting can be so difficult, and how hiring teams can improve their chances of success.

Understanding the Challenges of Nonprofit Recruitment

A 2019 study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies reports that nonprofit organizations are a major economic force in the United States, accounting for up to 15% of all private jobs, with 12.3 million paid workers. Yet these organizations are facing significant economic and competitive challenges, as federal rules limit tax incentives for charitable giving by individuals, and vouchers and tax credits extend to for-profit firms that will “enter, and ultimately dominate, fields in which nonprofit providers formerly held sway.”

Against these economic challenges lies an unprecedented low unemployment market that makes recruiting talent difficult across the board. Nonprofit recruitment has always been more difficult over for-profit recruiting, but today the challenges are greater. They include:

  • Nonprofits work with a limited recruiting budget. This affects every part of the hiring process. Nonprofits could be limited to advertising only on free job boards; they may not be able to hire a third-party staffing agency to help them source candidates. This means that these jobs are more difficult to find to the time-pressed job candidate.

    Nonprofit organizations may not even have an internal team available to find candidates, instead tacking the job onto an existing role, such as a payroll or human resources manager. The problem, of course, is that today’s historic unemployment levels make hiring for most roles a full-time job.

    Finally, nonprofits struggle to attract many candidates with top credentials simply because their salary structures aren’t as lucrative as those of for-profit companies. When matched dollar for dollar against a for-profit competitor, nonprofit recruitment simply falls short.

  • Nonprofits rarely have a standardized hiring calendar. This makes building a consistent funnel of qualified candidates much harder since each hiring process becomes a cold start. This means recruiting momentum simply cannot build in today’s challenging job market, which makes an already difficult task even harder. The only good news to report is that all nonprofits seem to be struggling in this way. The Philanthropy Journal News says 70% of upper to midrange nonprofits citing recruitment and retention as their top challenge this year.
  • Nonprofits often hire with a focus on inclusion and diversity. Since nonprofit organizations typically set hiring goals with an eye towards building diverse teams of professionals, this can result in a narrower hiring pool. This makes it even more important to build and nurture strong networks and connections.
  • Nonprofits often look internally for talent instead of scouting for new external candidates. It’s easier and financially less risky to look internally for talent or to source from a ready-made pool of workers already in the nonprofit community you serve. In these cases, the job ad may never go public. The problem is that the approach is incestuous in nature, relying on existing talent but failing to attract new workers into the field. If an effort is not made to build a pipeline of new workers, nonprofits could continue to struggle to replace employees lost through attrition due to retirement. Recruitment strategies for nonprofit organizations must continue to fill the candidate pipeline with fresh talent to keep their mission moving forward.

How should nonprofits continue to compete against for-profits for top talent, in the face of all of these challenges?

Recruitment Strategies for Nonprofits

The good news for nonprofit organizations is that millennials, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, are actively looking for socially responsible employers,