Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nonprofits Need to Invest in Talent

This week's article titled "Capitalizing on Capabilities" reminded me of an issue that has always plagued nonprofits. The first organizational capability mentioned is talent, which leads to speed, leadership, innovation, efficiency, etc. A problem for nonprofits is that attracting and maintaining top talent can be difficult when the pay is significantly less than the for-profit counterparts. An organization (for-profit or non-profit) won't be competitive if they don't have leaders and employees who are educated, appropriately trained, innovative, and visionary. How can nonprofits compete without breaking the bank or sacrificing the mission?

On the Harvard Business Review Blog, blogger Gerald Chertavian posts his article titled "Nonprofits Need to Compete for Top Talent." Here he suggests nonprofits focus on four things to attract, keep, and grow their talent. These include:
  • Leverage Your Mission - This means embrace that you are here to do good and don't apologize for lower (yet reasonable) salaries. There are plenty of young talented people who want more out of their job than a paycheck. Your mission can be a great way to market to prospective employees. Mention all the highlights that come with the job other than a paycheck.
  • Focus on Culture and Growth - In order to retain talent, nonprofits must focus on nurturing their organization's culture. Include everyone in the strategic planning process. Everyone must feel like they are a vital and important part of the organization and its mission.
  • Pay as Competitively as You Can - Yes, it is not reasonable to pay leaders and employees a salary that allows them to have a mansion and sport-cars. However, it is a fact of life that people need to be compensated and the better that is, the larger pool of applicants you will have. Look at what your nonprofit competitors are paying their employees and make yours just a little higher. It is not reasonable to think that good talent will be attracted to the organization's mission so much that they are willing to work for next to nothing.
  • Invest in Leadership - It is worth it to pay for executive recruiting firms to assist in finding leaders. But an even better option is to develop leadership from within the organization. Invest in professional development and safe time/money in finding future leaders.
Another article on the topic is on the Investing in Social Change website titled "Investing in Nonprofit Talent -It's not overhead, it's essential!" This article discusses the importance of Human Resources and other such infrastructure to attract and maintain talent in nonprofits and why it is important for the philanthropic sector to support "overhead." Usually donors and foundations prefer to financially support direct cost of the mission. It is important to remind them that without talented employees and leaders, the mission cannot be met and the organization will not grow. It is that simple! Nonprofits need to invest in a Human Resources department and donors should be happy to support it. Many nonprofits do not have even one employee dedicated to Human Resources. This can make all the difference in finding the perfect person for the position.

Most nonprofits do a great job focusing on their mission, but many need to be reminded that their process is just as important. Good talent is essential in order to most effectively carry out the mission. I hope that more nonprofits and philanthropists see the importance of investing the time and money in attracting and maintaining an effective workforce.

1.) "HBR Blog Network." Harvard Business Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <>.

2.) "Investing in Nonprofit Talent-It's Not Overhead, It's Essential." Venture Philanthropy Partners : Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <—its-not-overhead->.

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