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Effective Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Nonprofit Talent

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John Falero

Although nonprofit jobs comprise about 10% of the American workforce, nonprofits are experiencing a workforce crisis. In the most recent Nonprofit Workforce Survey conducted by the National Council of Nonprofits, nearly 3 in 4 nonprofits reported job vacancies (exceeding pre-COVID levels), primarily due to salary competition, budget constraints/insufficient funds and burnout. So how can nonprofits compete for top talent? Sulzer, Inc. shares effective strategies and recommendations to address this challenge and ensure mission success. 

Effective Strategies for Attracting Nonprofit Professionals

Mission-Driven Recruitment

A great starting point to attract top talent is to ensure your organizational messaging clearly articulates your mission. Your nonprofit should emphasize the opportunity potential employees have to create impact in available roles. Highlighting the societal impact of open roles within your organization is one way to expose applicants to the community-centric benefits of joining your organization.

Competitive Benefits

It is difficult for nonprofits to compete with the private sector in salary compensation. However, your nonprofit can attract talent through other benefits, such as flexible work arrangements, comprehensive health benefits, and opportunities for professional and personal development

Success Stories

Share organizational success stories in professional networks where your candidates congregate. These stories can appeal to potential employees’ values and emotions. This should be both an internal and external component of your content marketing strategy. 

Retention Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations

Creating a Positive Work Culture

One of the most critical components to retaining your top talent is creating and fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. How do you do that? Talk to your staff to ensure they feel valued and fulfilled. Talk to your workforce to identify new ways to empower them. This is where you can get the most organic data to drive satisfaction amongst your employees. You don’t need to hire a consulting agency or a PR firm to tell you what your employees need to be happy or what your culture needs to be successful. Just ask your employees. THEY are your organizational culture. Fostering a culture where feedback and employee recognition are fundamental is the best way to ensure your organization can realize a high retention rate.

Professional Development

Another way to increase staff retention is to invest in the growth of your employees. This not only benefits your team members but also the organization. Your nonprofit should be highly intentional about offering regular training sessions, circulating educational resources, and covering the cost of employee admission into seminars and workshops. This shows your employees that you are committed to their continued education and development as a professional. This also shows external candidates that you’re committed to pushing its workforce forward.

See upcoming professional development events at the Nonprofit Leadership Center

Take Action

Whether your organization currently has a retention problem or has noticed one is building, you must take action. Some common pitfalls that lead to high turnover include a lack of advancement opportunities and employee burnout. If your organization is experiencing some of these challenges, document them and treat them as lessons and opportunities for improvement. Be consistent when it comes to employee engagement, and put support mechanisms in place to reduce these challenges.

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

Digital Tools

Technology can assist with overwhelm and burnout. Consider tools like and while researching what types of project management tools are a good fit for your organization. There are also donor engagement and tracking tools that streamline data visualization and donor activity. Geographically dispersed teams can stay connected via Slack or Microsoft Teams. These types of tools lighten the workload, free up time for strategic tasks and often increase job satisfaction.

Innovative Practices

When looking new ways to attract and retain high-performing talent, be sure to consider remote work options, wellness programs, results-only work environments, community building activities and more. Remote work options and flexible scheduling give organizations more access to the highly skilled workforce they desire. Results-only work environments, or ROWEs, are workplaces where employees are evaluated on the outcomes of their work rather than their processes or hours spent working. Often ROWE leads to higher productivity, lower time costs, and higher job satisfaction.

READ NEXT: 4 Strategies to Address the Nonprofit Workforce Crisis

Start Attracting and Retaining Top Nonprofit Talent

The Nonprofit Leadership Center offers year-round training classes, certificate programs and customized learning experiences for nonprofit professionals. See our upcoming event calendar to explore opportunities for you and your team.

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John Falero

John Falero is the director of client partner development at Sulzer, Inc., a Nonprofit Leadership Center key partner and creative agency dedicated to nonprofits. John is passionate about people, growth and leveling up in any way he can.

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