Blog Research

of four

Non-Profit Recruiting Best Practices

Five best practices related to recruiting for nonprofit organizations are including the mission and values in job postings, being proactive, showing the value, offering better pay and benefits, and involving employees in the recruiting process. The details of each along with examples of organizations using these strategies are outlined below.

Include the Mission and Values in Job Postings

Be Proactive

  • The most successful non-profit recruiters take a proactive approach to recruiting. They don't wait for candidates to show interest in the organization and instead spend time networking with ideal candidates prior to having a position available.
  • A proactive approach to recruiting can increase the talent pool for each available position.
  • Habitat for Humanity is an example of a nonprofit with a strong proactive recruitment/networking program.

Show the Value/Be a Great Employer

Offer Better Pay and Benefits

  • While resources are typically limited in non-profits, when possible, organizations should aim to offer better pay and benefits than other employers in the area in order to recruit top talent.
  • While there may be limited resources available to offer higher pay, non-profits can offer unique benefits to recruit top talent, such as generous vacation policies, sabbaticals and onsite fitness facilities.
  • One example of a non-profit focused on providing great benefits to employees is Public Health Institute.

Involve Employees in the Recruiting Process

  • Non-profits should seek to include employees in the recruiting process whenever possible to increase the talent pool.
  • Encouraging employees to share open positions or refer potential candidates are strategies for involving employees in the recruiting process.
  • Nonprofit Management Services of Colorado is an example of a non-profit with an employee referral program.

Research Strategy

We started our search by looking for articles related to best practices or recommended strategies for recruiting staff for nonprofit organizations. We identified several articles on this topic. We then narrowed the number of suggested practices by including only those that were referenced in at least two of the articles we found. This strategy resulted in the five practices outlined above.
of four

Non-Profit Hiring Best Practices

Best practices in the hiring and onboarding of new nonprofit employees include: Considering multiple aspects and employing flexible solutions, offering newbies x-ray vision into the work from before day one, getting the basics handled on the first day, providing newbies with buddies, and setting clear expectations and timelines for performance.

For the purposes of this request, “recruiting” includes all processes related to identifying open positions, creating job postings and putting them in various locations (like online job boards), and identifying potential candidates through their applications. “Hiring” includes the screening, testing, and interviewing processes for the narrowed-down list of potential candidates (or those selected from the entire pool of applicants as the best potentials), as well as the onboarding process for those selected for hire.

Background: Hurdles to Recruiting & Hiring

  • Some of the biggest hurdles nonprofits (NPs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can face in recruiting and hiring not just the right employees, but any employees, include lower-than-industry-rate compensation offerings, variable schedules (based on need), high burnout rates, and lofty (read: tough) goals to work toward reaching, which can lead to significant stress for employees. If these are addressed early in the recruiting pipeline and steps are taken to ensure the onboarding process deals with any remaining questions, that onboarding process is likely to be smoother and more satisfying for the new employee.
  • Nonprofits in the US have an employee turnover (churn) rate of about 19%, with a great majority of these employees leaving within the first three months.
  • Since NPs and NGOs are competing within the same pool of applicants as for-profit companies who can offer better options, they “can struggle to attract great [employees] and retain them once they’re hired.” So, ensuring NPs and NGOs consider these hurdles and how to overcome them is key to keeping them competitive in the marketplace. Offering strong onboarding programs that offer new employees ways to overcome these hurdles with the organization (instead of in spite of it) is the key to onboarding success in these areas.
  • Strong onboarding provides more than just training on how to complete job tasks, it includes buy-in for the mission of the organization. Employees given robust onboarding programs “are 50% more productive as new hires and are more likely to still be with the organization after three years.” Another expert states these individuals are 69% more likely to be with the company three years later.

Background: Screening & Training for Specific SKAs

  • As noted in the related project, the job description for a position should include a detailed description of the position, as well as the organization’s mission and values statements. For screening processes and during onboarding, these important items should morph into specific testing and training toward (at least) these four main areas: Technology, Industry, Community, and Strategy.
  • If the NP/NGO uses specific software or other technologies (as many do, like fundraising or client management software), hiring candidates who have previous (or related) experience in these specialty programs will allow the new employee to be more useful even more quickly than would onboarding a non-trained employee. Additionally, new-hires with previous related industry/market experience would be easier to hire and onboard, as well.
  • New-hires who have experience working with the specific community the NP/NGO serves are likely to have a greater level of passion for service of that particular community, and therefore will be easier to onboard. Also, those with previous fundraising, event planning, or other nonprofit-related skills are often those bringing the most to the table the quickest.
  • Finding a wide selection of top-notch candidates during recruiting is important, but so is utilizing an applications and screening process (pre-hire through hire) to ensure that the ideal candidates are the ones onboarded to the organization. Finding candidates whose entire set of skills, knowledge, and abilities (SKAs) match or blend with the organization’s mission and focus is essential and the right tests will help match these potentials to the positions for which they are the best fit (as well as help quickly identify those who do not match the profile of the ideal candidate).

BEST PRACTICE: Considering Multiple Aspects & Employing Flexible Solutions

  • Taking the work and life experiences of the potential candidates into account during applications and screening processes is also important. Some experts state that it’s a “good idea to consider people who have previously worked, interned, or volunteered with an NPO” previously, since they are more likely to understand what it’s like to work in such an organization. These people are also easier to get ramped up quickly during onboarding.
  • Incorporating previous life experiences into onboarding exercises in ways that allow the employee to identify ways to serve this particular organization with the related experience will deepen the connection the employee has to the work. In fact, making the whole onboarding experience as personalized as possible is highly recommended to help “new team members feel welcome and valued.”
  • In addition to educational and work backgrounds, and life experiences, considering which particular set of soft skills the ideal employees should have, screening for those, and offering training on them during the onboarding processes is vital to the best preparation of candidates and new-hires. Since different types of jobs require different soft skills, making sure to refine the general list of skills into position-specific skills is necessary, as is making sure new-hires who might be lacking in those skills get some necessary preparation before being expected to utilize them.
  • Experts at FrontStream warn, “Don’t be so specific and inflexible, though, that you disqualify or deter qualified candidates from applying. It’s impossible to know exactly how a new personality will fit in with the rest of your team until they actually begin working, though you can bring candidates in to meet your team as part of your application process.” Team-building work that helps the new employee mesh with all members of the team(s) should be an integral part of all onboarding procedures.
  • Notably, when considering hiring individuals who are transitioning from a background in X to working for a nonprofit that does Y (with X and Y being different industries or markets), including screening questions on “why they are looking to make the move and what they expect in return” is recommended. Additionally, ensuring that the onboarding training offers the necessary background, terminology, and focus explanations to properly educate the new employee on this new industry/market will be key to their foundational success.
  • The Hawaii Community Foundation is one example of a nonprofit that uses flexible onboarding procedures. They have separate types of onboarding programs based on job type, like the process is different for a new executive director than it would be for a non-executive-level employee.

BEST PRACTICE: Offering X-Ray Vision into the Work from Before Day One

  • While best recruiting practices state optimizing the job description is essential, experts in hiring would add that conveying the full picture of expectations is also important during the earliest part of onboarding. This includes a detailed and honest outline and discussion of the expected time commitments (including expected schedule variations), a detailed list of all compensation and benefits, and what it’s like to work not only in the nonprofit sector, but in this particular organization. New employees with the clearest picture of these expectations will be more likely to handle the job as expected.
  • Working for NPs and NGOs typically requires a greater sacrifice (across many levels) than many people might expect, and clarifying these things throughout the recruiting and hiring process as well as throughout onboarding will help ensure the new-hire is best prepared for what’s to come.
  • Making sure new employees are prepared before their first day and feel welcomed by the organization is important, as well. Emailing them with all details they’ll need before Day One, and encouraging members of the leadership teams to welcome newbies “will make a very positive impression” on them.
  • For their first week (or month), structure time to allow the new employee to get used to the environment and expected tasks, and to begin to develop a daily routine. Also, schedule time for the employee to meet with key stakeholders (related to the employee’s position) and others with whom the person may be closely working.
  • Aly Sterling Philanthropy is one organization that promotes creating a “welcoming, celebratory culture” for newbies coming into their organization.

BEST PRACTICE: Getting the Nuts & Bolts Out of the Way on Day One

  • On the first day of the newbie’s employment, ensure all employment paperwork is completed, that HR and administrative procedures are detailed, employee policies (like dress codes or lunch policies) are outlined, and safety and security procedures (including building security and internet safety/security) are covered in full.
  • Also ensure the employee has a chance to discuss any questions or possible issues with appropriate HR personnel. In some organizations, an extension of this could include asking the newbie to check in several times for the first week or two with HR staff members.
  • Make sure the newbie’s workspace is completely set up, and s/he is given help setting up company email (with proper signature lines) and voice mail (with appropriate corporate greeting). Provide the employee with an employee badge (or ID card, as needed), and ensure s/he knows which exits and parking spaces are preferred.
  • Utilizing technology (like internal HR / ERM software) is highly recommended for those organizations with allowance for this expense in their budgets. Incorporating tech into this process can make it go much faster, be more organized, and be easier to track.
  • One example of an organization successfully using technology to manage all the “nuts and bolts” of hiring and onboarding a new employee is WGBH Educational Foundation. Through standardization of this process (via technology), they were able to improve their “onboarding completion rate by 48%”.

BEST PRACTICE: Pairing Newbie with a Mentor

  • Pairing new employees with seasoned vets, as “buddies” or mentors, is recommended by multiple experts. In fact, CivicHR notes that using a buddy system “can do wonders in terms of building your organization’s culture.”
  • Buddies provide newbies with a go-to person for questions, as well as someone who will acquaint them with the new environment, make them aware of the corporate culture, and introduce them to their new colleagues.
  • Assign “a buddy to serve as an informal guide,” or the new employee could be paired with their direct supervisor, who could provide a tour of the office and background into the history and focus of the organization, as well as personal challenges and triumphs to help motivate or inspire.
  • Although not a nonprofit, Buffer, a startup similar to Twitter, has a three-buddy system for each of its onboarding employees, and they offer a Free Buddy Program Playbook to any company who wants to utilize their successful system.

BEST PRACTICE: Setting Clear Expectations & Specific Timelines

  • Outlining what is expected of the new employee for the first 30, 60, and 90 days is important and should be included in onboarding during the first week. Clarifying for the newbie how job performance will be reviewed, on what metrics the performance will be graded, who will be performing these reviews, and on what schedule they’ll be conducted is essential within the first week of employment. This sets a clear forward-focus and allows for the identification of specific areas in which the new employee may need additional training or assistance to meet organizational requirements.
  • Additionally, outline the annual (or quarterly) review process, including what is expected of the employee and what will happen during (and after) these meetings.
  • The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network is an example of an organization that provides detailed information to all new employees on what’s expected of them during hiring and new employee orientation procedures. They also provide detailed information on performance evaluations, as well as termination and exit interview guidelines.

Research Strategy

To identify these best practices, we poured through what industry and nonprofit experts stated were the best practices to use in hiring and onboarding staff for nonprofits. From these, we weeded out those that were focused only on recruiting or other related practices not specific to hiring or onboarding. From the remaining collection, we pulled the best practices mentioned by multiple experts, and synthesized them into our findings.

of four

Future Proofing a Non-Profit

Seven ways to future-proof a nonprofit are through (1) succession planning/in-house leadership development, (2) digital fundraising channels, (3) a multi-generational, strategic marketing plan, (4) using platforms, (5) using blockchain and accepting cryptocurrency donations, (6) changing the narrative surrounding working for nonprofits, and (7) planning for a dropoff in giving from sustaining donors.

Seven Ways to Future-Proof a Nonprofit

1. Succession Planning/In-House Leadership Development

  • Proper succession planning is an essential component of future-proofing a nonprofit. One source said that "[p]lanning for the transition of a long-standing leader is [just] as important" as a nonprofit's fundraising.
  • Many nonprofits in the U.S. are concerned about succession planning, yet just 34% have a memorialized plan for such.
  • The development of future leaders in-house is regarded as the ideal approach to succession planning in terms of future-proofing a nonprofit. Three, recommended ways to achieve such development are providing opportunities for professional development (including leadership training for those not currently in leadership roles), cross-training employees (exposing employees to other roles to minimize the impact of an unanticipated departure), and providing sufficient internal support to new employees or existing employees in new positions. By implementing those three efforts, a nonprofit is future-proofed in that it is prepared for a smooth leadership transition.
  • Another way to promote the development of leaders in-house is to provide employees with leadership opportunities, regardless of whether they hold a leadership position.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a nonprofit that focuses on developing leaders within nonprofits.

2. Digital Fundraising

  • To future-proof a nonprofit, it's essential that the organization offers digital fundraising channels that make it east, fast, and engaging for people to give.
  • Crowdsourcing is an example of a future-proofed digital-fundraising effort. According to NonProfit PRO, "[c]rowdsourced fundraising is one strategy that has proven successful for organizations trying to future-proof their fundraising efforts and attract new donors."
  • A reason why crowdsourcing has succeeded is that 66% of Americans surveyed said that a family member of friend asking them to donate to an organization is "an acceptable giving channel."
  • A livestreamed fundraiser is an example of a new way that nonprofits are creatively using digital to fundraise, which resembles telethons from years ago.
  • Livestreamed fundraisers have proven to be very successful for nonprofits. For example, on Twitch, nonprofits have raised over $85 million. Additionally, nonprofits that have used a platform called DonorDrive for livestreamed fundraisers have raised 243% more funds compared to nonprofits that do not.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a nonprofit that uses livestreaming for fundraising.

3. Multi-generational, Strategic Marketing Plans

  • By creating a multi-generational, strategic marketing plan, a nonprofit can future-proof itself.
  • The creation of a multi-generational, strategic marketing plan requires considering "the donor’s entire family—not just" the donor.
  • The source Nonprofit Connect described a multi-generational, strategic marketing plan as "a marketing communication plan that acknowledges your top donors, their children, and their grandchildren—while recognizing the distinct difference between the generations."
  • In focusing on the various generations within a family unit, proper attention must be paid to how to best market to those different generations. For example, the millennial generation is very philanthropic. In 2018, the average U.S. millennial gave $481 to charity.
  • A good, multi-generational, strategic marketing plan for nonprofits anticipates future marketing changes that will be necessary, in order to retain existing and attract new donors across the generations.
  • Disabled American Veterans is a nonprofit that has embraced multi-generational marketing. The nonprofit does so through its use of numerous marketing channels that appeal to various generations, which include a magazine, podcast, events, brochures, social media, and local offices nationwide.

4. Using Platforms

  • The use of platforms is a way to future-proof a nonprofit.
  • Platforms are key to future-proofing nonprofits because those platforms are capable of growing alongside organizations.
  • Platforms are preferable to single products with regard to future proofing because they provide a development framework that enables an organization "to develop applications with common user interface (UI), common application programming interface (API) and connectivity across a common infrastructure."
  • Platforms also offer more flexibility than single products because they offer "an ecosystem of components" that an organization can select from, according to its present needs.
  • Salesforce is an example of a platform that nonprofits can use for future-proofing.
  • DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that uses the Salesforce platform.

5. Using Blockchain & Accepting Cryptocurrency Donations

  • Nonprofits can future-proof themselves by using blockchain and accepting cryptocurrency donations.
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency are key ways to future-proof a nonprofit because they offer trust to donors and prospective donors. That's important because The Chronicle of Philanthropy conducted a poll that found that 35% of people in the U.S."have little or no confidence in charities." Even more alarming is the fact that just 13% of those surveyed said they think that charities wisely spend their money.
  • Blockchain offers significant promise in changing those negative views of charities because it provides a transparent financial ecosystem that is capable of showing donors "when and how their donation moves and how much of it ends up at the desired destination." Thus, blockchain and cryptocurrency can help re-establish trust in nonprofits that is lacking among many Americans, with the end result of future-proofing those nonprofits.
  • BitGive is a nonprofit that uses blockchain and accepts cryptocurrency donations. In fact, BitGive says that it's the first "Bitcoin and Blockchain Non Profit Charity."

6. Changing the Narrative Surrounding Working for Nonprofits

  • An essential aspect of future-proofing nonprofits involves changing the narrative surrounding working for nonprofits, in terms of earnings and career satisfaction.
  • Among nonprofits surveyed, close to one-third of them said that staff recruitment and retention "will be a high-level challenge this year."
  • For 32% of the nonprofits surveyed, employee earnings is "a high-level employee satisfaction issue."
  • For 46% of the nonprofits surveyed, employee earnings is "a moderate-level concern."
  • For 68% of the nonprofits surveyed, developing and training employees is "a moderate to high[-level] challenge."
  • The aforementioned insights show that nonprofits clearly need to address the issues of compensation and employee development in order to future-proof themselves.
  • Room to Read is a nonprofit that clearly communicates the good career and development opportunities it offers to employees.

7. Preparing for a Dropoff in Sustainers' Donations

  • Planning for a dropoff in giving from sustaining donors is essential to the future-proofing of nonprofits.
  • Though sustaining donors are always important, it's important that nonprofits future-proof themselves by planning for how to continue making ends meet if/when sustainers downgrade their donations, such as during a recession.
  • Nonprofits should determine in advance of a recession what level of sustainer-donation downgrades they can handle, in order to continue operations. After making that determination, nonprofits should create "options for sustainers to downgrade their gift[s] instead of canceling" and then communicate those options to their staff members, so everyone is on the same page.
  • PBS/KVIE is a nonprofit that offers a reduced-sustainer-giving option, which is shown in its best practices for communicating with members who call in to cancel their sustaining membership.

Research Strategy

We identified the above insights about how to future-proof a nonprofit by reviewing numerous articles published about that topic. Examples of sources we consulted during our research are NonProfit PRO, Nonprofit Connect, DonorDrive, and BDO, among many others. We ensured that all our findings are specific to the U.S. by only using U.S. sources and information pertaining to the U.S. Lastly, we found examples of nonprofits using these future-proofing methods by conducting broad searches for organizations that are actively involved in such efforts. Those searches led us to the websites of those nonprofits.
of four

Data Redaction

Anonymization and pseudonymization are two forms of automated data redaction used in the eDiscovery industry.

Insights Surrounding Data Redaction in eDiscovery Firms

  • Blackout data redaction has long been used by governments as a censor for government-imposed secrets. It is also used in the legal world for preserving things such as the attorney-client privilege and attorneys' work product for clients.
  • Manual data redaction through blacking out sensitive information is time-consuming as it involves manually reviewing documents and looking for specific personal information to blackout. Automated data redaction tools that can be used with document review platforms such as Relativity has rendered blackout data redaction obsolete and anonymization tools to become more popular.
  • Blackout data redaction is more prone to wrongfully reveal data that should have been redacted because it takes more step to properly redact data through blackout data redaction, such as cleaning up metadata, compared to automated anonymization.
  • Anonymization allows for a firm to submit personal information when faced by litigation without breaking data privacy laws through the masking of identifying data that would allow this personal information to be linked to an individual. An example of this would be when a firm is required to submit all emails housed on servers in Europe; EU laws prohibit the transfer of personal information, but this is circumvented through anonymization.
  • Automatic anonymization tools make it so that specific data can be redacted with ease through features, such as "pattern search and redact" which allows for easy identification and redaction of sensitive data that usually have patterns, such as Social Security and credit card numbers.
  • Firms in the eDiscovery market usually have clients whose data or documents come in a variety of different languages. In most cases, machine translation does the job for the anonymization of some personal data. However, the ability to set up custom dictionaries in anonymizers make for more precise and accurate anonymization.
  • Pseudonymization is a way of making personal data private by making it so that it cannot be linked to a specific individual without additional information. It differs from full anonymization in that pseudonymous data still allows for some form of re-identification, whereas anonymous data cannot be re-identified.
  • The ability for re-identification of pseudonymous data makes pseudonymization a better alternative for full anonymization in some circumstances. Full anonymization should only be done in cases where personal data must not be, under any circumstances, linked to a data subject.

Research Strategy:

To compile a list of detailed insights surrounding data redaction in eDiscovery firms, we leveraged articles and news releases from industry-relevant sites, such as the PrivSec Report. We were able to find insights into pseudonymization and anonymization. However, none on blackout data redaction. We also looked into eDiscovery firms and how they are talking about data redaction methods and technologies. We were able to find some features and benefits of using an automatic blackout redaction tool, as well as what features an eDiscovery firm should look for when choosing an auto-redaction program. However, not enough information on blackout data reduction could be found through this strategy.

Our next strategy was to look into some guide documents or brochures of data redaction software as these may give insights relevant to this request, such as what has led to blackout becoming the industry standard for data redaction and how to set up anonymization tools. We looked into software used with Relativity, a document review platform used by most eDiscovery firms in the US. We were able to find a user manual for Blackout, an automated redaction tool by Milyli Inc, however, no relevant information could be gathered from the document. The part of the user manual that would have revealed relevant insights ("Product Walkthrough and Terms") is currently unavailable. We were also able to find a brochure for an anonymization tool, however, this did not give enough information for this request.

Our final strategy was to look into studies and surveys on eDiscovery firms and data redaction, specifically those that talk about trends in the industry. It is hoped that by looking through trends, we would be able to better answer the questions relevant to this request. We were able to find articles that talked about trends in the eDiscovery industry. However, one did not give insights relevant to this request and the other is from 2013, which means it may not be relevant anymore.

After exhausting all research strategies available to us, we were still unable to provide enough detailed insights surrounding data redaction in eDiscovery firms, specifically insights on blackout data redaction. The lack of information in the public domain on blackout data redaction is likely because this method is considered outdated and the use of electronic data redaction is encouraged.