new NPO employees
24 Jul
  • By Dayle Kavonic
  • Cause in

NPO Hiring Tips: What to Look For in New Employees

You can have an admirable mission, a crystal-clear vision and solid strategies in place. But if you, as an NPO founder, don’t have the right staff under you, you’ll likely find it very difficult to move towards your goals.

Employees can make or break an organisation, so it’s essential you construct your team from strong building blocks.

The skills you require candidates to possess will, no doubt, vary depending on the specific role you’re recruiting for. But there are certain broader characteristics that are good markers of a first-class NPO employee, regardless of position. While it may be tricky to assess personal qualities in just a few interviews, as far as possible, look for concrete evidence of the following traits:


1. Passion and Enthusiasm

What’s even more important than an impressive skillset when you’re hiring for a nonprofit role? Passion.

NPO work is inherently emotional. We’re invested in a particular cause. We believe wholeheartedly in our mission. And we need our staff members to buy into our goals wholeheartedly too.

True passion for a cause will motivate new hires to give their all to their jobs. It’ll drive them to innovate and persevere. It’ll also protect them from the hardships of the job – helping to make long hours and low pay well worth it.

How do you assess passion? It’s a tricky one. Elizabeth Chung, managing editor for online fundraising company Classy, recommends evaluating interest and commitment by asking prospective nonprofit hires about their future aspirations and career goals. We also suggest asking candidates about their relationship with the societal or environmental problem your organisation is addressing. Why is it so important to them to tackle this particular issue? Have they had a relevant personal experience? Take note of the energy and enthusiasm with which they talk while answering your questions.


2. An Understanding of NPO Dynamics and Realities

As you already know, working for an NPO is vastly different from toiling away for a for-profit business. There are perks aplenty, but there are also challenges and, often, entirely distinct ways of operating.

While you certainly shouldn’t only consider applicants who’ve previously worked at or volunteered for nonprofits, it is important that candidates have a good understanding of what this type of work entails. Ideally, they should have some knowledge of how social impact organisations run, how funding is acquired and how processes play out.

You don’t want anyone coming in blind or starry-eyed.

The nonprofit sector is one industry that tends to see high numbers of people quitting their jobs, often due to disenchantment, so you’ll want to temper this trend by making sure that new hires are applying for all the right reasons and have realistic expectations of what they can achieve.


3. Adaptability and Resilience

NPO work doesn’t always fit neatly into the 9-to-5 window. Project timelines and conditions shift regularly. And employees are often expected to take on numerous different roles, and to jump between them effortlessly. Flexibility is, therefore, key to success in a nonprofit career. So you ideally want to appoint someone who’s open and adaptable – someone who can learn quickly and who won’t feel put out when asked to drop one task and pick up a different one.

Related to the above, you also want employees who are malleable and resilient enough to bounce back from difficulties and disappointments. Things might not always go according to plan, but successful NPO workers keep their heads up and their eyes on the goal.


4. Resourcefulness and Creativity

In nonprofit endeavours, we’re often required to achieve a lot from very little. Resources are limited. So is time. And as a result, ingenuity is highly valued.

More so than in many other careers, employees who’ve committed themselves to the NPO sector need to be enterprising and proactive. They need to be willing to step outside of their comfort zones, capable of thinking outside the box, and adept at redefining the possibilities and discovering new solutions to old problems.


5. Team Spirit

Changing the world is a team effort. It’s hard to gather momentum when you’re working in silos. It’s also hard to communicate a single, streamlined message to funders and donors when no one internally is sharing ideas or collaborating.

So, while you understandably will want to hire individuals who are self-reliant and, thus, don’t require much direction, you should also always aim to assess teamwork skills. Does the candidate have experience working alongside others to achieve a common goal? Do they slot into group settings seamlessly?

If so, and if they possess all the other qualities profiled above, you might just have found yourself a winner.


What other qualities do you personally look for in new NPO hires? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Dayle Kavonic

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